I love good food… it’s central to making good living as easy as 1-2-3. At this time of year, little is as refreshing as biting into a crisp Autumn apple. This rings especially true in the northern United States, where chilly late summer night temperatures truly deliver the apple’s sweet juiciness. Nothing beats picking your own apples at a local orchard. You get great apples while making some magical memories.
Picking apples at a supermarket lacks the memories, but it can stir quite an adventure if you want freshness and quality, too. Buyers beware! Even apples listed as meeting the same quality and size standards may not be at all equal.
Watch out for wormy apple deceptions. In their rush to offer cheap prices and beat the competition, some supermarkets select lower grades of produce, while passing it on to us as top quality. These “rotten apples” definitely spoil the rest, as they drive top quality supermarkets out of business. In New Hampshire we just experienced this as Market Basket expanded adding a couple mega stores. Their dramatically lower prices caused Shaw’s to pull out of the Manchester area and Shop and Save to leave the state entirely. We consumers are left with the cheaper prices, but we get stuck with lesser quality produce.
For example, I selected a nice looking bag of fresh McIntosh apples at Market Basket.
They are 2-1/2” Extra Fancy by grade. That means that each is a minimum diameter of 2-1/2 inches, and they are of top quality. I also liked that the local orchard is listed on the label: “Packed and grown for Applecrest Farms, Hampton Falls, New Hampshire.” Read carefully… “packed and grown FOR Applecrest Farms.” Where were they grown? I don’t know.
Earlier in the day I had bought a bag of 2-1/2” Fancy grade McIntosh apples at another supermarket, Hannaford’s.
The bag notes the apples hailed from the New Hampshire Growers Co-op and even listed the associated apple growers.
Remember… not all apples are created equal. When I put my apples side by side I saw dramatic differences. The Market Basket apples were all small, perhaps barely meeting the 2-1/2” minimum for the grade. The Hannaford bag contained not one single apple with less than a 3 or 3-1/2” diameter. If Hannaford’s were “Fancy” and Market Basket’s are “Extra Fancy,” why were the “Extra Fancy” ones smaller? And what’s “Extra Fancy” about bruises on every single apple?
I like making apple crisp, apple pie, and apple sauce. I like stuffing a whole apple with nuts, raisins, and cranberries and baking it. I like reaching into the refrigerator for a crisp, cold apple and taking that first luscious, juicy bite. I like getting what I pay for… even in apples with which I cook. Sigh.
Whenever possible, look for farm fresh, organic, locally grown produce. For apples in the Granite State, check out the New Hampshire Grower’s Co-op. Its website is www.NewHampshireGrowersCoop.com.
Check out the member farms. Per my winning apple bag from Hannaford’s, they include:
Appleview Orchard in Pittsfield www.applevieworchard.com
Carter Hill Orchard in Concord www.carterhillapples.com
Duane Family Farm in Barnstead www.duanefamilyfarm.com
Gould Hill Farm in Hopkinton www.gouldhillfarm.com
LaValley Farms in Hooksett www.lavalleyfarms.com
New Hampshire Cider Works in Concord (Sorry, but I didn’t find a website.)
Information is good. Use it to enjoy the best of the season… with love and laughter.