Dorcas Annette Walker
This time of the year as one enjoys autumn’s brilliant display of colored leaves one can also see apple trees bent under the weight of fruit ready to pick. Stores and markets are filled with a wide assortment of apples to choose from. To me there is nothing like the smell of apples cooking or baking to make a homey atmosphere in one’s house. One chilly day this week as the fire crackled in my woodstove, I fried a pan of apples. It was up here in the mountains of Tennessee where I first discovered Fried Apples.
There are at least 7,500 recognized cultivated varieties of apples in the world; wild and crab apples have 35 species. Apples come in all kinds of different sizes, colors, and shapes. Each seed chamber contains two seeds for a total of ten seeds per apple except for the Northern Spy, which contains four seeds per chamber and therefore may develop up to twenty seeds. Most apple trees are partially self fertile and will produce a fair crop even in the absence of a pollenizer. Some apples are sweet while others are tart due to the different amount of sugar they produce. The flesh can be hard or soft; the skin thick or thin. Commercial apples are picked when not fully ripe to prevent bruising while shipping. Today the U.S. is the top apple producer country in the world with the state of Washington taking first place, followed by New York, then Michigan.
Johnny Appleseed, born John Chapman, lived in the days of the America frontier. He dreamed of a country where no one went hungry due to the land being covered with apple trees. Beginning in his twenties for nearly fifty years, this nurseryman roamed the wilderness planting orchards in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Kentucky. Johnny Appleseed changed the landscape and left a lasting contribution.
Research shows that apples promote good health. Apples contain numerous essential vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that are beneficial to your teeth, skin, digestive system, nerves, and overall health. An apple a day helps prevent heart disease by lowering cholesterol levels. Studies have also shown a link between daily consumption of apples to lowering the risk of other illnesses including certain cancers.
Cooking apples is a genetic term used to describe apples that survive cooking well or are so tart that they aren’t as enjoyable unless they are cooked and sweetened. Some types of apples break down making them good for applesauce while others species hold their shape thus making them ideal for baking, stewing, or using in apple pies. The main difference between eating apples and cooking apples is due to the sugar content as cooking apples tend to be tarter and are better for storage. Apples that are good for eating fresh, in salads, and pies include: Red and Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, Jonathan, Rome Beauty, Winesap, Criterion, Gala, Jonagold, Newton Pippin, McIntosh, and Gravenstein.
The mountain folk often eat Fried Apples with biscuits for breakfast. Fried Apples have a chunky texture that melt in your mouth and can be eaten by itself, cold or hot, or used as a side dish with pork chops or meatloaf. Cranberries, raisins or other fruit can be added as well as nuts if desired. Preparation time for my Fried Apples is thirty minutes and this recipe serves two.
Melt a half a stick of margarine in an iron skillet. Then peel and slice four medium cooking apples. Add one half cup of brown sugar and one fourth cup of water. Bring to a boil and cook over medium heat until soft and golden brown. Garnish with cinnamon!
Weekly tip: To store apples for four to five months: use only perfect fruit, separate by size and eat the larger ones first (smaller apple last longer), wrap in newspaper, and store in open cardboard or wooden boxes in an unheated garage, cellar, shed, or basement. If any turn soft make into applesauce!