Watch for a good crop of Ohio apples, whether you want to eat them raw or cook and bake with them. Make time for your favorite recipes and try a few new ones as the apple crop is harvested.
"We'll start picking Paula Red, Ginger Gold, and Gala any day," says Bill Dodd, president of the Ohio Fruit Growers Marketing Association. Later varieties include McIntosh this week. In mid-September, Jonathan, Cortland, Honey Crisp, and Empire will ripen. Red and Golden Delicious ripen at the end of the month.
"Most parts of the state have been dry," he says. "So the sizing is good and the sugars are good because of the [recent] heat."
Among the trends he sees is the movement away from Red Delicious, "which is still the No. 1 apple, but Gala is moving up to No. 2 in the nation this year." Gala, Fuji, and Granny Smith have increased in volume and production.
Ohio-made cider also is popular.
"Apple juice and apple cider are two different things," says Mr. Dodd. "Apple juice is pasteurized longer, and it has a longer shelf life, and is a clearer product. Apple cider is made on farms locally and is flash pasteurized - not pasteurized as long. Apple cider has a shorter shelf life and is a darker-color product."
The American apple juice market is steady, but you won't find local Ohio apple juice. "Most apples in Ohio are for the fresh market," he says. The largest apple-growing states of Washington, New York, Michigan, and Pennsylvania have processors who make apple juice.
"The local food movement has been good for the state apple growers," says Mr. Dodd.
But there are few local organic apples in Ohio "because of disease pressures we face with rain. Funguses are triggered by moisture and are hard to control organically."
Organic apples are more likely to be grown in Washington where apples are grown in a dry climate.
For a list of Ohio apple growers, visit www.ohioapples.com. Try as many varieties as possible for cooking, baking, and eating selecting the best ones for your purpose.
When using apples for your recipes, there are a variety of opinions on which apples are best.
Choose firm apples for baking pies, writes Jonny Bowden in The Healthiest Meals on Earth (Fair Winds, $24.95). He recommends Rome, Jonagold, Granny Smith, Pippin, Braeburn, Northern Spy, Cortland, Winesap and Cameo.
Red Delicious apples can be substituted for Pink Lady or Cortland.
When I tested the Maple Apple Tartlet from Eat Feed Autumn Winter by Anne Bramley (Stewart Tabori & Chang, $35) recipe, I used three different apples: Gala, Fuji, and Granny Smith. When the dessert was baked, there was no noticeable difference.
These tartlets are quick and easy and make a beautiful dessert that will make the cook proud. Be sure to keep the puff pastry cold. Simple defrost the pastry, carefully unfolding it. When thawed cut in six rectangles. I had to store the rectangles in the refrigerator until I had the apples were ready to be assembled.
The amazing thing about this is how little sugar and butter is in the recipe: 2 tablespoons of sugar, 2 tablespoons of syrup, and 2 tablespoons butter. That equals to 1 teaspoon of each for each tartlet or serving.
Still it is sweet and full of flavor.
To finish off the baked tartlets, I used fresh maple syrup I had in the refrigerator and although the recipe says to drizzle 1 teaspoon over each, I used a pastry brush to get the syrup more even.
The recipe advises the tartlets are best when served the same day, but they do hold up overnight and make a nice lightly sweet breakfast bread.
Another breakfast idea Fried Apples served on waffles or pancakes. This is an old fashioned idea that I remember from a Pennsylvania friend who fried apples for summer suppers and served them with summer squash and ground beef casserole and corn-on-the-cob.
The breakfast recipe advises one each of a combination of apples: Paula Red, Fugi, and Granny Smith. For two servings you need only one apple (your choice) as this recipe advises, but in fact the recipe can be tripled for 6 servings using a variety of apples.
Sauteed apples are also a nice accompaniment to entrees such as pork and chicken. Some cooks like to bake apples in their sauerkraut served with pork roast. Apples can also be used in stuffing used for pork roast, turkey, or baked chicken.
Adapted from Shirley Corriher's Cookwise: The Secrets of Cooking Revealed (Harper Collins, $24) is Cheddar-Crusted Chicken Breasts with Grapes and Apples in Grand Marnier Sauce. The chicken is served over rice, barley, and almond medley. Boneless, skinless chicken breast halves are poached in a cooking broth of onion, sage, salt, and chicken stock. It is finished under the broiler to melt a topping shredded cheddar cheese and a beautiful apple, grape, and Grand Mariner sauce is added. It's a special occasion entree.
For a candied apple, crisp, tart apples are recommended. Caramel Candied Apples combines sugar, sweetened condensed milk, corn syrup, and butter and cooks over medium-low heat for 10 minutes. A candy thermometer is a must: the mixture must reach 236 degrees. Once the mixture is ready the apples are dipped and then can be rolled in chopped candy bars, nuts, or other toppings.
Throughout Ohio, apple pie contests are popular in the fall season.
The Blue Ribbon Apple Pie-Judging Contest will be featured at the 2008 Country Living Fair at the Ohio Village in Columbus Sept. 14. Bring your best apple pie between 10 and 10:30 a.m. Judging is based on Flavor/Filling, Crust, and Appearance. One pie will be declared the Blue Ribbon winner and its baker awarded $250, a copy of Country Living Eating Outdoors and an Emile Henry ceramic pie-baking dish. The Blue Ribbon recipe will be published in Country Living and/or on countryliving.com. Entrants must register online with their name, address, phone, and email, and recipe name at countryliving.com/piecontest.
Closer to home, you'll find the All American Apple Pie Contest at noon on Oct. 4 at MacQueen Orchards at 7605 Garden Rd. in Holland. The contest is limited to 30 pies. Pre-registration is required. First place prize is $100. Pies with the recipe must be delivered between 11 and 11:45 a.m. Oct. 4. Call 419-865-2916.
Kathie Smith is The Blade's food editor. Contact her at email@example.com or 419-724-6155.