Tis the Season: Northwest Apples!

Posted on September 19th, 2011 by Steve | Posted in Newsletter Articles, Produce

Fall is almost upon us. With the change of the seasons we move from one crop focus to another. Tomatoes are in their prime, giving us one last taste of summer. Once the temperatures start to drop and the rain sets in again (did it ever completely go away?) tomatoes will start to take a back seat to foods that are more suitable for the changing weather patterns. This is the time of year when we will start to see the introduction of Northwest grown apples into our lives.

All modern apples are descendants of the Alma, which is a wild variety of apple from Western Asia. Today apples are a crop that is cultivated world wide, with a rich history in many cultures. It has been known as the “forbidden fruit”, the “fruit of knowledge”, and the “fruit of everlasting youth”. Today we look at the apple as being a sure fire method of keeping the doctor away.

As much as 25% of an apple’s volume is oxygen. This is one of the reasons apples get mealy. The oxygen is stored in pockets between the cells of the fruit. When overripe, the cell walls soften and the core of the cell will start to dry out. When you bite into an apple in this state, your teeth will push the cells apart rather than break the cells open to release the juice within the cell.

Apples’ high oxygen content is also what makes them good for baking whole. The apple will begin to fill with steam, cooking it from the inside out. It is  recommended that you remove a strip of the skin from the top of the apple to allow it to release steam and prevent splitting.

Apples also contain a good amount of cell-wall pectins. For this reason apples are an excellent fruit for making jellies and sauces. Taking a simple puree of apples and briefly cooking it will produce an applesauce with a thick and satisfying consistency. When cooked longer and reduced further, it will turn into a thick and sweet apple butter.

Apples produce a clear to opalescent juice, depending on whether or not the pectins and proteins are left intact. The pectins and proteins will deflect light and make the juice cloudy. Apple juice will retain it’s fresh flavor and remain pale for up to an hour. Then the juice will begin to darken and the flavor will change with the influence of enzymes and oxygen contact. If you want to reduce the browning of the juice, you need to pasteurize it. The easiest method is to rapidly heat the juice to a boil to inactivate the enzymes that cause the browning to occur. This will affect the flavor of the juice, giving it a cooked flavor. The only way to enjoy that fresh flavor of freshly juiced apples is to drink it shortly after it is made.

The apple market has changed a lot since I was a kid. I remember that there were nowhere near the number of different varieties of apples out there. At that time the Red Delicious was my favorite apple, and I didn’t want to eat any others. I am really happy I’ve changed my tune.

These days, there are so many more choices! When Fuji apples hit the market, they quickly replaced the Red Delicious as the favorite sweet eating apple. Honeycrisp apples, despite a shorter season, are definitely a contender for the favorite. And now Jazz apples have really taken a chunk out of the sales of some of the other big favorites. Jazz apples originated in New Zealand and are the perfect combination of a Gala and a Braeburn. It is a sweet-tart apple that is very dense and crisp. I would definitely recommend this apple if you have not tried it. We’ll start to see Jazz apples from Northwest farms in October.

Good eating apple choices are Gala, Fuji, and Red Delicious. For a good eating or cooking apple choose Pink Lady, Braeburn, Honeycrisp, Gold Delicious, Grannysmith, Jazz, Gravenstein, Macintosh or Pippen. Due to the weather, we can expect apples to be a little smaller, and up to three weeks later, than usual.

Photo by: Muffet

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