Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Eating Omily: Apples to Apples (You Think This is a Game?)

This week's farmers' market trips have mostly revolved around the shopping list for our Dia de los Muertos Party this Sunday: two big, butternut squash on Monday (along with eggs and spinach for us), a peck of apples and pears, and a loaf of bread today (and a jar of raspberry jam for us).  The big adventure today was learning about 'saucing' apples, versus 'baking' apples, versus 'eating' apples.  Assuming you don't do a lot of fall baking, you probably thought they were all 'eating' apples. 

They are, really.  Eating apples are simply the ones with the best flavor and texture for eating out of hand.  Baking and saucing apples are distinct, however, and that distinction comes down to what the apple in question does when heat is applied to it.  Some fall apart and go all mushy, and some retain their shape and texture.  The former is bad for a tart or pie, but quite good for apple sauce, or apple butter, and the latter is, of course, a tough character for obtaining sauce with, but perfect to hollow out, stuff with spices and crumbs, and bake, or put into a pie.

Science moment: what an apple does when baked has a lot to do with the amount of pectin therein, and you can tell how much pectin an apple has, relatively speaking, by what happens when you bite into it.  Apples that crunch, and release juice to run down your chin are high in pectin: the pectin holds the cell walls of the apple together so securely that your teeth can't break apart that bond, so instead you rupture lots of apple cells, releasing lots of fluid, with each bite, and you experience a crisp, juicy apple.  Contrariwise, an apple that's low in pectin has cell walls that aren't so firmly bonded, and when you bite into that apple, the cell walls easily cleave under the pressure, and you have a bite of mealiness in your mouth and a clean, if despondent, chin.

Firmly bonded cellwalls result in an apple that can withstand the test of the oven or saucepan, and loosely bonded cellwalls result in an apple that won't seem all that juicy without the application of heat, and will promptly fall apart and puree itself once thus exposed.  Fascinating, yes?

Well, today, I was in the market (literally) for saucing apples.  Some previous research had revealed jonagolds were considered good saucing apples, and as these just happen to be one of my favourite eating apples, I knew they'd be a safe bet.  I asked the farmers at the stand for their recomendations, and they told me they use empire apples for their sauce, and it gives a good pink color, and sweet-tart flavor.  Knowing the balance would be tipped toward sweet with the jonagolds (which is how I like it) I bought two-thirds empires, and one-third jonagolds, with a plan to top off the pot with the galas I had at home for eating out of hand should I have extra room.  The high-pectin galas would hold their shape, giving some chunkiness to the sauce.  I also picked up a loaf of wholewheat organic sourdough bread, eight bosc pears, and that jar of raspberry jam...mmmmm...
Here are my lovely pears, bought firm, and not quite ripe on purpose...

And here are the jonagolds and empires: the jonagolds are the big ones.  They get really huge sometimes!

And here are the sweet little galas, almost tooth-achingly sweet, and perfectly crisp.

Did I mention I didn't have any cash on me today, and used my credit card?  Did you know you can do that??  Any Green Market in NYC that accepts food stamps also accepts credit or debit.  Just take your card to the manager's table, and tell them how much you'd like to spend.  They'll swipe your card for that amount, and give you a matching quantity of wooden tokens worth $5 each.  Spend your tokens just like cash, and get cash back in change, at any vendor at the market.  Easy-peasy!  Don't stress about how many tokens to buy.  They don't ever expire, and can be used at any market that accepts food stamps, and if you underestimate, you can always go back to the manager's tent for a few more!  I got fifteen apples, eight pears, a jar of raspberry jam, and a loaf of bread, all for under $30, and all with my credit card.  Who knew you could charge fresh produce (as well as irresistable baked goods and preserves)?  You are officially out of excuses.
Kitty was interested in the pears at first,
but she soon decided she preferred the galas, which rolled much more readily.
She promptly lost one under the couch, much to her big sister's chagrin.

~em

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