What would happen to a doctor if he ate an apple a day? Would he explode? Would he disappear? Or would he be satisfied knowing he is eating one of nature’s greatest gifts?
For any doctor brave enough to try, now is the time to do it. We are at the peak of apple season, and the orchards and markets are laden with America’s second most popular fruit (after bananas).
Now is when they are at their freshest and best. The apples you buy next spring and summer will have been picked now, or maybe in the next couple of months, and kept refrigerated until they are sold. And although apples stay fresh and good for a long time, there is no comparison between an apple you buy next June and one you buy now.
The only question is: which variety to get? More than 7,000 varieties of apple grow around the world, with 2,500 types that grow in the United States. Of those, about 100 are grown commercially and find their way to your produce store.
With those guidelines in mind, I made three apple-based dishes — one savory, two sweet. Knowing the right type to use for each dish made them even better.
I began with apple fritters. Then, when that didn’t work, I tried apple fritters again. Those were even worse, and took a great deal of time and effort, too.
So I tried a different recipe, one that was much simpler and faster and, as it turns out, far more deliciously successful.
This recipe for fritters takes a very simple dough (no yeast) and adds spices you’d find in apple pie — cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg. It also cooks the apples for several minutes, making them more tender than raw apples but still retaining just the right amount of crunch.
Additional apple flavor comes courtesy of apple cider in the dough, while sweetness is provided by a simple glaze.
For my savory dish, I made pork chops with apple, a favorite recipe I developed a few years ago.
Pork goes with apples like a hug goes with a kiss. To this classic combination, I added sliced onions, caraway seeds and Dijon mustard, all simmered in chicken broth.
No, seriously, it really does taste great. The flavors blend together into a rich and hearty melange that is just the thing on a crisp and chilly night. And it takes mere minutes to make.
For my last dish, I made apple pie — but not your standard, everyday apple pie. I made something special. I made an apple custard pie.
Apple custard pies don’t even belong in the same conversation as ordinary apple pies. Apple custard pies are richer, though they don’t really taste rich, and are far more elegant than a typical apple pie. The apple flavor does not merely sit there, inert, on the crust; it imbues the whole pie with its essence.
A custard requires eggs, of course, but this custard is special because, instead of cream, it uses melted butter. That’s the secret that makes this pie over the top and out of this world.
APPLES: PICK YOUR POISON
At this time of year, you’re likely to find perhaps a dozen varieties for sale. Which should you pick? What are their best uses?
To help with these questions, food writer Daniel Neman offers this handy guide.
Granny Smith — The tartest of the most commonly available varieties, and also the greenest. It’s great for cooking dishes both sweet and savory, and is excellent in salads.
Gala — Sweet and juicy, the Gala is firm enough to stand up to baking and sautéing, but is also great eaten raw.
Pink Lady — Crisp and juicy, with a creamy, custard flavor. Pink Lady is actually a brand name; apple aficionados call it by its real name, Cripps Pink. Good for cooking and great for eating raw.
Golden Delicious — The name is a bit of marketing genius; it is actually not related to the perennially popular Red Delicious. Sweet and mild, with a trace of vanilla, it has a dense texture that makes it particularly suited to baking and pies.
McIntosh — Juicy, with a sharp, lemony taste and tender flesh some might consider almost mushy. If you don’t mind the texture, eat it raw. Otherwise, use it for applesauce or apple pie.
Honeycrisp — Currently the “it” apple, as it has been for the past several years. Sweet, with a nice, crunchy bite, it’s best eaten fresh, especially in a salad.
Braeburn — Juicy, crisp and sweet, with a rich but mild flavor of spice. Their texture makes them great for baking and pies, but they are suited for all uses.
Jonathan — Sweet, tangy and spicy, these are good to eat raw but are probably most often used in pies, mixed with a firmer-fleshed apple that doesn’t break down as much as it cooks.
Fuji — Sweet and tart, but mostly sweet, with a touch of spice. Crisp and best eaten raw.
Envy — Very crisp; sweet with an underlying hint of tartness and notes of vanilla. Great for eating out of hand and for cooked desserts, especially with caramel.
Red Delicious — Still the most popular apple in America, though its lead over Gala, Fuji and Honeycrisp is shrinking. Sweet and juicy flesh under a bitter skin, and a flavor that is defiantly unassertive.