Is there anything better than a just-picked autumn apple, juicy and crunchy, without the mealy texture so many apples take on in a few months. Controlled-atmosphere -- or CA -- has definitely made it easier for apples to be stored throughout the year, but CA apples are just not as fresh tasting as the real thing.
Choosing: It seems apple varieties keep growing each year. Gone are the days that McIntosh, Granny Smiths, Red and Golden Delicious, Cortland and Empire were just about it at the market. And each variety has its own taste profile and desirable use. For example, although McIntosh are great for eating and in salads, they really star in applesauce because of the high water content. My advice: Read the variety description most markets display, and if you need additional information, talk to the produce manager. Or, contact me, and I'll help you out!
For any apple, be sure they are firm, with smooth, unblemished skin. Because apples are No. 2 on the list of dirty vegetables, I only buy organic. If you want to buy non-organic, you can always follow the Clorox Bath I wrote about yesterday.
Store: Apples do best in a cool, dry place. Refrigerators are perfect. At room temperature, apples ripen 10 times faster than those in the fridge.
Applesauce: Nothing could be easier -- or healthier. I always use McIntosh, which I quarter (include skin, stems, core and seeds), and place in a soup pot. Add nothing else. Simmer over low heat until apples get really mushy. It will take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour, depending on the apples and the number in your pot. When soft, transfer apples, a few pieces a pieces at a time into a Foley food mill. (If you don't have one, check out a hardware store; Amazon sells them for less than $30. Mine was my mom's; they last forever.) Place the food mill over a bowl and crank the handle, forcing sauce through. Repeat until all apples are milled. Taste; add cinnamon. Sweetener is really not needed.
The following recipe is from "The Essential EatingWell Cookbook," by the folks that publish my favorite food magazine, EatingWell. The recipes are always wonderful, clearly written, and definitely fit into a healthy lifestyle. I love this fruit crumble, not too sweet, but a great antidote if you want a little something after your meal.
1 1/2 lbs. apples, peeled and sliced (5 cups)
1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
1/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats (not instant)
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
Pinch of salt
1 Tblsp. butter, cut into small pieces
1 Tblsp. canola oil
3 Tblsp. frozen orange juice concentrate
1 Tblsp. chopped slivered almonds or walnuts
1 1/2 cups reduced vanila ice cream or nonfat frozen yogurt, optional
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Coat an 8-inch square baking dish or 1 1/2- to 2-quart dish with cooking spray.
- Filling: Combine all filling ingredients in a large bowl. Toss to coat. Place filling in prepared baking dish. Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes.
- Topping: Mix flour, oats, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt in a medium bowl with a fork. Add butter and blend with a pastry blender or your fingertips. Add oil and stir to coat. Add orange juice concentrate and blend with your fingertips until dry ingredients are moistened.
- When fruit had baked for 20 minutes, stir it and sprinkle topping evenly over the surface. Sprinkle with almonds or walnuts. Bake, uncovered, until fruit is bubbly and tender and topping is lightly browned, 20 to 25 minutes more. Let cool for at least 10 minutes before serving. Serve warm or at room temperature with ice cream or frozen yogurt, if desired.
- Makes 8 1/2 cup servings. Per serving: 232 calories, 4g fat, 49g carbohydrates, 3g protein, 5g fiber, 17mg sodium.