Without apples, it is questionable whether the little colonies on the edge of the great North American continent could have survived – or whether there could have been a Westward Movement.
Apples were eaten fresh or dried; they were stewed, baked, or fried in a variety of dishes. Apples were turned into apple butter, apple sauce, cider and vinegar. They not only provided a vital source of food and drink, but also were an invaluable preservative for our pioneer ancestors ‘ food and supplies. Apples were even used medicinally as anesthetics, antiseptics, sedatives, and stimulants.
The first colonists brought apple seeds from Europe to New England. From there, apples spread across the land all the way to the west coast. Thousands of varieties were developed in different regions of the country and the world.
Below are tips for using apples which our ancestors knew well.
1. An apple in your bag of potatoes will help to keep the potatoes from sprouting.
2. An apple in your brown sugar container will help to keep the sugar moist.
3. An apple in your cookie container will help to keep the cookies moist.
4. Add lemon juice to an apple recipe if the apples you are using lack tartness or need flavor.
5. If you can’t brush your teeth after a meal, eat an apple. Eating a raw apple will cleanse the mouth of more than 95% of bacteria that cause tooth decay.
Braeburn was discovered as a chance seedling in New Zealand nearly fifty years ago. It’s origin is thought to be a cross between Lady Hamilton and Granny Smith, giving the apple an attractive ‘bi-colour’ which is red with green under-striping. This large variety is one of the premier apples for fresh eating. Braeburn has an exceptionally crisp and juicy flesh, with a rich, full blend of sweet-tart flavour. It is a scrumptious addition to salads, or with mild cheeses, and the apple holds its shape even when cooked. Because it will keep in storage year round, Braeburn is an excellent fruit for export. Look for this variety late in the season, beginning in mid-October.
Cameo originally came from a single, lone tree which was found to be growing amidst an orchard full of Red Delicious apples in Dryden, Washington, nearly twenty years ago. It is fast becoming one of the more sought-after of the newer varieties introduced to market within recent years. Harvested in October, this lovely apple displays multiple colors and, like the Braeburn, holds its shape well when cooked. This makes it an excellent choice for both pies and sauces. Cameo has a firm texture and a savory sweet-tart snap which is perfect for fresh eating. Slow to brown once it has been sliced, Cameo is the ideal compliment to a fruit or fresh green salad.
Fuji has become widely available in recent years–one can now find it in most super-markets every season–and it remains one of the most delectable introductions to this country. Long a favorite in SE Asia, having been developed at Tohuku Research Station in Morioka, Japan, this intriguing cross between Red Delicious and Ralls Janet was first brought to our attention from New Zealand in the 1980s. Fuji apples are aromatic and juicy with a spicy, crisp sweetness which renders an exceptional eating quality. For those with a ‘sweet tooth,’ this big sweet apple makes a great substitute for sugary snacks. Fuji’s keep very well in storage, and there are some who claim that, like fine wine, the flavour of this magnificent cultivar actually improves with age. Washington’s cool weather in the late fall helps develop the reddish-pink color and superb taste. Fuji’s are harvested anywhere from late September through early November and can be purchased throughout the year.
Gala is a strikingly attractive apple. The bright yellow skin is finely stippled with red, as if airbrushed from across the room, you’d think you were looking at a peach.” Thus begins Roger Yepsen’s description of this import from New Zealand, found in his book, simply titled, APPLES. In the 1920s, orchardist J.H Kidd crossed a Golden Delicious with his own Kidd’s Orange Red, and the result has been to ensure the current popularity of this gourmet choice. Gala is an early-season delight, with a bouquet of juicy, sweet flavor contained in its dense, yellow flesh. It is not a very large apple, and many grocery stores now label their smallest varieties as “baby Galas.” Terrific for eating out-of-hand, Gala is at its very best when purchased locally, in season. Enjoy this delicious treat in the early fall, when it is fresh and available from local growers at their farm markets.
If not the earliest variety of the season, Ginger gold is certainly one of the most anticipated. Because it can be found only for a few short weeks, from August into September, this tangy, sweet delight–some say that Ginger gold has a taste that is faintly reminiscent of pears–quickly disappears from local farm markets. This medium sized golden-yellow fruit was discovered as a chance seedling in the orchards of Clyde and Ginger Harvey in Albemarle County (near Charlottesville, Virginia). One apocryphal narrative has it that this seedling was deposited by Hurricane Camille in 1969. While neither as rich nor as heavy as the fall varieties, this delicious fresh-eating cultivar is a perfect late-summer indulgence.
Andrew Mullins discovered a unique and mysterious sight blooming among his apple orchards in 1905. A bumper crop of golden fruit shone from the boughs of a tree which Mullins knew he had not planted. Mullins watched for the next nine years as this remarkable tree produced it’s delectable fruit–even during seasons when other trees did not. He finally took some samples of this large yellow apple (simply named “Mullins’ Yellow Seedling”) to Stark Brothers Nurseries in 1914. Possibly a chance seedling from Grimes Golden and Golden Reinette, Stark Brothers bought propagation rights and re-named the apple “Golden Delicious,” as a companion to its Red Delicious (though the two varieties are not genetically related). Sweet and fragrant, the lightly textured green/gold skin of the Golden’s protects a crisp interior and helps the apple retain its extra juiciness. The appealingly uniform shape and the wide variety of uses have helped propel Golden Delicious into the second most popular apple in the United States. Great for both fresh-eating and in salads (because the flesh stays white longer), Golden Delicious maintains a rich taste when baked or cooked in such products as apple sauces, apple butter, apple pies. They are also considered the best choice for apple cider.
Granny Smith comes to this country from Australia. Legend has it that Marie Ana Smith carelessly tossed some French crabapples into her garden back in the 1860s. Upon discovering the sprouts which had surfaced, she cultivated the young shoots into horticultural history. This commercial prize is now grown world-wide, and apple-lovers can find Granny Smith in their markets year-round. Harvested here in mid-October, this green, crisp juicy variety will delight those who enjoy a burst of tangy-tart in every bite. Filled with plenty of crunch and flavour, Grannies are best eaten fresh, crisp and cold, either as snacks or in salads.
Jonagold is an excellent dessert variety that is much more popular in Europe than it is in America. It is one of the leading commercial varieties on the Continent, particularly in the cooler climates of Belgium and Holland. Developed in 1968 by the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station at Geneva, New York, this brilliant, golden-red cross between Jonathan and Golden Delicious ripens from mid- to late September. There are now over 70 strains of the variety and, depending on strain and climate, the colour varies from pale green-gold with faint red strip to solid red. Containing the tart-sweetness of Jonathan and the juicy crispness found in the texture of the Golden’s, the subtle and complex taste seems to be at its best for a couple of weeks after picking, when this cultivar is a real treat. Jonagold has also become a prized culinary apple, making for exceptionally fine sauces and excellent sauté; delicious in salads and with strong cheeses. Fresh Jonagold apples are available from Washington during September and October, but limited supply means that this variety is not yet available year-round. Noted for its large size, beauty and flavor, the versatile Jonagold is a taste test winner.
Yet another import from the land “down under” this variety was originally named Cripp’s Pink. Developed and bred by the agriculture department of Western Australia in 1973, Pink Lady apples are a cross between Golden Delicious and Lady Williams. Introduced to the United States by way of New Zealand in the late eighties, the fruit is medium in size and conical in shape, with a distinctive pink blush over a yellow background. The fine-grained flesh of this apple is crisp and crunchy and, because it does not brown easily after being cut, Pink Lady is a desirable addition to fresh vegetable and fruit salads. When eaten out-of-hand, the first bite tastes pleasantly tart and is followed by a delicious sweetness. Pink Lady ripens in September and can be found in most markets right through late spring months.
This perfectly round, deep solid red apple owes its popularity more to its looks than its taste. While it is considered by many to be only fair as a fresh-eating variety, Rome (also known as Rome Beauty) is most reliable in the kitchen. It is one of the very finest baking apples available because its firm texture retains its shape, and the flesh acquires a very rich flavour when cooked. When prepared in dishes from pies to pancakes, from sauces to baked apple desserts, Rome has proved a durable delight. These apples are harvested from late September through October, and can be found into the early winter months.
What can one say about the most recognizable apple in the industry? Its deep, red color and classic heart shape have helped make it the symbol of the American apple. For most of the 20th century, Red Delicious was the most popular variety in the United States. Newer varieties with more complex flavors have been eroding this variety’s popularity in recent years.