The watermelon and peaches may be gone from the farmer’s market, but don’t worry, there's still fresh produce to celebrate! October is National Apple Month.
Let’s start with some basics. At the grocery store or your local farm stand, choose apples that are firm, with no soft spots. They are most likely to be full of juicy flavor and crunchy texture.
To store apples, it’s best to keep them in the produce or crisper drawer in the refrigerator at around 34°F, according to the U.S. Apple Association. They will last up to ten times longer when kept cool, compared to that nice-looking bowl of shiny apples on your dining room table.
Nutrition-wise, apples contain plenty of fiber, both soluble and insoluble, to help promote heart health and maintain bowel regularity.
There are many ways to get that “apple a day” serving. One medium apple, about the size of a tennis ball, or 1/2 cup chopped, cooked or canned apples equals one serving. So does 6 ounces of 100% apple juice or 1/2 cup store-bought or homemade applesauce.
It couldn’t be easier to add apples into your family’s diet. Start with breakfast, by tossing some chopped apples into hot quick-cooking or instant oatmeal. Add a pinch of cinnamon and dash of brown sugar or maple syrup.
Put a spin on the traditional ham and cheese or turkey sandwich for lunch; slide in a few thinly sliced Granny Smith apples.
For a quick afterschool or work pick-me-up, put some frozen applesauce into a blender or food processor and pulse to make a refreshing apple “slushie.” No artificial coloring or flavor needed, thanks.
To get you started, here’s a simple recipe for microwave applesauce. source: U.S. Apple Association http://www.usapple.org/easy-microwave-applesauce
Easy Microwave Applesauce
6 cups peeled, cored and sliced apples
1/4 c water
1/3 c sugar (or less, to taste)
Mix all ingredients in a 2-quart microwave safe baking dish. Cover and micro-cook on high power 6 to 8 minutes. Let cool. Using a food processor or blender, process the cooked mixture to the desired consistency. For chunkier sauce, use a potato masher or pastry blender.
Optional: To make flavored applesauce, stir in 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon or a pinch of ground nutmeg. Try making applesauce without adding sugar-- or use less than the recipe calls for. You’ll be surprised at the delicious natural sweetness.
Some recipes call for slicing apples ahead of time. To reduce browning caused by oxidation, dip apple slices in a mixture of one part lemon juice to three parts water. No lemon juice on hand? Use vitamin-C fortified 100% apple juice, orange or pineapple juice.
Another easy, do-ahead recipe:
Cranberry Carrot Spread with Apple Slices
source: http://www.bestapples.com/recipes.html Makes about 1 cup
1 8-ounce package lowfat cream cheese, softened
1 to 2 tablespoons orange juice, as needed
2 tablespoons dried cranberries
2 tablespoons peeled and grated carrot
1 medium crisp apple, washed, cored and sliced
Optional: 1 tablespoon chopped toasted walnuts
Combine all ingredients in medium mixing bowl. Chill. To serve, spread on apple slices. Refrigerate leftovers, covered.
Try Creamy Cranberry Carrot Spread in a whole wheat pita pocket half. Tuck in apple slices to create a crunchy treat for breakfast, lunch or snack.
For that special someone, the “apple of your eye,” spread half of a whole grain tortilla with fruit-sweetened spread (apricot is nice), sprinkle with shredded lowfat cheese and top with several apple slices. Fold in half and place in a medium hot skillet. Toast about 2 minutes on each side, until golden brown and cheese has melted. Remove from pan, let cool briefly. Cut in wedges if desired.
Don't forget to brew something to sip with your new apple menu items:
3 cups boiling water
6 tea bags
3 cups fresh Pennsylvania apple cider or apple juice
1/3 cup honey (adjust to taste)
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
In medium saucepan, add tea bags to boiling water. Let stand for 15 minutes. Remove tea bags; add apple cider or apple juice, honey and cinnamon. Simmer over low heat until honey is blended, about one minute. Serve hot or chilled, over ice.
Take an apple adventure! Explore the wide variety of apples and hold your very own apple tasting. Choose 3 to 5 different types of apples. Wash, core and cut apples into slices. Arrange slices on plates and have everyone sample them in clockwise order.
Appearance: what color(s) do you see? any stripes, spots, blush?
Aroma: what do you smell besides apple? citrus? spice?
Texture: what does the first bite tell you? is it super crisp, good snap, juicy?
Taste: how does it taste? sweet, tart, sweet-tart combination, sour?
Vote for your favorite. Try a different variety each week and involve the kids by having them choose a new kind.
Leftover apple slices? Spread them with peanut butter or yogurt and dip in your choice of toppings: graham cracker crumbs, whole grain or crispy rice cereal.
Check out a few of the many apple varieties, each with its own unique flavor profile. Here's a sample:
source: U.S. Apple Association http://www.housing.k-state.edu/dining/FitCourse/justforfun/10-applemonth.html
This apple originated in New Zealand in the early 1950s, as a chance seedling with Lady Hamilton and Granny Smith as possible parents. Now grown in the United States, Braeburn is a multipurpose apple good for all types of apple uses. Its color varies from orange to red over a yellow background. This crisp, juicy apple has a rich, spicy-sweet flavor. U.S. Braeburns are available beginning in October through July.
This new apple with an old-world name was discovered as a chance seedling in the late 1980s in Washington state. Cameo® makes its cameo appearance beginning in October. It bears red stripes over a cream-colored background. Extra-crispy Cameo has a sweet-tart taste. This apple resists browning, making it a natural choice for salads and fruit trays. Cooks, please note that Cameo's extra-denseness takes a bit longer to cook. Cameo is a registered trademark of the Cameo Association.
Originally developed in Japan in the late 1930s and named after the famous Mt. Fuji, U.S.-grown Fujis began appearing in markets in the 1980s. Fuji is a cross between Ralls Janet and Red Delicious. This variety's popularity is skyrocketing, thanks to its sweet flavor and firmness. Fuji apples are bi-colored, typically striped with yellow and red. They are available year round, beginning in September.
A Virginia grower discovered this apple sprouting amid the ruins of a hurricane-devastated orchard in the late 1960s, and named this greenish-gold, sweet-tart apple after his sweetheart. Its parentage includes Albemarle Pippin, a favorite apple of Thomas Jefferson. This early-season Eastern apple is great for salads, and cooks well too. Available in limited but growing supplies starting in mid-October.
This Australian native was discovered in 1868 as a chance seedling by "Granny" Anne Smith of Ryde, New South Wales. One parent might have been a French Crab Apple. Grannys are known for their distinctive green flesh, which sometimes bears a red blush, and their very tart flavor. An all-purpose apple, Grannys work equally well as a snack or in pies and sauce. U.S. Grannys are harvested beginning in August, and are available year-round.
This variety of apples was discovered in Woodstock, N.Y., in the 1920s and is known for its use in pies and applesauce. This crimson apple with occasional touches of green has a spicy tang that blends well with other varieties in sauces and cider. Jonathan is typically available from September through April.
Notable for its hot pink skin color and lily white flesh, this Southern Hemisphere native is now growing la vita loca stateside. A cross between Golden Delicious and Lady Williams, crunchy Pink Lady has a unique sweet-tart flavor described as "Gala with a zing!" Pink Lady is great for snacking, slicing or dicing on a salad, and for baking. This lady makes her debut in mid-October, one of the last varieties to be harvested. Supplies available through late spring or early summer. Pink Lady is a registered trademark of Brandt's Fruit Trees, Inc., and is managed by Pink Lady USA.