Around my cottage, there are numerous farmers’ markets, providing seasonal fruits and foods for the community. These markets are one of the best places to shop for fruits and vegetables because often the families own the farms where their products are coming from and customers can be assured that they are getting top quality goods. At Thanksgiving, I popped into The Farmer’s Pantry, which was on the way to a favourite hiking spot of my family and boasted apple picking, fresh baked goods and a petting zoo. This particular market has been around since 1999 outside of Thornbury, Ontario, growing from a fruit tent to a full service shop, where the goal is to operate a full service market and entertainment center. (More about them here) While my family’s apple picking plans were stymied by rain, I was still able to browse the selection of produce available.
What fruit I was going to be picking up was an easy choice for me – apples. Apples are by far my favourite food, and have been since I was a child, so I went directly to the bins of apples available to make my choice, and immediately reached for my favourite brand of apple, Honeycrisp. I see myself as an apple connoisseur, by virtue of the fact that I’ve tried most brands of apples on the market, and Honeycrisp apples are by far the best apples one can buy. I’m a fan of crunchy apples, and often find that most apples get mealy, or have gummy skins and soft insides. Honey Crisp apples, on the other hand, have all the attributes I am looking for, as they are as crispy and crunchy as the name suggests, and are sweet with a slight tang at the end of the flav our profile. This is one of the attributes that I like the most about this yellow and red apple, because it pairs well with other food because it is not overpowering.
Honeycrisp apples were first developed in the 1960s by the University of Minnesota, but were only available for consumer purchase in the 1990s. These apples are fairly large, but are quite light in the mouth, differentiating this type from other crunchy apples. One unique element of these apples is that they retain their crispness for months, allowing them to be kept in cold storage after the harvest is finished, allowing the variety to be present in the grocery stores year-round. In fact, in terms of taste, it reaches its peak about a week after being removed from cold storage, so by the time consumers buy Honeycrisp apples, they are at their optimum taste. (Source) One downside of Honeycrisps, the season for which is from August to October, is that they are a relatively expensive apple, at about $2.49 per pound, but the quality of product that one gets makes up for the expense (source).
One downside of Honeycrisps is that they are not really suited for cooking. One of the best attributes of this apple is its crispness, which would be lost when heat is applied to it, and its lack of overpowering sweetness would have to be made up for by additional sugar. With that in mind, if I was tasked with using Honeycrisps in a recipe, I would have to go with caramel apples, because it would allow this fruit to retain its crunch, while also providing a sweet treat. Caramel apples are one of my favourite desserts, and remind me of the markets surrounding my cottage, as this dish is usually an offering at the surrounding markets. Here’s a recipe (source):
Honey crisp apples dipped in warm, gooey caramel sauce.
- 8 small Honeycrisp apples
- 8 wooden sticks
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 2 cups sugar
- ½ cup light corn syrup
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced
- Wash and dry the apples and remove the stems. Insert a wooden stick three-quarters of the way through the top of each apple.
- Place the cream and vanilla extract in a medium saucepan over low heat. Bring the cream to a very low simmer and cook for 10 minutes. Add the sugar, corn syrup, and butter and stir until the sugar is dissolved and the butter is melted. Place the mixture over medium-high heat and cook for about 10 minutes, without stirring, until the mixture reaches 250°F on a candy thermometer. Place the pot over a bowl of ice and let cool for 1 minute.
- Working quickly, dip the apples into the caramel, turning to coat completely. Place the apples on a large rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Chill in the refrigerator for about 10 minutes, until the caramel is set.