2017-10-26 / From The Garden

Don't Miss Apple-Picking Season

By Cynthia Gibson

Apples are bigger and tastier than ever. Picking fresh apples right from the tree is bliss. There is an abundance of apple orchards on Aquidneck Island and in the surrounding towns, so do not miss the fall tradition of apple picking.

There is a special crisp crunch when biting into a fresh apple, with a combination of tartness and sweetness. Not only do we have summer, fall and now late fall apples, there are apples for making pies, baking (without crust) and for eating fresh.

You see many more varieties of apples in the supermarket than existed five to 10 years ago. The produce section is filled with boxes of apples, and they are sorted and sold by name and uniform size, like neat toy soldiers standing in a regiment. To see unsorted apples, visit the local orchards. Sweet Berry Farm is known for their huge Jonagold and RockyBrook apples, while another farm, also in Middletown, sells the large Honey Crisp.

Cynthia Gibson is a gardener, food writer and painter. She gardens and tends her miniature orchard in Newport. Cynthia Gibson is a gardener, food writer and painter. She gardens and tends her miniature orchard in Newport. Not only are the varieties multiplying, the apples themselves are growing much larger.

The largest apples in the market today are Honey Crisp and Jonagold. These apples are monsters. One cored, baked Honey Crisp is easily a dessert for two; the same goes for Jonagold.

McIntosh is still best for making pies, though. That’s because it has the perfect mix of sweet and sour and is guaranteed to soften when baked. It also has a high-water content (filled with apple juice) and when made into a pie, the apple is soft and tastes like cider.

Cider apples are in a classification all their own. Finding an orchard with a cider press means leaving Aquidneck Island and going over the Pell Bridge to Windmist Farm in Jamestown. Not only do they make homemade cider, they also make donuts to go with your cider.

If you are thinking of making your own cider, it is not as daunting as you might expect. You need room for only three to four (different varieties for pollination) cider apple trees, and four years of waiting for the apple trees to mature. The most popular cider apple trees are Ashmead’s Kernel, Baldwin, Bramley’s Seedling and Brown’s Apple. You will need an apple press.

Nothing can beat a classic homemade apple pie, but apple pie without guilt is called baked apples. This recipe is for luscious baked apples made with the large Honey Crisp variety. If you buy them from an orchard or the farmer’s market you will only need two apples to serve four people. If you buy your Honey Crisps at the supermarket, you will need four, or one per person.

Baked Honey Crisp Apples

Serves four

4 Honey Crisp apples, cored,
skin on (you can expand the
recipe by adding apples and all
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/4 cup white raisin
1/4 cup pecans, coarsely
4 Tbsp. butter
Vanilla ice cream (optional)
for serving a la mode

Preheat oven to 350F.

Slice off the top of the apple and de-stem. Using either an apple corer or melon baller, scoop out the seeds and core of the apple. If you are using the gigantic apples, you can leave a bottom in the apple.

In a bowl, mix the

cinnamon, sugar, raisins and pecans. Place the cored apples into a large baking dish that is coated in butter or baking spray. Stuff the apples with the fruit, nut, sugar and raisin mixture. Place one tablespoon of butter on top of each apple.

Add at least one-half inch water to the bottom of the baking dish before placing in the oven. Bake uncovered for 40 minutes to one hour, depending upon the size of your apples.

Poke the apples with a fork; they are done when soft. You do not want mushy apples. Remove from the oven after baking and let rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Great RI Apple Crunch

The third annual Great Rhode Island Apple Crunch will be held at Pell Elementary School on Friday, Oct. 27, National Food Day. To celebrate there will be nearly 1,000 apples for the entire school population, including more than 850 students, plus faculty and staff will gather at 2 p.m. on the school lawn for everyone to simultaneously crunch the apples grown at Greenville RI's Steere Orchard. The public is invited to come and join in.

The event is coordinated by the school's food service director, Cindy King of Chartwells, and Farm Fresh RI’s Farm to School team. Chartwells and Farm Fresh RI have worked together in Newport and all East Bay school districts for over 10 years to promote RI Grown foods in school meals and to facilitate food education activities like classroom nutrition lessons, gardening programs and after-school cooking clubs.

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