A brief guide to celebrating the quintessential American fruit
For the next six weeks or so, we get to reap the many benefits of apple season. Even large grocery stores, which were long the bastion of red delicious and granny smiths routinely offer multiple other varieties. Galas, Fujis, Honeycrisps, Jonathans and Braeburns, long available imported from other parts of the country, are showing up in farmer’s markets and CSA boxes as the harvest progresses on regional farms.
As we enter Fall, how best to celebrate the simplicity and beauty of the apple? For starters you can go pick some at one of our local orchards. Most orchards double as family-friendly entertainment spots offering activities like hayrides and corn mazes along with the opportunity to go out and pick. Many apple orchards also grow pumpkins, making them ideal spots for picking a few up in time for Halloween. Louisburg Cider Mill is probably the best known place near Kansas City. They offer guided tours for groups of fifteen or more, where you can see how the entire cider-making process at work. If you show up early enough you can see the doughnuts being made. Louisburg and Alldredge Orchards are apple-picking options on the Missouri side.
If this kind of kiddie-stuff isn’t your cup of tea, how about a good, stiff drink? More than beer, hard cider was the drink of choice for working class Americans into the mid-19th century, and it is still found on tap at any respectable English pub. Most local bars have some variety in bottles—usually Woodchuck, but it has become far more prevalent than it was a decade ago.
Fermenting your own hard cider is also a great way have a little fun while acknowledging the greatness of the apple. Homebrewers tell me that cider is among the easier products to make, assuming you have the proper equipment. The fine folks at supply store Bacchus & Barleycorn in Shawnee should be able to set you up with anything you need, not to mention some expert advice. If you lack the attention to detail that homebrewing requires, head over to Charley Hooper’s who offer Woodchuck on tap.
Anyone interested in Kansas City food needs to try the apple fritter from John’s Space Age Donuts near downtown Overland Park. Established in 1967 next door to the even-more-venerable Tony’s Villa Capri Italian restaurant, John and family have been serving up freshly-made, delicious donuts that are among the best I have ever eaten. The space is no-frills but I think the apple fritter tastes better when you sit at the counter sipping a surprisingly decent cup of coffee from a styrofoam cup. As you might expect, John’s attracts its fair share of older Overland Parkers, but also a lot of younger folks on their way to the office, picking up a dozen to share. Get there early, because the pickings get slim come mid-morning and it is not worth missing that delicious apple fritter.
When is the last time you made apple pie? Classic as it is, I think apple tends to get overlooked in favor of berry and pumpkin pies. Don’t let the crust intimidate you; it is perfectly okay to use a store-bought crust and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Sure, making pie crust from scratch is not that hard, but something about it scares people. Overachievers should feel free to proceed with homemade dough, knowing that lard and/or shortening are the keys to flakiness. Making pie filling takes mere moments. Peel, core and slice 5-6 apples and mix them with about a tablespoon of flour, a cup of sugar, a little lemon juice, cinnamon and a pinch of salt. Mix it up and you have pie filling. Avoid red delicious and Macintosh apples as they tend to become mushy when cooked.
This only scratches the surface of what the mighty apple can accomplish. I didn’t even mention applesauce, which really shines when made from scratch. Apples also accompany pork particularly well. A grilled tenderloin or chop pairs very nicely with stewed apples. Certainly the best way to enjoy an apple, however, is the way nature intended: freshly picked and whole. Be sure to eat a few this Fall.
originally published on KCFreePress.com, 2010