Market Mondays – Apples

Is there any fruit that typifies September and the Fall harvest better than the apple? Boy Scouts apple day, an apple for the first day of school, a roadside produce stand groaning with different varieties… we love us some apples. And despite what your supermarket might have you think, they come in more types than red, green and yellow. 7500 varieties, to be specific, with the fruit originating in Western Asia and showing up throughout history in Norse, Greek and Pagan mythology. One theory about the apple being the unnamed “forbidden fruit” in the Bible is based on the fact that the Book of Genesis was written by Romans at a time when the Christian church was trying to convert pagans. Since the pagans revered the apple, making it evil or forbidden contributed to the number of new converts.

Apples now grow in almost every part of the world. Here in Ontario, growers have focused on about a dozen common varieties, but there are over 100 heritage varieties that can be found at local orchards and pick-your-own farms. Apples are typically harvested from late July until October. Growers’ associations like the one in Norfolk County provide storage facilities for area apple growers in a climate-controlled, low-oxygen warehouse that allows Ontarians to have local apples year-round. There’s no reason to be eating apples from China (where 35% of the world’s apples are grown), when we have a great year-round variety right here.

There are many ways to eat apples – fresh out of hand, of course, but apples can also be dried, canned, stewed (to make applesauce) or juiced. They can be fermented and made into hard cider, or distilled and made into apple liqueur. Their most common use is in baking in the forms of apple pie or apple crumble, but they find themselves in savoury dishes as well and add flavour to dishes such as soups, braised cabbage and even stuffed into butterflied pork chops.

The old “apple a day” saying isn’t far off the mark, as apples are full of fibre, anti-oxidants and flavanoids.

When selecting apples, choose a variety based on what you plan to do with it. Sweeter apples like Macs and Empires, or newer varieties like Ginger Gold or Honeycrisp are great for eating out of hand, while tart varieties such as Spys, Transparents or Granny Smiths work best for cooking. Look for unblemished skin and fruit that is slightly heavy for its size. Store apples in the crisper in a plastic bag for up to a month. If you’re storing them at room temperature, keep them well away from bananas, as the ethylene gas emitted from the apples will cause the bananas to ripen prematurely.

Apple Cranberry Crisp
from the Foodland Ontario website

8 Ontario Apples (about 3 lb/1.5 kg)
1 cup (250 mL) cranberries, fresh or frozen
1/2 cup (125 mL) all-purpose flour or 1/4 cup (50 mL) each of all-purpose and whole wheat flour
1/2 cup (125 mL) large-flake rolled oats
1/2 cup (125 mL) packed brown sugar
2 to 4 tbsp (25 to 50 mL) finely minced candied ginger (optional)
1/2 tsp (2 mL) each of ground cardamom and cinnamon
1/3 cup (75 mL) butter, cut into chunks

Peel and core apples; slice into thin wedges. In large bowl, stir together apples and cranberries. Turn into 11- x 9-inch (2.5 L) baking dish.

In bowl, stir together flour, rolled oats, sugar, ginger (if using), cardamom and cinnamon. Using fingers, work in butter until pea-size crumbs form. Sprinkle over fruit.

Bake in 350 F (180 C) oven until bubbling around edges, topping is set and deep golden brown, about 1 hour. Check crisp after 45 minutes, if topping is becoming too dark, cover loosely with foil. Let stand for about 10 minutes before serving.

Apple Mulligatawny
from Washington Apples

1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup diced carrot
1 cup thinly sliced celery
1 tbsp minced gingerroot
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp curry paste
1/2 tsp each salt and pepper
1 cup coconut milk
2 cups chicken stock
2 cups cubed butternut squash
4 cups diced Granny Smith apples
2 cups diced cooked chicken
1/4 cup chopped fresh coriander

In deep skillet, heat oil over medium high heat. Add onion, carrot and celery; cook, stirring occasionally, until tender but not browned, about 10 minutes. Stir in gingerroot, garlic, curry paste, salt and pepper and cook one minute.

Pour in coconut milk and chicken stock and bring to a boil. Add squash and reduce heat to simmer for 15 minutes. Add apple and chicken and cook just until apples are tender but still hold their shape, about 10 minutes more.

Sprinkle with coriander and serve with warm naan bread or cooked basmati rice.