Food & Drink

An apple a day: A bushel of sweet treats

This time last year, I was visiting Ashley, my daughter, and twin grandsons in western New York. Fall had arrived along with an abundant supply of apples, which overflowed in bushel baskets at every roadside stand. The colors of the autumn leaves were breathtakingly beautiful and the crispness in the air made wearing a sweater a pleasure.

While I was there, a local apple orchard just down the road from Ashley’s home opened for apple picking, so we gathered the kids, packed a picnic lunch and headed out to pick. The sweet apple aroma floated through the air as we picked a bushel of the most delicious apples I had ever tasted and the anticipation of the homemade apple desserts made picking even more of a delight. It was a wonderful family adventure and memory.

Have you wondered which apples are crisp and tart, sweet and juicy or best for eating raw or cooking and baking? Not all apples are created equal. “Eating” apples are usually larger and have a high sugar content, which makes them sweet, juicy, and ideal for a eating raw. Use these apples for snacks, sliced in a salad, or in a cheese or fruit tray. “Cooking” apples have a lower sugar content and are best used for cooking and baking. They are usually tarter and store better than eating apples. Quite a few apples can be used interchangeably for eating fresh and baking/cooking. Apples are wonderful additions to a variety of recipes from salads to baked goods.

The following are a few popular apple varieties that we see every day in the supermarket along with a brief description of their uses. Apples have season

and your favorite may not be available year round, so grab your favorites when you see them.

Cortland is a juicy apple with a slightly tart taste. They are a great baking apple for pies, cobblers and crisps. The flesh doesn’t brown or discolor as quickly as other varieties, so these are also good for fresh fruit platters.

Fuji (developed in Japan) have a crisp sweetness, juicy flesh and are excellent for eating raw or using in salads. The flavor of the Fuji apple improves with storage like fine wine.

Gala is a sweet, crisp apple with a mild flavor and is a favorite for fresh eating. They are delicious in salads and are good for applesauce.

Golden Delicious have a sweet, mild flavor and tender, yellow skin. They are one of the best all around cooking apples because they maintain their shape when baked or cooked. This apple is my favorite for eating because the skin is thin.

Granny Smith are crisp and tart (my favorite baking apple for pies). They are a good all-purpose cooking apple, but can also be eaten fresh. Use them alone or paired with a sweeter variety, like Golden Delicious, in pies or apple crisps.

McIntosh have a slightly tart tang and crisp, juicy texture. They are a tasty eating apple; however, when cooked they don’t hold their shape well and break down, which makes them perfect for homemade applesauce or apple butter.

Red Delicious have a deep ruby red skin and are heart shaped. They are a sweet, juicy, mild-flavored eating apple, but are not good for baking since they don’t hold their shape.

Select apples that are firm, bruise free and have shiny skins (dull skins mean they won’t be crisp and will have a mealy texture). Keep apples refrigerated up to two weeks and to minimize browning when cut, dip them into a solution of one part lemon juice and three parts water. It is best to prepare fresh cut apples right before serving.

We have all heard “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” Apples are good for you and provide whole body health benefits. Research suggests that apples may reduce the risk of certain cancers as well as help decrease the risk of heart disease, promote weight loss, lower cholesterol and provide a good source of dietary fiber.

Apples are fat, sodium and cholesterol free, which makes them a good addition to any diet and a perfect healthy snack food.

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