Food & Drink

APPLE SEASON: Fall means it's time for this healthy fruit

Besides cooler temperatures, fall means two things to me — fresh apples and football. One feeds my body, while the other feeds my competitive spirit.

Everyone knows that apples are good for you and are packed full of nutrition. Even a child can tell you “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.” This saying comes from an old English adage, “To eat an apple before going to bed, will make the doctor beg his bread.” Not quite as snappy, but you get the idea.

How do you know if you are getting a good apple? The first thing to consider when choosing is to buy apples that are in season. Apples, like all fruit, have an optimum period when flavor, freshness and nutritional value are at their peak.

Not all apples are created equal. Which varieties are best for fresh eating or baking? “Eating” apples are usually larger and have higher sugar content than cooking apples. They tend to be sweeter and juicier, which makes them ideal for eating raw. These apples are good for snacks, sliced in a salad, or added to a cheese or fruit tray. “Cooking” apples have lower sugar content and are usually tarter and seem to store better than eating apples. These apples are best for baking and cooking.

The other day I discovered a new apple to add to my favorites list — the Jazz apple. I was strolling along the apple aisle of the supermarket when it caught my eye. This delicious apple is a cross between a Royal Gala and Braeburn and boasts a sweet, juicy taste and crunchy texture. If you run across these apples in your neighborhood supermarket, make sure you try them, you won’t be disappointed.

Apples have seasons and your favorites may not be available year round, so grab the ones you like best when you see them. 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.

The following are a few popular apple varieties along with a brief description of their uses.

Cortland: A juicy apple with a mild, 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, which makes it a great choice for salads or fresh fruit platters.

Braeburn: It has high-impact flavor. Many apple lovers consider Braeburn to be the best tasting apple of all the newer varieties. It has a rich, full blend of sweet and tart, lots of juice and is very crisp. It is perfect for snacks, salads and good in baking, applesauce and for freezing. It gets better and better in storage and keeps extremely well.

Fuji: This apple has a crisp sweetness, juicy flesh and is excellent for eating raw or using in salads. The flavor of the Fuji apple improves with storage, like fine wine.

Gala: A sweet, crisp apple with a mild flavor that is a favorite for fresh eating. They are delicious in salads and are good for applesauce; however, they do not store well.

Golden Delicious: They have a sweet, mild flavor and tender yellow skin. It is one of the best all-around cooking apples because it maintains its shape when baked or cooked. This apple is my favorite for eating out-of-hand because the skin is thin.

Granny Smith: It is crisp and tart (my favorite baking apple for pies). It is 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. It stores well.

McIntosh: This apple has a slightly tart tang and crisp, juicy texture. They are a tasty eating apple however when cooked they don’t hold their shape and breakdown, which makes them perfect for homemade applesauce or apple butter.

Red Delicious: They 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.

Apple Crisp

4 cups tart cooking apples, peeled, cored and sliced (I use Granny Smith)

1/2 cup sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon flour

TOPPING

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 cup butter, softened

1-1/2 cups Rice Krispies

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Grease the bottom and sides of a 9-inch square dish with butter.

Toss the apple slices with sugar, cinnamon and flour and place the mixture into the baking dish.

In a medium bowl, stir together the topping ingredients, mixing well; spread over the apples.

Bake about 45 minutes or until the apples are tender when pierced with a fork.

Serve warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Southern Skillet Fried Apples

4 to 6 tart apples sliced into wedges

2 tablespoons butter

1/3 cup brown sugar (more if you like them sweeter)

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg (optional)

2 to 3 tablespoons water

Cut your apples up while you’re melting the butter in a skillet (I use my cast iron) over medium heat.

You can peel the apples if you want, but it isn’t necessary — I don’t.

Toss the apples in the skillet, stir and let them cook until they are tender.

You can check them by poking them with a fork.

Cooking takes about 10 minutes.

Turn the heat to medium high; add the brown sugar and water. Toss the apples gently until coated.

Remove the skillet from the heat then, stir in the cinnamon and nutmeg.

Serve warm topped with ice cream.

Apple Chutney

2 large tart cooking apples (such as Granny Smith), peeled, cored, and chopped

1/2 cup chopped onion

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 tablespoon grated orange peel

1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger

1/2 teaspoon allspice

Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan and stir well.

Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 50 minutes.

Uncover and simmer over low heat for a few minutes more to cook off excess liquid; let cool.

Cover and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.

Makes about 2 cups. — Simply Recipe

Homemade Applesauce

3 to 4 pounds of peeled, cored, and quartered apples (good cooking apples are needed to make good applesauce — Golden Delicious, McIntosh, Gala, Braeburn — or use a variety of apples)

1 cup of water or apple juice

1/2 teaspoon salt

Cinnamon stick or 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Juice of one lemon (3 tablespoons)

1/4 to 1/2 cup sugar — amount depends on the sweetness of the apples and your taste

Put all ingredients into a large saucepan. Cover and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes. Remove from the heat. Remove the cinnamon stick, if used. Mash the apples with a potato masher. The applesauce is ready to serve, either hot, warm or refrigerated.

It is delicious with vanilla ice cream or vanilla yogurt. Applesauce freezes easily and lasts up to one year in the freezer.

Pork Chops And Apples

6 pork rib chops, 1/2-inch thick (about 1-1/2 pounds)

3 or 4 unpeeled apples, sliced

1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 tablespoons margarine or butter

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease rectangular baking dish, 13x9x2 inches.

Spray 10-inch skillet with nonstick cooking spray; heat over medium heat. Cook pork in skillet about 5 minutes, turning once, until brown.

Place apple slices in baking dish. Sprinkle with brown sugar and cinnamon; dot with margarine. Top with pork.

Cover and bake about 1 hour or until pork is slightly pink in center and apples are tender.

— Betty Crocker’s Good and Easy Cookbook

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