There is a little corner of the grocery with my name on it right now. As you’ve guessed from the title of this piece, it’s the produce section, more specifically, the apples.
Apple lovers will taste the difference over the next month or two as our northern states send us what they do best. Pink Ladies, Honeycrisp, Granny Smiths, McIntosh, too many to list are reaching their prime and I intend to take full advantage as I wait patiently for the Christmas citrus of Meyer lemons and our beloved Satsuma bounty.
There are more apple varieties than you may realize, but our area seems to receive a select, sturdy few. Let’s not complain, though. They are good ones.
Pink Lady apples are a warm-climate apple originating in Australia. Also known as the Cripps Pink developed by John Cripps in 1973, this is a cross between a Lady Williams and a Golden Delicious. I appreciate their long storage as much as I do their reddish/pink hue over a green background. You’ll notice the shape is ellipsoidal and the skin isn’t as always as smooth as other apples.
The Granny Smith is also an Australian apple dating back to 1868. This is the most popular cooking apple, known for its crisp tartness and smooth green skin. Probably my favorite as a child, I love how bold this one is. It doesn’t sneak up on you. It crashes the party with gusto. You’ll know they are going bad when the green turns to yellow.
We love Washington apples and the McIntosh is so great its name is on the computer I’m using to write this. But the variety actually was born in Canada around 1811 with the help of John McIntosh. It wasn’t very commercial until 1870 and became common in the American Northwest around 1900.
I think of the McIntosh as an all-purpose apple, great raw or cooked. It screams fall and is perfect right now. I love the softer flesh of these smaller apples. Look for their cherry counterpart, the Rainier, which has a similar appearance.
Braeburns are a New Zealand find that has increased in popularity over the past decade. It is red and orange with a streaky yellow background and is definitely a winter apple, peaking from October all the way to April. They keep well if you store them in temps that would give you goose bumps.
Ask any girl what her favorite apple is and you will more than likely hear of the Honeycrisp. It’s a Minnesota apple developed in 1974 and released commercially in 1991. This newer fruit does win over a lot of people with its sweet taste and firm flesh. Juicier by comparison, the Honeycrisp is best served raw. You can cook with it, but beware.
Speaking of cooking, there is so much you can do with an apple. We eat them with peanut butter fairly often. Cheese pairings can be as satisfying with apples as they are with wine — well, almost as satisfying. Applesauce made from scratch is a thing you won’t hate, especially with the use of so many electrical products that can ease the pains of pulverizing.
Putting the flame to the apple forces a seasonal change. It’s the flannel shirt under the corduroy jacket. Forget the Waldorf salad, let’s roast the redskin fruit and make something hot.
Chopped apples in a relish with onions goes great with any pork. Cooked down with walnuts and a little bit of pineapple juice, a Golden Delicious will yield a sauce you won’t soon forget. Braised in butter and finished with red wine, it makes for an almost healthy side. Half-cored and stuffed with ham and cheese, then baked until tender can win friends in a hurry.
But you know what the real score is: apple pie. I lifted this from a former Girl Scout who managed to get some ink in a Jones County cookbook a couple of decades ago. I tweaked the recipe mildly but the third-grade version from the 1980s is still a good one. Making crumbles with cheddar cheese really dresses it up. Don’t let the crust get overly brown. You can serve this with sour cream or ice cream!
My Favorite Apple Pie
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
dash of salt
6 apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
½ cup flour
¼ cup sugar
½ cup grated cheddar cheese, packed
¼ cup butter, melted
2 (9 inch) pie crusts, unbaked
Mix the sugar, 2 tablespoons of flour and cinnamon with the salt. Sprinkle apple slices with the mixture and place in one of the pie crusts. Mix the ½ cup of flour with the sugar, cheese and butter. Crumble the mixture over the apples.
Cover with the second piecrust. Crimp the edges and vent with a knife, making four slits in the top crust. Bake at 400 F. for 30 to 35 minutes.
Apples and cheese I believe to be a marriage made in heaven. Cheddar is my favorite option for this recipe but be open minded. Try other cheeses and apples. You don’t have to make several pies. Decide beforehand by trying a slice of cheese with a bite of apple. Maybe Gouda and Goldens, havarti and Honeycrisp, no matter what, it will be worth eating. Perhaps a bit of nutmeg or ground ginger could brighten this up a bit.
If an apple a day keeps the doctor away then I’ll be set!
(Photo | Washington Apple Commission) The Granny Smith (left) is the most popular cooking apple in the United States, while the Red Delicious (right) has become the most ubiquitous in supermarkets. But other varieties can be far superior.