Autumn Is All About Apples – So Traditional, So Irresistible


As autumn begins and the end of Daylight Saving Time approaches, I think of things undone. Mostly things uneaten. Did I eat enough fresh corn? Have I served enough Jersey sliced tomatoes topped with mozzarella and a bit of balsamic vinegar? I ate a lot of fresh local peaches, but I never got around to making a peach pie or crunchy fruit crisp.

Homegrown blueberries are long gone from the farm markets. It’s not really a Jersey summer if you haven’t dug into a savory blueberry pie topped with vanilla ice cream. Have I frozen enough berries for pies and to top my cereal during the dark of winter? Now that summer’s over, I turn my thoughts to apples and pumpkins.

Need I say I am obsessed with food and always think about my next meal? When autumn arrives, I start thinking about apple harvests. You know the expression “as American as apple pie”? How about “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”? There are many terms like “apple pie easy,” “apple pie order” and “the apple of my eye.” Don’t forget “the apple for the teacher” that the teacher’s pet would bring. I love being in the kitchen and planning what to cook next.

My husband used to complain, “All your family does is talk about food.” He was right – especially when you felt the first cold snap of fall. You would wake up in the morning and there would be a chill in the air. The leaves would start to turn and crunch underfoot. The kids were already in school and the house was blissfully quiet. Chrysanthemums were in bloom, and farm stands would start displaying pumpkins and apples in bushel baskets. I would start to think of cinnamon, cardamom and a juicy, fragrant apple pie.

To me, autumn means pumpkins, Italian plums, savory foods and, most of all, apples: apple pie, apple cake, apple cider, apple crisp, and biting into a crunchy piece of fruit. Now apples abound all year ’round due to improved delivery and storage. Still, there’s nothing like a fresh-picked apple from an orchard to get your juices flowing.

If you’re not up to the actual picking and don’t need a full basket, try a farm stand. You can usually get a good variety. After some research, I discovered there are more than 100 types of apples grown in the U.S. In the supermarkets you will find a more limited selection, like Golden and Red Delicious, Fuji, Gala, Granny Smith, Macintosh, Rome and Honey Crisps. Not too shabby a variety when you consider the shipping and storage years ago.

Back in my father’s day, he liked a variety of pomme called Northern Spy. We drove over an hour every October to New York state to buy those apples. The name always intrigued me; I later found out it was the title of a popular book in the 19th century. I was disappointed that it wasn’t a Confederate farmer who created the delicious fruit.

Back in my day, I remember going out of my way to a farm market selling Cortlands. They were wonderful! I would buy a bushel or a peck or whatever was the standard and munch a few on the way home.

There’s no need to drive long distances now. In New Jersey alone, there’s a large selection of America’s favorite fruit. In our Garden State, there are many orchards that grow a diverse selection of apples. Arkansas blacks, for example, are considered to be a good baking variety. You can also find Red Prince, Red Duchess and Jonathans, which are moist and fruity. I have never tried a Braeburn or a Blondee and look forward to tasting some new varieties. Apples with titles like Enterprise, Liberty and Russets are also available.

The names alone are enticing. Ambrosia, Empires, Pippin, Macoun and Winesaps sound like they belong in a book or literary tale. I think of Eve being tempted in the Garden of Eden. I wonder what variety of apple she couldn’t resist.

Remember the legendary story of John Chapman, aka Johnny Appleseed? He started out in New England after serving in the Revolutionary War. He traveled on foot, planting apple seeds in orchards all over the Northeast. He went as far west as Illinois, but eventually settled in Ohio with his wife and 10 children. In fact, Johnny Appleseed Day is celebrated on Sept. 26. Legend has it that some of his sons became nurserymen and continued his apple tree quest.  You could say about his offspring that “the apples didn’t fall far from the tree.”

Kathleen Donnelly lives in Beach Haven Terrace.





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