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September 2013

Food for Thought

Apples to Apples
By Lorinda

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September in the Pacific Northwest means two things: apples and more apples! They are abundant and affordable—perfect for snacking, lunch boxes, and baking.

I can't believe the varieties offered in the grocery stores. When I was growing up we had a choice between Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, and Granny Smith. Now I can easily spend ten minutes dithering, because all apples are not alike! If I am making a pie, my choice is easier; I pick Granny Smith or Fuji apples because they're flavorful and hold their shape. But if I want a snack apple, I waver between the Galas and the Braeburns, or maybe the Cameos.

If I'm lucky, there are big beautiful Honeycrisps and the decision is a slam-dunk. I will pay anything for those sweet, crispy, mouthwatering apples. We have two Honeycrisp trees in our little orchard, but so far they aren't impressed with the conditions (silly things like to be watered now and then) and have yet to bear fruit. Luckily, an orchard less than an hour away sells them every year for a dollar a pound, and I try to be first in line!

 


Sherman Creek Orchards, Kettle Falls, Washington.

 

There are a lot of different opinions about which apples are best for sauce, pies, baked goods, and fresh eating. Here is a list of the top nine apples produced in Washington and some of their characteristics.

  • Red Delicious: Crunchy and sweet, available all year. Perfect for snacking or chopped up and added to salads. These are always my first choice for fruit salad because they don't have a strong flavor. Will not hold up well for baking.
  • Golden Delicious: These are great for snacking, applesauce, and salads, but aren't very good for baking.
  • Gala: A little more flavor and very crisp. Good for snacking and salads. I like to use them in muffins because their flavor really stands out. They are fine for pies, but can be a little soft. They are very good for applesauce.
  • Fuji: Very sweet and firm, wonderful for all types of baking, snacking and salads. If you use them for pies, slice them a little thinner than usual or they might actually be too firm. Fujis are a very popular apple, but you'll have to wait a bit because they're usually harvested in October.
  • Granny Smith: A dependable apple for pies. Tart and firm, they still have a little bit of a "bite" when the pie is served. They're good in salads too, but for my taste they're a little too sour for snacking.
  • Braeburn: Another great pie apple. Sweeter than the Granny Smith, these apples are good in everything and wonderful to munch on. These make wonderful apple rings too, sautéed in butter and brown sugar. Mmmm.
  • Honeycrisp: My very favorite for snacking and salads. The name says it all . . . sweet and crispy. Put one of these in the kids' lunch box and I'll bet they won't trade it for anything! They aren't a good choice for baking, though; they'll get too mushy.
  • Cripps Pink (Pink Lady): These apples are perfect for everything. Firm and a little tart, with an intense flavor, they're a very popular apple for baking and snacking.
  • Cameo: Another all-purpose apple. These are an exceptional baking apple, and one of my favorites for fresh eating. Cameos also make wonderful applesauce!
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    Tydeman apples

     

    Since apples are at the top of the "Dirty Dozen" list for pesticide residue, I try to buy organic apples whenever I can. According to the Washington Apple Commission, Washington State produces more than 80 percent of the certified organic apples grown in the United States.

    The apples on our trees provide me with enough applesauce to last the year, but even when I store fresh apples carefully, there comes a time when they get thrown out for the deer and I end up depending on the grocery stores. Organic apples out of season are pretty pricey, so sometimes I break down and buy regular apples and peel them before eating.

    Now for the fun part . . . recipes! Let's start with breakfast, shall we? This recipe for Apple Waffles makes twelve crispy waffles—similar to a Belgian waffle without all the work. We are huge waffle fans and can really pack them away, but we still end up wrapping some of them up in foil to freeze for another day. They re-heat beautifully in the oven or toaster. I've made double batches and frozen them for company breakfasts to speed things up, since no one wants to be standing over a waffle iron while everyone else is eating!

     


    Apple Waffles

     

    Here is my recipe for an incredible apple syrup that I got from my hairdresser, Michelle. She says it's what she makes whenever company comes over, to rave reviews. I tried it and I agree—it's a winner! It's also good stirred into hot tea (oh, fine . . . hot tea with spiced rum), drizzled over vanilla ice cream, and used as a drippy, delicious dip for sliced fruit.

     


    Apple Syrup

     

    My days packing school lunches are long gone, but I still look for nutritious ideas for busy mornings, or to send with my husband when he goes hunting. Multi-Grain Breakfast Bars are perfect any time of day. This recipe is kind of a cross between Nutri-Grain bars and Pop-Tarts, only without the long list of additives. It's actually a very simple recipe, and they can be made ahead and individually frozen in foil for dropping in a lunch box.

     


    Multi-Grain Breakfast Bars

     

    Tonight I'm baking a chicken for dinner and will stuff it with wild rice, chopped apples, and onions. As odd as it sounds, apples and onions complement each other perfectly. Sweet and savory—it's an irresistible combination. Chopped apples can also be added to traditional stuffing to keep it moist. In fact, chopped apples are your best friend! They go great in:

      Muffins
      Cookies
      Pies
      Breads
      Cole slaw
      Waffles and pancakes
      Chicken salad
      Oatmeal
      Acorn squash (fill the center with apples, nuts, brown sugar, and butter)
      Coffee cake

    Load up! Pick some apples yourself or buy a box or two. Keep them in a cool, dark spot and they'll stay good for months. For best results, wrap perfect (no bruises allowed) apples individually in a sheet of newspaper and keep them away from potatoes, which emit a gas that can cause the apples to rot.

    I think of Aplets as a Christmas treat, but I know that many people love to eat them year round. Did you know that they're easy to make? Some recipes call for apple juice and some for applesauce, but my recipe uses grated apples. This recipe is as old as the hills, back from when my handwriting was actually legible, and is my very favorite. The only downside to my recipe is you have to wait 24 hours before cutting them. That is a very long wait if you're a fan of these chewy little confections! Here's how you make them.

     


    Apple Turkish Delights

     

    This is a food column, but I can't let the opportunity go by without mentioning the many crafty ideas you can try. Apple prints make beautiful gift wrap. I love those little shrunken apple heads, and may have to try carving a few out of the tiny odd-shaped apples in my orchard. Centerpieces, pomander balls . . . have some fun with this Northwest bounty of ours.

    Then there's bobbing for apples, archery practice . . . hey! I haven't shot my bow in a long time and could use the practice. If I could just get my husband to balance this apple on his head . . . Honey? Wait, Honey, come back!

    Editor's Note: For more information on apples and to learn about the story of how apples came to Oregon, see Apples: Best Candy Ever by Mary Frances.

     

    Contact Lorinda at mamakinnon@aol.com

    Lorinda resides in Eastern Washington, where she joyously combines her love of cooking and gardening. Baking is her passion, and licking the batter off the spoon after making a cake is her reward. When she's not in the kitchen, she's out in the garden pulling weeds and snacking on young peas. Also enjoy Lorinda's blog, The Rowdy Baker.

     

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