It's apple season! Here are the best ways to cook, bake and preserve apples this year. Plus, how a Scandinavian grocery store is fighting food waste with happy hours.
Produce of the Week: Apples
We probably say this every year, but it's hard to believe that apples are already back. Here in the northeast, I've seen orchards advertising pick-your-own. And there are pumpkins! Wasn't it just August 1st?
Well there's no stopping it, so why not embrace apple season? There are plenty of reasons to. Of course, apple picking is at the top of my list. It's the perfect fall activity. It gets you outside in your favorite sweater, hopefully with family or a friend (maybe two!). And, the best part: it's all about food.
When my family goes apple picking, or really any fruit picking, we take it very seriously. We're at that orchard on a mission. Sure, we'll enjoy the waft of fresh baked apple cider doughnuts. We'll smile at the kid's hayride.
But we're not distracted from what we came for. Apples.
And not just any apples, but the right varieties. We always have a plan in mind, and it usually involves pie.
We pick at one of my favorite places on Earth. It's a beautiful family-owned orchard and farm in southern Vermont called Green Mountain Orchards. I'm almost hesitant to give away the name, it's such a special place.
But if you're in the area, I can't encourage you enough to visit. We go throughout the summer, as they offer blueberry, peach and plum picking too. We even went last year for Lexi's bachelorette party!
They cultivate hundreds of acres of beautifully trimmed apples.
Early in the apple season, New England farms offer:
- Honey Crisp. More expensive and newer on the scene, these are prized for their sweetness and crispness. Get the name?
- Zestar. This red Minnesotan apple is known for its brown sugar flavor.
- Ginger Gold. These last a while in the fridge, with a mild flavor.
- Paula Red. They won't last quite as long because of their softer texture. But their sweet taste is often compared to strawberries.
In late September and October, the real apple stars will come out, like:
- Macintosh. Aka macs, these are the national apple of Canada. And for good reason. They're sweet, firm and versatile.
- Macoun. Are considered one of the best varieties for eating fresh. So fill up on these! They're a cross between Macintosh and Jersey Black apples.
- Granny Smith. These tart green apples are perfect for baking.
- Cripps Pink, also known as the Pink Lady, is one of the few trademarked apple varieties. It's also a larger apple with a lovely pink color.
Now that you've filled your fridge with your favorite apple varieties, let's talk about the best ways to cook them!
Best Apple Recipes to Make this Fall
- Carrot Apple Ginger Soup. This delicious pureed soup highlights all of our favorite fall produce. Including, of course, apples!
- Hot Apple Cider Cocktail. The only hot cocktail you need in your life this fall.
- Roasted Carrots, Apples and Sweet Potatoes with Cinnamon Tahini Drizzle. This vegetable-packed side dish tastes like dessert.
- Apple Walnut Salad with Walnut Pesto from Veggie Desserts. Why not upgrade your Waldorf with a pesto drizzle?
- Apple Cider Margarita. Cheers to apple season with this bright and fruity fall cocktail.
- Apple Pie Overnight Oats. This kid-friendly breakfast can be dressed up however you like.
- Apple Cinnamon Oat Balls from In the Kid's Kitchen. These make a perfect midday pick-me-up, with no refined sugars.
- Apple Pear Martini. This elegant cocktail packs all the fall fruit into each sip.
Vegan & Gluten Free Baking Recipes with Apples
- Apple Crisp. Whether you serve these in mini cast iron skillets or a large baking dish, it's such a delicious fall dessert.
- Caramel Apple Pie Bars. These buttery bars are filled with baked apples and salted caramel sauce. They're everything you love about a warm apple pie, but gluten free, vegan and hand-held!
- Apple Cranberry Muffins. We combined carrot cake with apple pie for these cute treats. They're perfect for breakfast or an afternoon snack on a cool fall day.
- Apple Walnut Cake with Cinnamon Sugar Glaze. Warming cinnamon melts into this soft apple walnut cake. It's sure to be a crowd-pleaser any day.
Food Waste Tip: Preserving Apples
If you pick a peck too many, that extra fruit don't have to wind up in the compost. There are dozens of delicious ways to preserve apples for the whole year.
Best Ways to Preserve Apples at Home
- Apple Butter is a sweet fall condiment. Spread it on cinnamon toast or waffles. You can make it right in the slow cooker with this recipe from Attainable Sustainable.
- Applesauce. You can preserve this sweet treat to keep apples all year long. Use this simple recipe from Craftify My Love.
- Apple Popsicles. Popsicle season doesn't have to end in September! These frozen apple desserts from Veggie Desserts have a caramel crumble that brings them right into fall.
- Apple Chutney. This condiment is a great way to enjoy apples with a savory entree. Usually enjoyed with chicken or pork, this chutney from Savory Simple would go just as well over roasted veggies.
In Finland, Happy Hour goes way beyond half-priced pints. National grocery chain S-Market slashes prices on food nearing their expiration dates every night. Eager shoppers can score 60% discounts on food set to expire at midnight.
By offering these discounts, the supermarket hopes to accomplish a few things. First, like any good happy hour, they aim to become part of a routine, establishing regular 9 pm patrons. And secondly, they're taking a stand against food waste.
As the New York Times' reports, corporate efforts to cut back on food waste are picking up steam across Europe. Several startups connect eaters to aging, but still perfectly good, produce. And food waste comes up in political races.
Unfortunately, we haven't' seen the same level of interest in food waste reduction here in the states. However, things are trending in the right direction. More major cities offer composting services, and there's growing general awareness about the harmful environmental effects of food waste.
S-market's unique offering that combines sales with food waste reduction is a smart move for both business and the environment. In general, stores don't have an incentive to cut costs to avoid food waste.
More often, they're selling larger and larger sized packages, which are more likely to be wasted post-purchase. Hopefully, super-sized American supermarkets can learn from Finland's more conscious approach to happy hour.