One of the lovelier aspects of this lovely season is that apples are in season and at peak flavor. I live in Michigan, which is one of the major apple-growing states in the country, so I am all about this time of year! This year apple season is especially exciting because we had no apples at all last year. There was an early spring that made all the trees blossom early, and a late frost that killed all the blossoms. No blossoms, no fruit.
This year we've had the opposite, plus a temperate summer and a TON of rain, so there's a bumper crop. I cannot wait to get my kids out in the orchard and up in the trees...apple picking with kids is really fun and a great way to get the whole family outside and active.
And apples can get made into all kinds of healthy snacks. They are delicious all on their own, of course, or dipped into peanut butter or yogurt dip. You can cook them down into unsweetened applesauce with a little cinnamon and nutmeg, bake them with spices and dried fruit, or make apple butter. You can even use them in savory applications: I make an amazing dish that combines sliced apples, sage, garlic and nutmeg along with baked boneless skinless chicken thighs. So good, and like autumn on a plate.
You can eat any kind of apple, but some are better suited for cooking and some for eating out of hand (called, sweetly enough, "dessert apples"). Eating apples tend to be sweeter and will break down into mush when baked, so they are better raw.
Common cooking varieties are Braeburn, Jonathan, McIntosh and Northern Spy.
All purpose (good for cooking and eating) include Empire, Fuji, Granny Smith, Jonagold, Pink Lady and Winesap.
And eating apples include Cortland, Gala (my favorite!) the Delicious family (I find the grocery store variety of these almost flavorless, but if you can find them fresh at an orchard they are surprisingly good) and the wildly popular Honeycrisp.
What's your favorite thing to make with apples?
Image ©IStockPhoto/Andreas Rodriguez