Although the first day of Autumn is not until September 23, it’s hard to not anticipate its crisp arrival. I’ve recently found myself caught in the humid afternoons dreaming of the crunch of fallen leaves, chilly, foggy mornings, and brisk air that pierces your lungs with a delightful sharpness. Pumpkin beers are already making their way into bars and evenings have been cooling off much more quickly. Worry not, everyone, we are getting closer and closer to the most glorious of all the seasons that is slowly ushered in by the ripening apple trees every year. So with your first bite of a seasonal apple you can allow yourself to get excited for the yellows, oranges, and reds that will begin to decorate our neighborhoods and beautiful North Carolina landscape.
Coston Farm in Hendersonville, NC is a fourth generation family farm that specializes in apples. They grow 20 different kinds of apples and the season spans from August 10 until the last week of October. If you find yourself up in the High Country to see the leaves change and to celebrate fall’s arrival, you can stop by Coston Farm to pick apples and continue the festivities. Otherwise, they can arrive at your front door in your Papa Spud’s box! The first apples of the year are Golden Crisp and Gala Apples, and by the end of this week Honey Crisps (my personal favorite) will be available. Then come Fuji, Red Delicious, and Golden Delicious in September. Finally in October come Shizuko, King Luscious, and the season ends with the beautiful Pink Ladies. This is, of course, an abbreviated list of the amazing flavor profile that is headed our way. To see the Coston’s Apple Ripening Calendar, or any pictures, recipes, or apple information, just check out their website.
I spoke with Lola Coston on the phone who imparted a little bit of knowledge for us—if you’re making a pie the best apples to use would be Honey Crisp, Shizuko, Mutsu, or Granny Smith; a cobbler calls for Golden Delicious apples. Lola’s favorite kind of apple is the Shizuko apple, it’s a yellow apple that is both sweet and tart and will be ready in October. It’s a crispy eating apple as well as great for baking. So bring on the apple pies, turnovers, crisps, sauce, muffins, breads, and, of course, cider! Don’t forget how easy it is to store apples in different forms for the rest of the year. To freeze apples simply peel, slice, and core the apple–if you don’t want it to brown you can brush the apple slices with diluted lemon juice. Lay the apples out on a baking sheet making sure that none of them are touching and freeze. Once the apples are frozen, consolidate in a plastic bag or Tupperware and keep in the freezer!
Along with being delicious and grown locally, apples are pretty amazing fruits. Here are a few apple facts that I found interesting:
-Apples are part of the rose family, similar to pears and plums
-If you have produce that is unripe, just throw it in a bag with an apple and it will ripen more quickly because of the amount of ethylene that apples give off
-Apple trees can live for over 100 years
-The crabapple is the only type of apple native to the US.
-Apples are full of soluble fiber, which is good for digestion, as well as Vitamin C for your immune system
-The antioxidants found in apples help to prevent coronary heart disease and cardiovascular disease
-Eating an apple before you work out may increase your endurance.
As you’re enjoying your apples this season and bettering your health by doing so, you can save your apple scraps to make apple cider vinegar (which is also incredibly good for digestion). This super simple recipe explains just how to make homemade apple cider vinegar so you no longer have to buy it from the store!
- Cores and peels from 6-8 apples (ideally organic)
- 2 tbs. honey
- Water to cover
- After you use the apples to make a wonderful apple treat (such asapple pie bread), place the cores and peels in a large, wide-mouthed jar. I use a 4-cup jar, but you can adjust the size of the jar to the amount of apple scraps you’re using.
- Cover the scraps with water and stir in the honey.
- Place a paper towel on top of the jar, and secure it with a band.
- Let the mixture soak for 2 weeks, and then strain out the liquid. Discard the solids.
- Return the liquid to the jar and cover it again with a paper towel and band. Leave it for 4 more weeks, stirring daily.
- Taste it and see if it has the acidity you would like. If it does, transfer it to a covered bottle for storage. If not, leave it in the wide-mouthed jar for a little while longer, checking every few days.
Now that you’re armed with all of these apple facts and apple ideas, I wish you a very apple-filled autumn.