Saturday, September 20, 2008

The Best of FriedOkra: How 'Bout THEM Apples!

Originally published September 2007.

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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.)

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  1. I think my heart just stopped for a second there when you put "Honeycrisp" and "baking apples" in the same line. Isn't that HERESY? Honeycrisp are the most perfect apple in the history of the world. Why would you bake them? (Not to mention they are expensive.)

    This is just a perfect description, Megan. Perfect. Thanks to you, I'm off to the grocery store, and I will bring home my first Honeycrisps of the season, even if they are $3.00 a pound.

  2. I'll sure be looking for those! My favorite apple is a Braeburn but I am willing to branch out per your excellent advice.

  3. Yes I agree with everything you say about those apples. We have some sitting on the counter and I eat one everyday!!! Just Great!

  4. Happy birthday Lady!!!!

  5. Well I'll beeeee. This midwestern girl has never heard of honeycrisp apples. On a mission to find some tomorrow.

  6. The texture of the Honeycrisp apples is perfect and even though they're so large I'm sorry when I finish one.

  7. I mean -- I'm sorry that it's gone, not sorry for having eaten it in the first place.


  8. Ooooooh yeah, Baby! I have to agree with you here!! They are FO SHO the BEST apples! I LOVE them!!! But...shhhhhhhh...quit exclaiming it to the world!! They will all get snatched up!! hahaha ;)

  9. Oh, I love these! I discovered them at the farmer's market last year when I tasted a sample. It was instant love and I didn't even look at another apple for the rest of the season. Am SO looking forward to this year's crop.

  10. I'm pretty sure my 5 month old is part Honeycrisp as it was all I wanted to eat the first part of my pregnancy.

  11. Headed to Atlanta via Greenville, SC. Any place you know of to get some Honey Crisp? I am addicted. They are wonderful. Where can I get some of them??????

  12. Oh ,thank you!!!! I could NOT Remember what kind of apple one of my students swore was the best she ever ate in all her 6 years of life!! I wanted to go get on or two for our apple tasting feast on Thursday but my mind went DEAD! Thanks for helping ! :)

  13. They are my absolute favorite...
    Once again, one of your posts has my mouth watering!