It feels like fall has officially settled into the Pacific Northwest. I couldn’t be happier. I love fall. But that’s like saying you love Saturday mornings or stretchy pants or Target clearance. Not exactly original sentiments. Because, seriously, what is there not to love about fall in the Pacific Northwest?! It is the perfect package of warm days and crisp nights, comfort food and cozy sweaters. Pumpkins, cinnamon, boots, bonfires.
And apples. Beautiful Northwest apples. They come in all shapes and sizes, flavors and textures. My family makes the trek over the mountain to the Hood River/Parkdale area several times each fall. Over the years, we have checked out many different orchards, but we always return to our two favorites: Mt. View Orchards and Kiyokawa Family Orchards. They are family friendly and competitively priced. We head home with the back of the car packed with boxes of delicious fruit.
I personally prefer eating apples that are firm and crisp, with a sweet-tart kick. When it comes to making sauce or baking, I don’t worry too much about getting “baking” apples. I just try to pay attention to how it tastes, then think about what will happen if it is cooked.
For example, a soft eating apple will break down faster when cooked and fall apart easier when baked. Soft, sweet apples are great for applesauce. If it is a firm, crunchy eating apple, it will hold its shape better/longer when baked. I prefer a slightly firmer apple for baking because I want it to hold its shape somewhat in crisps or pies. Also, the sweeter the apple, the less sugar you will need to add.
If you don’t like the flavor of a particular apple, turning it into a pie or sauce isn’t going to make a huge difference. While the flavors will concentrate and sweeten, they won’t magically transform a bland apple into something amazing (unless you add a ton of sugar and cinnamon, but that kind of defeats the purpose, as you still want to be able to taste and enjoy the flavor of the fruit).
My favorite eating apples:
- Ginger Gold
- Pink Lady
My favorite baking apples:
- Empire — sweet, juicy
- Granny Smith — firm, tart
- Gravenstein — soft, tangy (an early variety, great for applesauce)
- Jonagold — sweet, tart
- Spitzenberg — rich, aromatic
Here are a few of our favorite ways to preserve the fall apple harvest:
Any way you slice it, it’s hard to beat apple season in the Pacific Northwest. Make plans to head to a local orchard this fall!
Leave a comment! What are your favorite apple varieties and ways to prepare them?
I purchased a Victorio Food Strainer and Sauce Maker (Amazon) in August to turn over 100 pounds of Gravenstein apples into applesauce. It was worth every penny. I just quartered the apples and tossed them into my 20-Quart Stock Pot (Amazon). Once they were soft and starting to fall apart, I scooped them into the hopper and took turns cranking the handle with my kids. The sauce poured down the guard, while the pulp (seeds, skins, stems, etc.) was separated and pushed out the spout at the end. I was really happy with the whole process and would highly recommend both the strainer and the stock pot, especially if you process large amounts of produce.
The one I purchased isn’t available, but here’s a similar model.
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