Whether or not you believe in the Adam and Eve story, there’s no doubt that apples have been with us for millions of years, originating in the Tien Shan mountains of Kazakhstan. And while it’s currently considered the ultimate American fruit (more than 2,500 types are grown in the US today), it’s interesting to note that the crabapple is actually the only one native to North America!
No matter; we can still take advantage of the wide array of apples available, ranging in size from a little larger than a cherry to as big as a grapefruit. Harvested from autumn to early winter, popular varieties for eating fresh include mild Red Delicious, creamy Golden Delicious, firm and tart Granny Smith, red and yellow-streaked Gala, juicy McIntosh and sugary Honeycrisp, while sturdy and complex Jonathans, Cortlands, Pippins, Winesaps, Gravensteins and Braeburns are preferred for cooking and baking, due for their appealing balance of sweetness, tanginess and spiciness.
And while we have no doubt they’re sorry to see the end of tomatoes and corn, chefs have set about making the most of an incredible apple bounty. To kick off your meal, you can visit Brooklyn’s premiere cocktail bar, Clover Club, for a “Doc’s & Stormy” featuring apple brandy, cinnamon and pumpkin cider, or the “Harvest Punch” with cognac, mulled cider and aged and dark rums. And as a starter, try the salad at Speedy Romeo, comprised of apple, freekah, blueberries, goat cheese vinaigrette and kale. Apples are a big part of Bavarian cuisine, which is why you’ll find them in heavy rotation at Paulaner on the Bowery, serving hearty options like Potato Pancakes smeared with applesauce and House-Smoked Trout paired with green apple and horseradish, and needless to say, they’re the ultimate addition to dessert; notable options include the Tart Tatin for two at Rotisserie Georgette, the refined Panna Cotta with cinnamon crumble and green apple granita at Wildair, and the fried-to-order cider donuts, served at the fall-friendly roaming food truck, Carpe Donut.
Whether you’re gathering apples yourself at an orchard upstate (check out our U-Pick farm guide!), or are merely gathering a bundle at a supermarket or farm stand, the same rules apply for selecting. Look for unbroken skin with good color and no soft brown spots, bruises or damaged skin. If the flesh gives under pressure, the apple will be soft. The skin on the apple should be taut and show no signs of shriveling. Smell the apples to make sure that they’re fresh, and not musty.
Because apples continue to ripen at room temperature, you should refrigerate them in the cold back part of the refrigerator for one week or longer, preferably in a perforated plastic bag sprinkled with water. Apples give off a gas called ethylene that speeds up ripening, so they should be kept away from other fruits and vegetables to prevent them from ripening prematurely. To store fresh picked apples for a long period of time, wrap them in paper and place folded side down in a single layer on a tray. Store in a cool, dark, dry place. The ideal temperature for storage is between 32°F and 40°F. Check frequently to see if any apples have begun to rot. As you know the saying, one bad apple can spoil the whole bunch.
While a perfect apple requires little in the way of adornment, they’re still a tremendously versatile addition to recipes of all sorts. Shred into salads or slaw, tossed with mustard as a terrific topping for pulled pork sandwiches or chicken cutlets. Layer into pies (of course!) tarts, or even pizza, paired with sharp and nutty gruyere cheese. Press into paninis with farmstand cheddar, sautee with onions as a partner to rustic roasts of all sorts, and incorporate into breakfast and brunch staples like oatmeal, pancakes or muffins. And don’t forget about the cider or juice; perfect for seasonal spins on mimosas and sangrias, as well as toasty hot toddies.
So go on and embrace apple season — and try not to get too teary over the loss of tomatoes and corn.
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