Apples are a favorite fruit for many. They are a staple in our American diet and are a perfectly packed food for a quick, on-the-go snack. They are a late-summer fruit that starts ripening in August. Apples store well in cold storage, making them available in any grocery store year-round. We associate them with Adam and Eve, Johnny Appleseed, schoolteachers, intelligence and computers. But I digress …
Apples are a healthy food, with only 95 calories for an average medium apple. They pack a lot of great potassium (193 milligrams) and calcium (10 milligrams) along with 19 grams of sugar and 4 grams of dietary fiber. When picking out apples to eat, choose firm, shiny, smooth-skinned apples with intact stems. They should smell fresh and not musty. To ensure their freshness, keep them in a plastic bag in the refrigerator away from strong-smelling foods. Apples are best when eaten within two to three weeks after purchase or picking.
Apples are a versatile food. The common ways we consume apples are fresh/raw, apple juice, applesauce, cider, crisp and pie, but my personal favorite is apple butter. While apple butter doesn’t have any butter in it, you can just spread it on toast as is. Apple butter can also be paired with pork chops or roasts, sausages, or other savory dishes. It is also used in baked goods as well. It is easily made with no sugar added, but packs a lot of flavor when combined with cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and allspice.
Don’t think you have to preserve apple butter for year-round use, although that is an awesome idea, it can be prepared fresh for any recipe with a few fresh apples from the market.
Fall apples hold a special memory for me. As a little girl growing up on the East Coast, I remember my family piling into our station wagon and going for a Sunday drive into the countryside. We’d stop at country farm stands and get some freshly pressed (unfiltered) apple cider. There were no crisper, fresher apple flavors than those from the fresh unfiltered cider. As I type this article, my mouth is still watering from the memory.
With cider making a resurgence here in the Pacific Northwest, many wine-makers and brewers offer apple cider too. Besides the all-apple-cider offering, one can find also find versions mixed with other fruits like pears, berries, and peaches. Although the newer versions are frequently filtered, these offerings still possess the complex flavors I remember from my childhood.
With more than 7,500 cultivars (cultivated varieties) available, apples vary greatly in taste and texture. Apples can be very tart or very sweet. Apples can also be crisp or soft, depending the variety. They can also be eaten with or without their skins. While the Granny Smith apples are quite tart, they also store well for much longer periods of time than their sweeter cousins. (There is even a variety that doesn’t brown at all called Arctic Apples.) So there is an apple out there that fits your needs, you just have to explore the abundance of varieties and ways to use them in your cuisine.
Try a local variety from the great state of Washington, where the apple is our state fruit. Eastern Washington has prime apple-growing conditions. In fact, 58 percent of the nation’s fresh apple crop comes from Washington. Among the local varieties are Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, Gala, Fuji, Honey Crisp, and Granny Smith. In 2017, Washington State University released the much anticipated new cultivar, Cosmic Crisp. What apple will you be trying this week?
For apple recipes and serving suggestions, check out Chef Scotty’s Market Fresh Recipes at http://ext100.wsu.edu/clark/?p=8163. The FINI program provides help to SNAP consumers to purchase more fruits and vegetables at local farmers markets. Find out more at https://snaped.fns.usda.gov/seasonal-produce-guide/apples.
Carolyn Heniges is a Clark County WSU Extension master food preserver. For additional recipes, food preservation and food safety information visit http://ext100.wsu.edu/clark/?p=1134. Have questions? Call MFP Helpline: 360-397-6060 ext. 5366, or join Facebook Discussion Group “WSU Home Food Preservers – Clark County.”