Ever since the devil tempted Eve with one in the garden of Eden, people have had a hankering for a good apple. Apples are the most popular temperate-zone fruit in the world. With modern storage techniques, they are available year round, but for real apple fanciers there is no time like autumn. This is when new crop apples appear in supermarkets, or if you live in apple country, at roadside stands.
Here in Alaska, we have to do most of our apple picking at the grocery store. Fortunately for us, there is a growing assortment of apples to choose from. Gone are the days when the main choice was between Red and Golden Delicious. These days, you can chart the progress of the season as nearly every week a new kind of apple shows up at the store.
In early September, you will see the first of the new crop apples, varieties like Sunrise and Early Gold. Early season apples tend to be delicate, and thin skinned, with a shorter shelf life than the later varieties. By late in the month, they are gone.
By the end of September, the apple season really gets going with favorites like Golden Delicious, McIntosh, Jonathon and Jonagold making their appearance. In October, apple season comes into full swing with the addition of Fujis, Galas, Winesaps and Rome Beauty, the premier baking apple. Finally in November and December you will see the late season apples like Newton Pippen and Granny Smith, which are excellent for pies.
While there are over 7000 kinds of apples, with new varieties being developed all the time, fewer than 20 of these are grown on a commercial scale. Every once in a while, a new apple will gain enough of a foothold to become commercially grown and thus widely available.
One apple that has caused quite a splash in the past few years is the Jazz. Developed in New Zealand, this apple is the result of a cross between a Braeburn and Gala. The Jazz is a dense, crunchy apple with a nice balance of sweetness and tartness. It is a great eating apple with a sassy flavor profile, and also is excellent for making applesauce or pie.
Will eating an apple a day keep the doctor away? Maybe. Apples are an excellent low calorie source of pectin, fiber, and nutrients. They are said to cleanse the liver and the gallbladder. Apple pectin promotes beneficial intestinal flora and aids digestion. Some evidence suggests that the flavonoids in apples may reduce the risk of heart disease and inhibit the development of certain cancers.
When choosing apples, look for firm crisp fruit with vivid color and a fresh smell. Apples that have been stored too long develop a musty aroma. I am obviously partially to organically grown fruit, and apples are no exception, both for reasons of taste and the absence of pesticide residues.
Apples are delicious eaten fresh. Some folks find fresh apples don’t agree with them, though. For them, there is always applesauce. Homemade applesauce is delicious eaten warm with crème fresh, or use it as a topping for pancakes. It amazes me that more people don’t make their own applesauce. It is easy to make, and is so delicious eaten warm. Here’s a simple recipe:
Core apples and cut them into pieces. You can peel them if you want to, but you don’t have to. Put them in a sauce pan and add apple juice to a depth of about an inch. Simmer over low heat until apples are soft. If you like your applesauce smooth, you can run it through a food mill or blend it. Add a little cinnamon to taste. You can adjust the sweetness by adding a little of the sweetener of your choice to make it sweeter, or a little lemon juice to make it more tart. Serve warm or cold.