No slim pickings here, as in the Hudson Valley area of New York, when it’s apple picking time! Apple season officially kicked off around Labor Day and will continue right through October, which is National Apple Month!
Apple orchards are loaded with many varieties, so people have been showing up in droves for pick-your-own days. Of course, there are people who would rather not put in the sweat equity, or are not able to. Don’t fret. Apples already picked, sold in bags, baskets, and bushels, are overflowing from one end of the farm stands and farmer’s markets to the other! As are apple cider donuts and apple cider!
So, you ask, what varieties of apples should you pick? It all depends on whether you want sweet or tart. Jonagolds are unique because they have both a sweet AND tart taste! The employees at each farm stand are usually very informative as to which varieties are available when you are picking and can point you in the right direction, based off of your likes and needs. My favorite varieties for eating are Fuji, Gala, and Honeycrisp. I also love a good Empire apple, cooked in a little butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, and maple syrup, to top off my pancakes or Belgium waffles. For baking, I use apples from my tree, the One Apple, Apple Pie tree. I have yet to find another tree like it!
I have three apple trees in my yard. The One Apple, Apple Pie tree produces very large apples, hence the name! It’s a dwarf tree, and the branches are so heavy that they almost touch the ground! Another is a Golden Delicious, which hasn’t produced enough at this point in time for the critters to share with us. And a Crabapple tree, the only one left of what used to be many different apple trees planted by my grandfather in the 1940’s. My trees are grown organically, because I don’t like fussing with mother nature, so they’re ‘au naturel’. The apples have a few imperfections on them but are yummy all the same.
If you are like most people, including me, you’ve picked too many apples and now you’re wondering what you’re going to do with all your pickings! My apple trees have certainly earned their keep because we’ve been using the apples in all sorts of recipes! My mother’s specialty, the Apple Impromptu, and her Gigi’s Apple Cake have been favorites for years. Watch for an upcoming article from my sister, Theresa Cintula. She’ll be sharing her version of our mother’s famous Apple Impromptu! I have perfected my own Apple Almond Puff Pastry and Crabapple Jam. And, I most certainly have to mention apple pie, too! In the coming months, it will be a staple for many family gatherings, along with whipped cream and vanilla ice cream for those ‘a la mode’ lovers! As the saying goes, what’s more American than apple pie!
Now, what do we do with the leftover apples? I keep them in an area that’s cold, but not freezing. As time goes by, I check for those that are going bad and throw them out to the critters. Believe it or not, one bad apple CAN spoil the whole bunch! Also, apples will absorb the taste of other foods, so keep them away from onions. And, steer clear of potatoes because the gases from them will speed up the ripening of your apples.
I will leave you with a gardening tip on how to pick an apple, an excerpt taken from a book given to me by my niece, Andrea, EIC of grayenote.com. The book, Lessons from the Great Gardeners, tells us: “When picking apples, cup your hand underneath the fruit, lift and twist. Don’t use your fingertips; if you can feel pressure on them, you are picking incorrectly.”