SOME APPLES, like fine wines, improve with age. Two relatively new varieties, Suncrisp and Idared — are examples. Their flavor is good when first picked, but even better after a month or so in storage.
When you are trying a new apple variety for the first time, it is a good idea to buy at least four of them. Eat two within a week of purchase, in case there are subtle differences between them. No two apples are the same, and if one does not match its description, try another. Either way, one apple is not enough to appreciate its subtleties.
Put the second two apples in a paper or plastic bag and store them in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator. Take one out in 30 days, and see how its flavor, texture, and juiciness have changed. In some cases, it may have improved. In other cases, the apple will have peaked or is already past its ideal eating time.
If the apples are still firm and flavorful after a month, try storing the last one for another 30 days, and compare it again. In this way you will get a full sense of an apple’s flavor range.
Apples continue to respire and ripen post-harvest, and most varieties are at their firmest and tartest when fresh picked. Many of them develop more complex flavors, greater juiciness, and mellower flesh over time. But the period of ripeness varies from variety to variety. For some apples, it is a few short weeks, but others last for months.
An apple with a relatively short flavor arc is Shamrock. A round, green apple developed in British Columbia in 1992, it is on the tart side when first harvested — one grower calls it “just a green Mac.” But when kept cold, over the next month it becomes juicier and juicier, and its flavor becomes sweeter and spicier. Then its flesh begins to soften, and its flavors start to fade.
The heirlooms Ananas Reinette (France, 1500s), and Ribston Pippin (England, early 1700s), are other apples that improve in storage, yet do not keep for long. Sheep’s Nose (Connecticut, 1700s) is not very juicy when harvested, and it becomes dryer in storage (although it is still good for cooking and in sauce).
Many early season apples, like Ginger Gold (Virginia, 1969), Jersey Mac (New Jersey, 1956), and PaulaRed (Michigan, 1960), are excellent fresh but do not store well. You will rarely find them in the orchard or at the supermarket past mid-September.
The flavor of other apples takes longer to mature, notably heirlooms Belle de Boskoop (The Netherlands, 1856), Black Oxford (Maine, 1790s), D’Arcy Spice (England, 1785), Esopus Spitzenburg (New York, 1700s), and Maiden’s Blush (New Jersey, late 1700s), plus newer apples like Elstar, (The Netherlands, 1972), Idared (Idaho, 1935), Melrose (Ohio, 1944), and Suncrisp (New Jersey, 1990s).
Idared is a large, late-season apple that is on the tart side when fresh picked, but becomes sweeter, more complex, and juicier over time. Its flavor hits its full stride only after the first of the year, when it becomes highly valued in cider and in pies.
Idared was developed by Leif Verner at the Idaho Agricultural Experiment Station in 1935, and released commercially in 1942. It is the result of a cross between two heirlooms from New York, Wagener (1791) and Jonathan (early 1800s), which supplies Idared’s rich red color. It has crisp white flesh with occasional hints of green.
Suncrisp is another late-season apple that is good eaten fresh and develops a complex, spicy flavor in storage. A large, mostly yellow apple with an orange-red blush and cream-colored flesh, Suncrisp is crisp and juicy, with sweet-tart flavor when first picked. Kept in the refrigerator, it can last for up to six months.
Suncrisp was developed by Frederick Hough at the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station at Rutgers University. Its complex parentage includes Cortland, Cox’s Orange Pippin, and Golden Delicious, from which it gets its much of its color and conical shape.
Featured image, above: Suncrisp apples at Tougas Family Farm, Northborough, Massachusetts, in mid-October, about a week before picking. (Russell Steven Powell photo)
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TRY this recipe for a nice variation on your morning oatmeal. The fruit, spices, and egg give it a little more heft and flavor than plain oatmeal. Topped with vanilla yogurt, it is both filling and nutritious.
It is easy to make but needs time to bake, so if time is short at breakfast it can be made the night before and served either cold or warmed in the microwave.
The apples and raspberries are a colorful combination with contrasting textures and a nice mix of sweet and tart flavors, which the spices augment. I recommend a tender-fleshed apple like McIntosh, Cortland, or Empire (which I used here). But most any variety will do.
The applesauce was made with PaulaRed apples in early September. I had frozen some, and took it out earlier in the day to thaw. It has great flavor. Rather than measure out raspberries, I simply used a standard six-ounce box.
The recipe from which this was adapted called for putting three-quarters of the batter on the bottom of the pan. Next time I make it I will add a little more to the top, to give better it coverage and a thinner bottom layer.
Raspberry Apple Oatmeal
1½ c milk
½ c applesauce
2 T brown sugar
2 t cinnamon
1 t vanilla
3 c steel cut or regular oats
1 New England apple, cored and diced
1½ c fresh raspberries
Preheat oven to 350°. Grease an 8×8 pan.
In a medium bowl, mix all ingredients except fruit, and stir until well blended. Pour one-half of the batter in the prepared pan.
Layer fruit on bottom layer, and spoon remaining batter over top.
Bake for 35-40 minutes, until top begins to brown.
Cut into squares and serve topped with yogurt.