Friday, September 9, 2011

The Apple of My Pie

It's September in Montana. Autumn is sneaking in on summer's turf, nudging it away. The sun seems tired, slipping into the horizon earlier each evening and hoisting itself into the sky later each morning. The trees, in response to the nippy air's bite and the waning sunlight, are donning garments of gold, orange, and vermillion. It's a melancholy time for me as I bid my favorite season adieu and swap sandals and sundresses for sweaters and scarves. But there is one thing about autumn that I adore.


I'm fortunate to live in the region of the United States where apple orchards thrive and where I have access to countless varieties. As I began my research on apples, I discovered there are 7500 varieties worldwide. The United States grows 2,500 of these of which 100 are grown commercially. Some of them are perfect for eating out of hand, like the Fuji or Honeycrisp. Others are ideal for cooking, like the Cameo or Rome, or for cider making, like the Dabinett. And at the risk of sounding like an apple snob, there are apples that simply look pretty but offer little in flavor, texture or cooking utility, like the Red Delicious which is a misnomer, in my opinion.

The names of these countless varieties of apples are delightful. There are regal sounding names such as Edward II, King of Tompkins, and Lubsk Queen. There are foreign names such as Couer de Boeuf and Muscadet de Dieppe. Maybe on Sunday you can partake in the varieties with religious titles such as the Reverend Morgan, the Reverend Wilks, and the Revival. But perhaps you better steer clear of the Nonnetit Bastard and the Red Devil. For a feminine dose, try the Pink Pearl, the Pink Sparkle, or the Pink Princess. And temper those with their masculine counterparts, the Chieftain, Captain Kidd, and Cardinal Von Galen. Twist your tongue with the Red Bietigheimer, the Delbarestivale, or the Itzstedster Apfel. And indulge your inner Dr. Seuss with the Peasgood Nonsuch, the Fallawater Pippin, and the Goof.

Had I known the vast extent of apple varieties available and the great versatility of this ubiquitous fruit, I could have reached my goal of baking 50 pies using apples alone. Apples pair amazingly well with other fruits such as blueberries, pears, and cranberries. Applesauce and apple butter are also ideal ingredients for the pies. Apples also freeze well in pies and dehydrate beautifully to be enjoyed year round.

So to take advantage of the availability and versatility of the amazing apple, I will feature it in my next few pies. And I won't let Carl Sagan's words intimidate me. "To make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe."

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