How Do You Like These Apples?
When the leaves change and the air turns crisp, I’m reminded of some of my favorite childhood memories. Every October my dad would take us on two or three trips to Clapp Orchards in Claverack, New York. We spent hours picking apples and pears to bring home to be stored for the cold New England winter. Early Macs, Rome Beauty, gold and red delicious apples were hard, tart, and tasted exactly how an apple should.
These days, apples have lost a lot of their old world zip. Washington State Red Delicious, while bright red and flawless, are tasteless, mealy, and dry compared to those we picked in the Hudson Valley. The Honeycrisp sensation has farmers planting them across the country, resulting in apples that are not always picked at their peak.
That being said, we’ve had some wonderful new varieties of apples developed recently such as the SweeTango and Zestar. The SweeTango was developed in partnership by the University of Minnesota apple-breeding program. They’ve decided to patent their apple so it will be grown in specific areas. Growers pay an annual “tax” per tree to raise and market the apple according to standards set by the University’s program. We have tasted them and they are worth the premium price; they are crispy with a nice balance of sweet and tart. Zestar can be found primarily in the Midwest. Its texture is also quite crisp with a bright complex flavor.
Sweet or tart, crisp or tender, local farmer’s markets stock dozens of varieties. Farmers almost always have samples to help you choose your favorite. In Chicago, we love the apples from Mick Klug Farm in Michigan. Mick and his family specialize in all sorts of orchard fruits (as well as acres of concord grapes for Welch’s grape juice). Honeycrisp, Zestar, Jonagold, and delicious apples will all be used on the upcoming Big Bowl specials, including Roasted Squash Soup and Honey Apple Crisp!
If you’re up for a real adventure make your way to Doud’s Orchard in Denver, IN. It’s one of the oldest orchards in Indiana, family owned and operated, and they specialize in old and new varieties of apples.