When is apple season? Most Americans are going to answer “fall, of course,” October to be exact. We tend to relate the crisp autumn air and apple picking with each other. The fact is that apple season can start early June. It does feel a little odd to be picking ripe apples with green cherries around and before peaches are even close to ripening!
What are the characteristics of these early apples? To quote Grandma Greuel, “They’re only good for sauce.” She did indeed turn the entire crop of early apples into fantastic sweet-tart apple sauce. Her favorite variety of the summer apples is Lodi. A very typical summer apple it is large, soft and yellowish-green with a smooth skin. There are a few apples held in high regard during the summer for eating out of hand such as Gravenstein and Paula Red. These apples hold a “moment in the sun” — they are slightly crisp for just a few days and then they turn soft and mushy. I prefer to pick summer apples a little early when they are firmer and tart like a tree ripened Granny Smith.
We have a few notable early apples in our orchard. Yellow Transparent is an old-time favorite and is sometimes confused with a similar apple called May. May apple has the earliest fruit in our orchard and has the strange habit of blooming twice a year and sometimes produces a second late crop. If you do a little research you will find that most early apples have many synonyms which can include terms like “Juneating” or “Early Harvest.” This makes discerning apples types difficult as they were marketed with so many different names — sometimes a different one from nursery to nursery.
I have found a local bakery here in Kansas City called MeMa’s. They produce unbelievable cookies and cakes — many of which include apples (which is why I was there). The owner, Cassie, was kind enough to give me her applesauce recipe.
6 cups apples, peeled, cored, chopped (might want to run through a food processor for a minute)
3/4 cup water
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 cup white sugar
In a saucepan over medium heat, combine apples, water, cinnamon and cloves. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes. Stir in sugar, and simmer 5 more minutes.
This year we have been hit with some very bad weather with damaging hail. A dented apple will make applesauce just as well as a perfectly shaped apple. I would recommend saving your “seconds” for this purpose. I have just harvested some very tart Lodi apples and I intend to make applesauce this weekend.