An Apple in July?!

It’s true. When you think of apple picking, summer is probably not the season that comes to mind. Here’s the thing, though: apples start at the end of July or early August. If you reference our approximate harvest dates page, we grow several lesser known varieties that come and go well before the seasons change.

Generally speaking, the time each apple is ready to harvest depends on what variety it is, which essentially boils down to that particular apple’s rate of ripening. It’s actually a very complex science. For summer apples, the ripening rate is much faster than that of fall apples, due to a very rapid rise in ethylene. This process allows us to enjoy fresh apples during the summer, but also makes these varieties difficult to keep fresh once harvested. Basically, don’t stockpile them! Buy what you will use within a week or two, and then return. We partner with the University of Massachusetts Cooperative Extension Mentor program to measure the ethylene content of our apples throughout the season to make sure that we pick each fruit at its peak.

Here at Red Apple Farm, we grow more than fifty different unique varieties of apples. It’s one of the features that makes us special, and it also offers us many practical advantages like lengthening our growing season, and ensuring adequate cross pollination so our trees produce enough fruit each year. Of course, there can be no replacement for fall with its crisp air and orange leaves. But summer apples offer something different entirely: fresh-off-the-tree apples that are meant to be enjoyed right away, at the very time of year when you’re most likely to crave a juicy, refreshing snack. Savor summer, spend some time picking under the hot sun, and reap the rewards. Fall will soon come!

Today we opened a row of Vista Bella apples for pick-your-own, the first apple of the year. These along with our next speediest varieties, Lodi and Yellow Transparent, all make excellent apple sauce. They break down easily under heat and have great flavor. Conveniently, this gives you yet another way, beside eating fresh, to enjoy summer apples in a cold form before they over ripen.

Vista Bella’s on the tree this week, nearly ripe.

Summer Apple Sauce

For a summer twist on traditional apple sauce, I save the warming spices like cinnamon and ginger for fall, and mix up the flavor profile to make it more “cooling.” If you don’t like the taste of fennel and cardamom, though, just leave them out!

Plenty of lemon zest and juice complements the flavors of fennel and cardamom, and makes a cup of this apple sauce taste very refreshing on a hot day. Cooking the apples in apple cider instead of water counters the tartness. Lastly, leave the skins on! These contain the majority of the apple’s vitamin, fiber, and antioxidant content. You can strain them out at the very end.

Ingredients:

4 or 5 Vista Bella, Lodi, or Yellow Transparent apples, chopped with skins on.

1 cup apple cider (water works if you don’t have it!)

1/2 teaspoon ground fennel seed.

1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom.

2 lemons, zested and juiced.

Instructions:

Place chopped apples, cider, spices, and lemon zest in a medium saucepan. Bring to a low simmer and let cook for 25-30 minutes. Check periodically to make sure all the liquid hasn’t cooked out. You may need to add a splash of water once or twice during cooking.

After 25-30 minutes, the apple should be soft enough to easily mash with a wooden spoon or potato masher. Break them down as much as you can, add the lemon juice, then cook for 2-3 more minutes.

Run a fork through the sauce to capture all the apple skins. Or, you can pour the sauce through a strainer with large holes.

If you prefer a very smooth apple sauce, you can purée it in a blender at this stage.

Pour the apple sauce in a glass jar or heat-proof container. Let it cool for a bit at room temperature, and then when it’s not steaming anymore, cover it and put it in the refrigerator to chill completely.

Enjoy!

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