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Thursday, October 11, 2007

How 'Bout THEM Apples?

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Yesterday I was clicking my heels, today I'm smacking my lips!

Have y'all ever heard of and/or had a Honeycrisp apple?

Now, comin' from the Golden Corner of South Carolina, where apple orchards abounded, I thought I'd probably seen the best fresh, handpicked apples of my lifetime back in college when each year we'd pick an October Saturday and drive across the state line just into North Carolina and the beautiful Smokey Mountains, and wind along the climbing highway, gazing out at valleys full of fiery red, orange and yellow foliage then stop on the roadside to purchase some freshly pressed cider and a little basket of firm, tart apples to savor in the cooling Autumn air.

But I'm here to tell you I was wrong.

When our first October on the prairie dawned extra brisk and even snowy last year, I listened hard and learned, as the corn talk died down and apple talk took its place. My sweet neighbor Katie (who remains stalwart in her cheerfulness and patience with my Southern cluelessness about all things Midwestern) took me aside and explained to me about apples. Her lesson basically concluded with this refrain: It isn't an apple unless it's a Honeycrisp.

I was skeptical. I'd been raised on Galas and Jonagolds and they were both perfect to me in their balance of tart and sweetness. One crunchy bite of a good specimen of either could make me well up with nostalgia for my Southland, no matter where I was. And they made great baking apples, too. Nope, I didn't need to try anything else, I knew where I'd come from and nobody could tell ME anything new about apples. My hackles were up for a good while.

Sadly, I am a woman with a tragically unteachable spirit, y'all.

But one day at my local grocery store I ran across a display of Honeycrisps. They were so shiny and pretty! A little golden, a little green and a little red, all brought together in a marblized effect on one solid, big, firm, lovely piece of fruit. Bean squealed with delight Appoooos Mama! Appooos! and, feeling magnanimous toward Bean and intrigued by Katie's unwavering Honeycrisp loyalty (much as I hated to admit it to myself, being unteachable and all), I picked up a couple of them and put them in our cart. We brought them home and Bean and I cut one up to have with our lunch that day.

Heavens to Betsy!

One bite revealed a crispness I'd normally ascribe to an underripe and therefore extra tart specimen of my beloved Galas. This was the kind of crispness that usually accompanies a dryness that almost seems to suck back at your mouth in bitter search of moisture to quench itself. But the Honeycrisp's crispness isn't dry like that. The peel of this apple is like the taught rubber of an inflated water balloon, and when a Honeycrisp balloon breaks, you do indeed get splashed. With apple juice! The juice experience is actually not applelike at all. It's peachlike. Like it runs down your chin and maybe onto your arms and down to your elbows. Seriously. How many times have you needed more than one napkin when eating even a really GREAT apple?

And the flavor? So very sweet. But balanced with a gentle tartness. The Perfect Marriage of Flavors. Yes, like honey, in that it's a floral sweet, but then ... citrusy, somehow. Yes, a citrusy, honey peach of an apple.

Bean and I each gobbled up our halves that day and wanted more. The next day, I went back to that same store and bought a huge bag, then several more bags before the short season ended. I never convinced Al to try one last season - he's an apple pie man, but not a plain old raw apple eater. But last week I saw the first of the Honeycrisps at the store and seized a huge bagful to bring home. Al grabbed one out of desperation on his way out the door to catch a flight and called me later from his hotel when he got in. The first thing out of his mouth was, "Where did you get those APPLES in the fruitbowl? That was the BEST APPLE I've EVER had in my whole life!" And he continues to rave over them. Now that three of us love to munch away at then any time of the day, I'm finding it hard to keep us stocked up.

So I guess what I'm saying is, if you haven't had a Honeycrisp, see if you can find some. My very limited research online reveals that they are, in fact, now grown in the Golden Corner (although I think the season is all but over down there now). But don't allow yourself to get hooked unless you know you'll have a steady supply, because once you've tried one, you're gonna want to have plenty on hand.

(And yes, they are excellent baking apples, too. It's just that they're never around long enough for that, at my house.)

23 comments:

  1. They are my favorite apples! I don't want to eat any other kind. They were in the apple crisp last night too. I might have to go have one now as a pre-football snack--yummy!

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  2. Nope, not available around here - but we do have apples growing in our backyard that I have named "wormy sours". They're pretty special.

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  3. Okay, first the tomatoes, and now you've got me craving apples. And I just got back from the store. My husband hails from that corner of South Carolina. I thought it was all about peaches there.

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  4. Laws-a-mercy, child...you are SO teasing me with all the perfect apple talk -- when they are positively not attainable for me. Sigh. Oh...okay, I forgive you...but my keyboard may never recover from the drool.

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  5. They are absolutely the best! But - you're right. The season is way too short. I've got to get more!

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  6. I have never had an apple I didn't like but I've never even heard of Honeycrisp. Now I'm dying to try one!

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  7. I'm an apple-o-holic. If you're up for an apple giveaway, let me be the first to throw my hat in the ring!

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  8. well, will just have to try and find them!

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  9. I'd love to try one--but I've never seen them! Where'd you get them?

    Jeanne

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  10. Don't think I've ever seen them in the stores here but I'm going to be on the lookout for them now. I usually grab the Galas.

    These sound yummy!

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  11. LOVE HONEY CRISP!!!

    We discovered them about two years ago, and I have to tell you- I felt terribly overlooked.

    Why hadn't someone told me BEFORE?!?

    They are the best apples in the whole wide world, for any purpose. YUM!

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  12. Very juicy description. Makin' me mouf wata.

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  13. I've seen these my local SuperTarget, even. I don't know how far into the hinterlands Target would distribute them, but it'd certainly be worth a look there. Also, Jewel has them. And good old Woodmans, of course!

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  14. friedokra4me (Megan), Talk about unteachable, do you think that I would EVER convince Uncle Butch to try an apple from the Midwest? But if his beloved Tim Mercier in Ellijay, GA grows them, he will try them. Thanks for the mouth watering description! Aunt Joy

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  15. Our family can't get enough of them either!!! I am glad that you left your comfort zone (which is really hard for me to do as well) and got hooked on an apple that is only around for a certain period of time. But oh how they satisfy those taste buds for the time that they are here. Glad you are all hooked as I am!

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  16. Okay. I have tried a honeycrisp - don't get me wrong, they are amazing. But... you must try a Pink Lady apple before making any definitive final answer on the apple front. :-) I love the Pink Lady apple and it only has a tee-ninesy lead on the honeycrisp in my book.

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  17. I was just introduced to Honeycrisps a few weeks ago on Johnny Appleseed Day (no kidding). A first grader proudly brought it into my class declaring it was the best! And it did indeed win our taste-test! I discovered your blog via Sincerelyanna. You are so fun!

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  18. THAT

    DOES

    IT!

    I am so coming to visit you, and you had better save me an apple! I've never had one, but I'm going to be looking!

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  19. I have told you my story before F.O. that I only discovered these babies last year. They are everywhere (in MN) because they were "invented" here! :) Some professor at U of M came up with this hybrid and we are sooooo glad he did!

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  20. You'll never guess what my hubby found at our SC Publix grocery store?!? Honeycrisp apples!! Oh, you were SOOOO right. These are marvelous apples! Spendy, but worth it. Thanks for the suggestion - we'll see how long they last around here.

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  21. Wow.
    I actually just bought one the other day at the store because they looked so pretty and shiny and delicious.
    I forgot all about it until I read your post...I just ran downstairs and cut mine up. It was wonderful!
    I am really not an apple fan...until I had one of those.
    YUM.
    thanks for reminding me to eat mine!!!

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  22. We found one at HEB here in Texas. I will report it was 12" in circumference and cost $2.36 ALONE!!!

    And? It was wonderful!

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  23. Yep, love the honeycrisps. In the fall, my sister and I love to hit the Apple Festival in the mountains near us. This year there weren't many apples, though... the early frost got the blooms. Boo-hoo. Anyway, the varieties are amazing! I never knew there were so many. Why is it we can drive an hour to pick the apples ourselves, but the apples at Kroger down the street are from across the continent? And they are NOT the same. I don't even know if they grew from a real tree anymore, after tasting the "real thing!"
    My mouth is watering now. Yum!

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Thoughts?