"Why do we need so many kinds of apples? Because there are so many folks." — American horticulturist Liberty Hyde Bailey (1858-1954)
Ms. Bailey wasn't kidding about so many kinds of apples. In fact, there are 7,500 varieties of the pomaceous fruit of Malus domestica. That's an apple tree, for the botanically challenged.
There aren't thousands of apples available at our retail disposal, but there certainly are plenty. Some apples, like the tart Granny Smith, are always in the bins, thanks to imports and long growing seasons, but it is in the fall that we see other types. For many of the nation's apple-growing states, fall is apple season. That's why you're seeing apples featured in magazines and TV cooking shows.
A survey this week at a large Publix turned up 10 apple varieties, and there will likely be more in the next month. Missing from the produce section were Braeburns, Pippins, Jonagolds, Pink Ladys and Ginger Golds, which will appear soon. In the United States, the second-largest apple grower in the world after China, 100 varieties are grown, but only half commercially.
Some apples in small production, such as the tiny but mighty white-fleshed Macoun of the Northeast, are rarely seen in Florida. Minnesota's sweet Honeycrisp used to fall into that category, but they are now available at local grocery stores. The season is fleeting, so snap them up when you see them. By November they will be scarce.
The 2010 apple harvest is down about 4 percent from last year, according to the U.S. Apple Association, perhaps because of a spring frost that hurt the Michigan apple crop. Michigan is the nation's third-largest apple-growing state. (Washington state is No. 1.) There are still enough U.S. apples so that each of us could eat 90 a year. Add to that imports from Chile, New Zealand and Canada, and doctor's orders for an apple a day can easily be satisfied.
Which apple for what?
In the kitchen, apples are not interchangeable, which is why it's good to know a little before you buy them.
For those noshers who like firm apples, a soft-flesh McIntosh will never do, and for those with a taste for tart, the only good apple is a Granny Smith. Some apples are sweet (Red Delicious), others are watery (Ginger Gold) and still others are best used in baked goods (Rome Beauty).
One way to get to know the attributes of different apples is to have a tasting. Buy a few varieties, wash, slice and dig in. Your particular likes or dislikes will come to bear. Know that most apples begin to brown when they are exposed to air. Lemon juice will arrest the deterioration for a time. Still, don't cut into the apples until you are ready to eat.
Besides fresh apples, cooks take advantage of the fruit's flavor by using cider or juice in sauces, marinades and salad dressings, or applesauce in baked goods. The Comfort of Apples, a new cookbook by Philip and Lauren Rubin (Lyons Press, 2010), takes apples beyond the traditional crumbles and pies.
The Rubins' Salmon Burgers With Apple Corn Slaw — use a Granny Smith — is an interesting combination. The apple cuts the richness of the salmon and provides the tart yin for the sweet corn's yang.
And how about a scoop of apple ice cream with a slice of pound cake or sour cream coffee cake, all of it sprinkled with cinnamon? For this recipe, consider Red or Golden Delicious apples because they hold their shape when cooked. Each bite of ice cream should come with an icy chunk of apple.
Apples are amiable ingredients in many baked goods, including Apple Streusel Coffee Cake and Apple Carrot Muffins. Both are nice fall treats, with the coffee cake being a good offering for a Thanksgiving morning breakfast. Even though there is so much heavy eating on that holiday, people still need to start the day with something in their stomachs.
It's the season to eat and cook with apples. Rejoice in the choices and try something new, or at least new to you.
Janet K. Keeler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8586.
Named after Japan's famous Mount Fuji, this apple is one of the most popular in the United States because of its sweet flavor and firmness, a quality especially desirable for snacking. Also good in salads and for applesauce. Season: year-round.
The Gala, a New Zealand native, has been available in the United States since the '70s. It is a crisp, juicy, very sweet apple that's ideal for snacking. Season: year-round.
A cross between the Northern Macoun and Honeygold, Honeycrisp apples are sweet and firm. Best for snacking. Season: September through 0ctober.
A relative newcomer, originating in New Zealand, it is now also grown in Washington state. It's a cross between a Gala and a Braeburn. Juicy, firm and sweet. Season: September through December.
An American original whose birthplace is Clay County, W. Va. Mellow and sweet, all-purpose Goldens are great for snacking, baking and salads. When used for pies, reduce sugar. Season: September through early June.
Lovers of tart apples adore the crisp, consistent Granny Smith. Good for snacking and cooking, especially in pies and other fruit desserts. Season: year-round.
A native of Woodstock, N.Y., this crimson apple plays well with other apples, especially in sauces and ciders. Excellent for baking. Season: September through April.
Tangy and tart with tender white flesh. Best used for snacking and applesauce but needs a thickener, such as flour, if used in pies because of its watery nature. Season: September through May.
Most well known of all American varieties, this shiny apple was cultivated in Iowa. A crisp, juicy apple and best for eating fresh or in salads. Season: September through April.
Sometimes called the "baker's buddy" because it is primarily a baking apple. Mildly tart with a long shelf life, it is also good in sauces. Season: October through May.
Source: U.S. Apple Association
Apple Streusel Coffee Cake
For the streusel:
1 1/4 cups light brown sugar, packed
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup butter, cold, cut into small pieces
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans
For the cake:
3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup butter, room temperature
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups vanilla yogurt (16 ounces)
3 medium apples, Golden Delicious or Granny Smith, peeled, cored and diced
Generously grease and flour a 10-inch tube pan or a 14-cup nonstick Bundt cake pan.
In a medium bowl, combine 1 1/4 cups brown sugar, 3/4 cup flour, the cold butter pieces and cinnamon. Mix with fork until crumbly and butter is blended in well. Stir in chopped pecans. Set aside.
In a bowl, combine 31/4 cups flour, baking powder and baking soda. In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar with electric mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla extract and vanilla yogurt. Beating on low speed of mixer, beat in flour mixture just until blended.
Spoon about 3 cups of the batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup of the streusel mixture and the apples, then 1/2 cup of the streusel mixture. Spoon remaining batter over streusel apple layer. Top with remaining streusel. Press streusel down into batter lightly.
Bake cake at 350 degrees for 50 to 60 minutes, or until a wooden pick or cake tester inserted in center comes out clean. Hold a baking sheet over top of cake and carefully invert. Remove tube pan or Bundt pan; cool completely. Move to a serving plate if desired.
Apple Carrot Muffins
1 3/4 cups raisin bran cereal
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup canola oil
3/4 cup tart apple, peeled and finely chopped
3/4 cup grated carrots
1/4 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
In a bowl, combine the first six ingredients. In a small bowl, beat the egg, buttermilk and oil. Stir into dry ingredients just until moistened. Fold in apple, carrots and walnuts. Fill paper-lined muffin cups or cups coated with nonstick cooking spray three-fourths full.
Bake for 20 to 23 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pan to a wire rack. Serve warm.
Makes 12 muffins.
Nutritional information per muffin: 199 calories, 7g fat, 256mg sodium, 32g carbohydrates, 2g fiber, 4g protein.
Apple Ice Cream
1 cup milk
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar, divided use
3 egg yolks
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons sugar
2 apples, cut into 1/2-inch dice (see note)
Large bowl of ice water
Bring milk, cream and 1/4 cup of sugar to near-boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Meanwhile, whisk the yolks in a large bowl with the remaining 1/4 cup sugar until pale in color.
Slowly drizzle a ladle of the hot mixture into the yolks to temper them, whisking vigorously. Repeat 2 more times, then slowly pour the egg mixture back into the pot, again whisking vigorously. Whisk on medium heat until the mixture thickens slightly, 4 to 5 minutes.
Strain the ice cream base into a bowl set in the ice bath, cool, then pour into a
plastic container. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
Melt the butter in a medium saute pan over medium heat and sprinkle sugar over. Add the apples and cook until tender, about 3 minutes. Remove to a bowl, cover and refrigerate.
The next day, pour the ice cream base mixture into an ice cream machine and process according to manufacturer's directions until nearly done, then add the apples and continue processing until done. Turn into a container and freeze for at least 2 hours before serving.
Makes 3 cups.
Note: Red or Golden Delicious apples would be good for this recipe because they keep their shape when cooked. It's your choice whether to peel them.
Source: The Comfort of Apples by Philip and Lauren Rubin (Lyons Press, 2010)
Salmon Burgers With Apple Corn Slaw
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided use
2 pounds salmon, skin and bones removed
1 tablespoon minced shallot
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1 cup plain bread crumbs, preferably fresh
1 egg, beaten
Salt and pepper
4 hamburger rolls, split and toasted
For Apple Corn Slaw:
1 cup peeled and finely julienned tart apple, such as Granny Smith
3/4 cup corn kernels, frozen, canned or cut from 1 medium ear
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 teaspoon cider vinegar
Salt and pepper
To make the burgers, line a baking sheet with foil and spread with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Chop salmon finely. In a large bowl, combine the salmon, shallot, parsley, bread crumbs, egg, and salt and pepper to taste. Fold together to combine, but don't overmix. Form patties about 3 inches wide and 1 inch thick. Refrigerate on prepared sheet for at least 1 hour.
Meanwhile, prepare the apple corn slaw. Place julienned apple in a small bowl and add corn kernels. Add the mayonnaise and cider vinegar, then salt and pepper to taste. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
To cook the salmon burgers, heat the remaining oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. When
oil shimmers, add the
patties and cook 3 minutes per side.
Place burgers on bottom of split, toasted buns, add slaw, then top with other half of the bun. Serve immediately.
Makes 4 burgers.
Source: The Comfort of Apples by Philip and Lauren Rubin (Lyons Press, 2010)
Traditional Apple Pie
For pie crust:
3/4 cup shortening, Crisco recommended
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus flour for work surface
6 to 7 cups apples cut into thin slices (such as Golden Delicious and Jonathans)
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup to 1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons butter
In a medium mixing bowl cut the shortening and salt into the flour by hand or with a pastry blender until it's the texture of cornmeal. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of ice water over the mixture and mix just until the dough is moistened. Repeat by adding 6 to 8 tablespoons water (one at a time) until all the dough is just moist. Take care not to overmix.
Divide the dough in half and press each into two discs; wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.
While dough is chilling, prepare apple filling.
To make filling: In a medium bowl combine the apples with the sugars. Add flour
and cinnamon and continue mixing until they are well coated.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Unwrap discs and roll each into a circle to fit an 8- or 9-inch pie plate, dusting work surface with a little flour as you go. To transfer the dough to the pie plate, gently wrap it loosely around a rolling pin and ease it into the pie plate. Be careful not to stretch it. Trim it even with the edges of the pie plate. Add the apple filling into the pastry-lined pie plate. Make sure the pieces lie flat. Cut butter into small pieces and put on top of the filling.
Roll the remaining pastry into a 12-inch circle. Place on top of the filling. Trim off 1 inch beyond the edge of the pie plate. Crimp the edges as desired. Cut slits in top to allow steam to escape when baking. Sprinkle a little sugar and cinnamon over the pie.
Cover the edges with foil to prevent over-browning. Bake for 25 minutes. Remove foil and bake for another 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.