Suncrisp Apples

My never ending search to search out for the next apple I have not tasted, led me to Berlin Heights, Ohio and to Quarry Hill Orchards. Upon looking over their inventory of apples, I was excited to come and try the Suncrisp apple. Growing up with just the options of Golden Delicious, Red Delicious, and Granny Smith, I always preferred Golden Delicious (talk about the dark ages!). There is a soft spot in my heart for a yellow skinned apple. Blondee and Grimes Golden have come to be my favorite yellow skinned apples.

The Suncrisp apple was created by a crossing together a Golden Delicious with a cross of Cortland and Cox’s Orange Pippin. An apple that has a background like this has to be good, right? The apple came out of the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station in 1994, developed by a fruit breeder with Rutgers University. The apple has two very describable traits – longevity and not prone to browning. This apple can last up to 6 months in storage, which is way better than it’s parent the Golden Delicious. They also tend to not brown when sliced. The apple ripens in early to mid October.

My Experience with this Apple (Rating Scale 1-10)

Aspect Score
Crispiness 9
Tartness 5
Apple Flavor 8
Sweetness 7
Juiciness 8
Where I Bought Them Quarry Hill Orchards (Berlin Heights OH)

Overall Feeling:
If you have been turned off to yellow apples because of bland and boring Golden Delicious, give the Suncrisp a try. It is crisp as it name suggests. It has a firm, hard texture that reminds me of some of my favorite Russet style apples. Some describe the texture as being coarse. It has a thick skin, which I don’t mind at all but my wife is not a fan of. It’s an excellent out of hand eating apple. At first harvest the apple is more tart, but will get sweeter as it ages. I am eating one now 10 days after buying at the orchard and it has a sweet flavor balanced out with the right amount of tartness. I like it even more now than I did when I had my first bite at the orchard.

Although I have not tried it first hand yet (been enjoying them out of hand so much) I have heard that they are good option for baking. They would be fun to pair up with some tart apples in a pie or cobbler.

How to Roast/Bake Applesauce

in Dessert Snacks

Roasted Applesauce

What I really love about cooking is that it never gets boring. There is always a new technique to try. I have made applesauce dozens of times. Most of the time I cook it in a slow cooker. It’s easy to throw the apples in it and forget about, without having to worry about the apples burning on the bottom of a pot. This has been the method I have used the last few years. Then one day it hit me. What would happen if I tried roasting the apples to make applesauce? I Googled the idea immediately and yes this is a thing people have done. I felt it sounded like something that I needed to do and once you taste it you will see why.

Roasted Applesauce

Why Roast Applesauce?
If the method I have been using works, then why change it up? What advantages is there to roasting the apples? There are two reasons why I like this method better now – the apples caramelize in the oven bringing out more flavor and the ending texture is better.

The dry heart of the oven help to brown the apples in a good way. The sugars in the fruit turn brown (which means they will turn black if you overcome them, so watch out!). You can get that added dimension of flavor any other way.

The texture is smooth, almost velvety. The sauce is thick, without being watery at all. The oven pulls away all the excess moisture. To get the peels off I simply run the apples through a food mill. Why bother peeling?

What Temperature Do You Roast the Apples at?
You want to get some nice carmelization, don’t be scared to turn that oven up. I would roast them at 425 degrees for about 30 to 45 mins. This is the same temperature that Martha Stewart uses for her roasted sauce. I tested it out and it worked perfectly. I did not agree with her about adding sugar. If you use the right apples it is not necessary (read my post on How to Select Apples for Applesauce Without Having to Add Sugar)

Roasted Applesauce

What Do You Roast the Applesauce In?
Try to pick your largest oven safe vessel. Last time I used a ceramic baking dish I picked up from Cost Plus World Market. I prefer cast iron as it dosages out the most even heat. A dutch oven is a good choice as you can fit tons of apples in it. If you have not cured or seasoned your dutch oven in a while, I would recommend doing that before. Curing involves rubbing the entire thing, top to bottom, with a coat of oil and then placing it in the oven empty. Even if yours comes already cured over time that wears out. Like with mine I ended up having my applesauce take on an unwanted black color – a telltale sign of a pot needing to be cured. I have just the standard jet black American made Lodge dutch oven. It’s nothing fancy but gets the job done. If you interested on how to restore and take care of a cast iron pan, watch this informative video below.

Spice It Up!
If you want to really put this sauce over the top thing about adding some spices. Feel free to add a stick of cinnamon or a piece of ginger. They can be easily removed when the sauce is done cooking. Cardamon, allspice, cloves, and nutmeg are also excellent additions. For ease use the powdered forms, but freshly grind whole spices if you can. The ground spices can just be stirred in at the end.

Roasted Applesauce
 
Ingredients
  • Mix of apples (at least 3 pounds), cored (peeled if you have no food mill)
  • Spices (optional)
  • Water (1/8 to ¼ cup)
Instructions
  1. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Core apples and peel if you don't own a food mill.
  3. Add the apples to a large oven safe vessel.
  4. Pour in a tiny amount of water to keep the apples from burning on the bottom before they start to soften. Use no more than a ¼ cup water. You just want to barely cover the bottom of your cooking vessel.
  5. Add whole cinnamon sticks, ginger, or ground spices (optional)
  6. Roast for 30 to 45 minutes until apples are soft. The apple should be easily smashed with the back of a spoon.
  7. Run through a food mill to smooth. You could also use a food processor if you like.
  8. Serve warm or refrigerate for up to 5 days.

 

Costco Organic Chicken Prices

in Buying Organic Meat Buying Guide

Costco Organic Chicken

The organic food industry has been booming over the last decade. A 2011 study done by the Organic Trade Association, reported a record 78% U.S. families buy organic food (see article in IndyStar). How many of those families are making organic meat choices? If you aren’t one of those families is it because price is an issue? In my ongoing mission to decide whether not it’s worth your money to buy a Costco membership – today we are going to look at what prices you would pay if you have a Costco membership for organic meat – specially chicken.

To read more about organic, check out my entire list of organic blog posts.

What is Organic Chicken?
What makes chicken organic? I went straight to the source for requirements for chicken to be certified USDA Organic (you can read the whole speal at the USDA website).

“Farmers and ranchers must accommodate the health and natural behavior of their animals year-round. For example, organic livestock must be:
– Generally, managed organically from the last third of gestation (mammals) or second day of life
(poultry).
– Allowed year-round access to the outdoors except under specific conditions (e.g., inclement weather).
– Raised on certified organic land meeting all organic crop production standards.
– Raised per animal health and welfare standards.
– Fed 100 percent certified organic feed, except for trace minerals and vitamins used to meet the animal’s nutritional requirements.
– Managed without antibiotics, added growth hormones, mammalian or avian byproducts, or other prohibited feed ingredients (e.g., urea, manure, or arsenic compounds).

Two main things most people are probably looking for here is that their fed is organic and the land they are raised on is certified organic.

What Type of Organic Chicken Does Costco Carry?
All the organic chicken I found at my local Costco was from Coleman Natural. They raise their birds all over the country on family farms. The farms are close by to their processing plants. They make frequent visits to the ranches/farms to be sure that their standards are being met, including testing to be sure no antibotics or hormones are given. The company was the first to bring chickens labeled free range and organic to the market.

How Much Does Organic Chicken Cost at Costco?
On my visit they only offered three types of chicken : whole fryer, drumsticks, and boneless skinless breasts. Here are the prices from my visit last month. For prices for the conventionally raised chicken, check out my Costco Chicken Prices post.

Chicken Type Price
Whole Fryer $2.49/lb
Unlike with the convential chicken the whole fryer is not the cheapest. You are going to pay $1.40 more per pound for the organic.
Drumsticks $1.99/lb
Love dark meat the best? Buy drumsticks. They are the cheapest way to get organic chicken at Costco. The bones can be saved up and used for making homemade chicken stock later.
Boneless Skinless Breasts $5.99/lb
This is where things get really pricey. It's twice as much money for the organic boneless skinless breasts. You save money if you buy a whole fryer and learn to cut it up yourself. This way you can get organic breasts for $2.49/lb plus you will have dark meat and bones for stock making. I posted some videos below to help you.

Here is a video that shows you how to cut a whole chicken to it’s parts.

In this video you will see how to de-bone chicken, so you can have boneless skinless chicken breasts for the cost of a fryer chicken. Make sure to save those bones for stock. Making homemade chicken stock will not only save you money but give you a great ingredient for soups, sauces, etc.

Organic chicken at Costco is reasonably priced. You are going to pay more for organic but if you take the time to butcher your own fryer than it is affordable. Or save money and time and just go with the drumsticks.

My Visit to Quarry Hill Orchards – Berlin Heights, OH

in Fruit & Vegetables Where I Buy Food

Quarry Hill Orchards

When you have tasted as many apples as I have it becomes harder and harder to find something new. The majority of apple orchards I come across have varieties I have already had. It takes a little more effort to find something new to me. When I was planning a family trip to the beautiful Cuyahoga Valley National Park (outside of Cleveland, Ohio, I spent some time searching for orchards that I might pass along the way. I looked at list upon list of apples until I came across a roster that I could sink my teeth into. I went from breathtaking waterfalls surrounded by a beautiful canvas of autumn leaves to bins of apples tht were just as breathtaking. I arrived at Quarry Hills Orchards in Berlin Heights, Ohio.

Quarry Hill Orchards Apple Bins 2

As I pulled into the parking lot I was greeted by the sights of many bins of apples with simple, yet attractive signage. This to me is a sign that these people care enough to put time into the little things. As I got out of the van, I quickly spotted apples that I had come to try – Hampshire and Suncrisp. I also saw the state apple of Ohio, Melrose, Pink Lady (which I don’t find much in the Midwest), and some Granny Smith with some beautiful red blush on them. Inside the market I found the ever popular Honeycrisp, but sitting right next to it was the Crimson Crisp apple, another on my to-try list. Honeycrisp fans looking for something a little more tart will love the Crimson. In addition to apples they had pears, including Asian pears, squash, cauliflower, etc – your typical fall veggies. The market also contained jams and jellies, popcorn, again the typical market fare. However, they also had a couple of unique things like Boiled Cider, which is cider that has been boiled down to the consistency of syrup, so can be used on pancakes.

Hampshire Apples

Suncrisp Apples

Speaking of cider, they had their top secret blend of apples made into cider. As a true cider fan, I was skeptical when I heard that it was UV pasteurized. I have heard about this process, but may have only had cider that has been treated this way once or twice and it was rather forgetable. Not this time. This cider was the best I have had all season. Great flavor, texture, the acid/sweet balance was in perfect portion. My family loved it just as much as I did.

Quarry Hill Orchards Apple Bins 1

What really made this place as does any great orchard, is the people that run it. Everyone I met was warm and friendly, wanting to chat, and made sure I got to sample their wares. I had a blast just talking aples with Ben Gammie, who returned to the family business just last year after spending some time out west. You could tell that Ben and the staff were enjoying what they are doing – that their passion is there and they are not just going through the motions. I have been to orchards where you can tell their passion is gone and it’s really a sad sight. Quarry Hills orchards is an orchard on the move and I am looking forward to keeping touch and seeing what they have for the future – particularity the EverCrisp apples that they just planted in 2014.

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