5@5 - Everything you wanted to know 'bout them apples
October 13th, 2011
05:00 PM ET
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5@5 is a daily, food-related list from chefs, writers, political pundits, musicians, actors, and all manner of opinionated people from around the globe.

Autumn is here, and so is our appetite for the season's ample variety of apples. From Idared to Golden Delicious to Northern Spy, these fresh-picked fall fruits are good to the core.

But, as they say, one bad apple spoils the bunch - so make sure you grapple the very best apples with the help of grocer Stew Leonard.

An Apple Harvest Primer: Stew Leonard

1. When is the best time to buy apples?
"Here in the Northeast, the time is right now! The apple harvest season starts in August and lasts through November. Granny Smith and McIntosh apples are especially seasonal for this time.

These days you can buy apples all year round from different suppliers around the world, but August through November, you’ll have incredibly crisp and juicy apples."

2. How do I pick a great apple?
"A ripe apple should be crunchy and sweet. The best way to test if an apple is ripe is to squeeze it. The flesh should feel firm, without any soft or brown spots.

Gala apples should be a sweet, snappy, aromatic apple that is usually red-and-yellow-striped when ripe. Granny Smiths should be firm, medium grain apples - with bold, sweet and sour bursts in every bite. Fujis should be aromatic and juicy with a spicy, crisp sweetness. Golden Delicious should be a crisp, clean apple with extremely mellow flavors, while Red Delicious should have a strong sweet presence and only a few notes of acidity.

McIntosh apples should be white and have a tender, crisp flesh that’s spicy, highly aromatic and full of juice. You should always consider why you are buying apples (cooking, baking or eating raw) because that makes a difference. Once you get home, you can keep your apples in the refrigerator for up to three days if you plan on eating them raw."

3. What’s the most popular kind of apple?
"During native apple season, there are two apples that stand out far and above any other varieties. First is the Honey Crisp because as the name says, it’s sweet like honey and crisp to the bite. Honey Crisps have a short season, only six to eight weeks.

The second most popular is the Macoun, which is a sweet, tart, and crispy apple from New England, but that also has a short window of availability. When Honey Crisp and Macoun are not available, people go for the super sweet and crunchy Gala apple followed by Granny Smith."

4. What’s the best apple to use for cooking?
"When making a pie, you can really use any apple you like, but a firmer apple, like Cortland, Golden Delicious or Granny Smith works really well. Those won’t break down like the softer varieties, such as McIntosh, which can get mushy.

You can even try a 50/50 blend of the Cortland and Granny Smith in your pie for added flavor. When making apple sauce, use Granny Smith or McIntosh. These apples feature bold flavors and lots of juice, making them perfect for sauce."

5.What are the best ways to use apples this harvest season?
"Apple cider donuts and apple pie are delicious but I’m always watching my waistline, so I was given a new recipe to try at home the other night. Chop up a few apples, put them in a roasting pan, then drizzle some Vermont maple syrup over them. Follow with a few shakes of ground cinnamon and put it in the oven for about an hour. My whole family loved it.

If you aren't watching your waistline, try this French-style apple tart."

Pastry cream:
2 large egg yolks
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 cup whole milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 large egg
1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed according to package directions
2 medium Gala apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
1/2 cup apricot preserves

To prepare the pastry cream: In a mixing bowl, with an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the egg yolks and sugar to form ribbons. Mix in the flour and cornstarch. In a small saucepan, over medium heat, bring the milk to a boil. Remove 1/2 cup of the milk and gradually whisk the hot milk into the egg mixture. Gradually whisk the egg mixture back into the hot milk. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring constantly, or until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon. Return the mixture to the mixing bowl and mix well. Stir in the vanilla. Pour into a large bowl. Cool slightly, then cover the surface completely with plastic wrap. Refrigerate the custard for 1 hour or until cold. (Pastry cream may be prepared up to 1 day in advance.)

To prepare the tart: Preheat the oven to 400°F. In a small bowl, beat the egg with 1 teaspoon water. Place the puff pastry on a lightly floured cutting board. Cut a 1-inch strip off of each side of the pastry. Using the egg wash, brush a 1-inch border around the edges of the center piece of puff pastry. Place the strips onto the brushed border, folding the corners over to form another layer. Brush the border with the egg wash. Spoon or pipe the pastry cream onto the center of the puff pastry. Place the apples over the cream and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden brown and puffed. Remove from the oven and let cool on a rack for 15 minutes. In a small saucepan, heat the apricot preserves and 3 tablespoons water. Brush onto the apples. Serve warm or refrigerate to serve cold later.

Is there someone you'd like to see in the hot seat? Let us know in the comments below and if we agree, we'll do our best to chase 'em down.

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soundoff (5 Responses)
  1. jillmarie

    I agree that apples last way longer than 3 days- I usually just leave them on my kitchen counter in a bowl- does refrideration make them last much longer? Does it alter the taste? Just wondering.
    I had no idea Honey Crisp and Macoun had such short windows of being in season- they are two of my favorites!

    October 15, 2011 at 12:03 pm |
  2. Smitty52

    I also take exception to the, "2 to 3 days in the frig," statement. I eat 3 apples a day and now that it's harvest time in Washington, Fujis and Red Delicious keep very well at least 2 weeks, or more.

    October 14, 2011 at 10:06 am |
  3. Skottikins

    That tart sounds AMAZING! Definitly going to have the try that out.

    October 13, 2011 at 6:49 pm |
  4. fob

    #2: "3 days" ?! That must be a typo. We picked apples 3 weeks ago and they still taste great! I love the Gala and Cortland varieties. My kiddies like the Macintosh.

    October 13, 2011 at 6:46 pm |
    • Steve Jobs@fob

      Thank You,smart kids. :))

      October 13, 2011 at 6:48 pm |
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