Preserving the Apple Bounty
By Bill Lubing | Photo By Bill Lubing 0
When the raspberries are finished, the strawberries are put to bed, and the blueberries and cherries are a distant memory, apples begin coming on strong. Starting in late July with varieties such as Lodi, Pristine, Duchess and Zestar, our Wisconsin apple season doesn’t end until autumn colors have passed, there is a hint of flurries in the air, and the last Winesap, Golden Russet, Candycrisp or Braeburn have been picked from the tree.
As the season progresses we have our favorites: Lodi because it’s the first fresh apple of the season. Honeycrisp because they’re just so darn good. Rome because they work so well in pies.
Accessibility creates much of the beauty of our Wisconsin apples. Scattered across the state, there are close to 100 orchards that open their doors to the public. You’re invited to come pick right off the tree or buy freshly bagged apples, just-pressed cider and other treats. These orchards make a wonderful day or weekend destination (see Notable Edibles, "Escape to Apple Country"). Buying directly from the grower assures you’re getting the highest quality and variety available. That’s important, whatever your intended purpose for your apple purchases.
The Perfect Apple Pie?
“You want to use at least two or three varieties in a pie,” says Vivian Green, who, along with her husband Dick and son Justin, operates Pleasant Springs Orchard near Stoughton. “Throughout the season, you select depending upon what’s available,” she continues. “For pies you want ones that are a little sweeter, some that mush a little bit, and some that don’t mush so much.”
Like many growers, Pleasant Springs Orchard sells at several farmers markets in their area. Whether you visit the orchard or the market, Vivian recommends talking with your grower about the varieties of apples they sell. She also picks up great ideas from her customers.
“We have a customer we call Paul the Pie Guy,” Vivian says. “Paul is combining apples for pie almost every week. He selects at least two varieties, slicing one variety one way and another the other way so he can actually tell how the apples act in the pie.”
Vivian says a number of diabetic customers use gala apples in their pies “because that apple is sweet enough without adding sugar.”