Chestnut Crab Apples

What is the first thing that comes to mind when I say “crap apple”? Do you think of some tree growing in our yard, your neighbor’s yard, or your favorite park? Do you have childhood memories of deciding that throwing a crab apple at someone was much more fun than actually eating one?

As we grow older our palates become more sophisticated – hopefully, at least mine did. Maybe you have grown to show some appreciate for crap apples. Apple jelly anyone? Just grabbing one and eating then out of hand? Probably not. Are crab apples just not worthy of eating out of hand? Or have you just not found the right crab apple. Let me introduce to you the Chestnut Crab – the apples I am munching on as I write this post.

I have more surprises up my sleeve – the Chestnut Crab was developed by the same people that brought the world the Honeycrisp – the University of Minnesota. It was developed back in 1946. You can buy your very own tree from the famous Stark Bros Nursery.

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

Aspect Score
Crispiness 8
Tartness 6
Apple Flavor 8
Sweetness 7
Juiciness 7
Where I Bought Them Tree-Mendus (Eau Claire MI)

Overall Feeling:
Wow, wow, wow, and wow so more. I love this apple. In my opinion – Best Crab apple EVER. Snack size mall, yet so flavorful. It packs the right amount of sweetness in perfect melody with it’s tart side. The flavor is rich and slightly nutty. My wife’s favorite part is the skin. We both think apples that have brown or russetting on them make for the best skin. If I wasn’t having so much fun eating them, I know they would make an excellent apple jelly or butter.

I made the mistake in 2013, of only tasting the Chestnut Crab at Whole Foods and not buying a bag. The moment they were available this year, I made sure to get myself a full bag of them. If you find them as your produce worker for a sample, do not just pass them by. They are a hard to find variety so your best bet is stores that carry more unique and heirloom apples as well as visiting a farmer’s market.

Best Apples for No Sugar Added Applesauce

in Fruit & Vegetables

Strawberry Applesauce

Have you ever purchased applesauce in the store? Did you read the ingredient list? If you did you may have seen sugar or high fructose corn syrup as added ingredients. Have you ever made your own applesauce? Does the recipe call for a 1/4 cup of sugar? Is adding sugar to applesauce really necessary? Can you have sauce that satisfies the sweet tooth without having to dump in additional ingredients? Yes you can! It all comes down to the apples you select. If you pick the right apples or right combinations of apples, the natural sugars in the apple will be enough so that no additional sugar is required.

Below you will find a list of apples that are options for no sugar added applesauce. I have three lists, one of commonly found varieties, one of less commonly found varieties, and the last one is hard to find varieties but if you can find them they are worth the effort. For the sake of this post I am assuming that you are making a smooth, not chunky applesauce. I will save any talk about chunky applesauce for another post.

Honeycrisp Apples on Tree

Common Varieties
The most popular varieties in stores today don’t necesarrily lead to the best applesauce making. Nowadays everyone wants a sweet, juicy, and crisp apple. The trouble with a crisp apple is that they take longer to break down into sauce and if they really juicy the process takes longer as well. But that doesn’t mean you can’t do it.

Gala
This is the easiest way to add sweetness to your applesauce. Mix a few Galas in and your good to go.

Fuji
Fuji will add sweetness as well but I think Galas do have a bit more flavor so if both options are available I would stick with Galas.

Honeycrisp
Honeycrisp bring enough sweetness to the party, but their crisp texture isn’t doing you any favors. The more expensive price would also leave me to just enjoy these out of hand.

Red & Golden Delicious
America’s once delicious apples have fallen on hard times in the eyes of apple fans. Toss either Red or Golden Delicious into your sauce is a cheap way to save you on the sugar.

McIntosh
When these are first available they will be more on the tart side, but if you end up with some older Macs that have gone mushy they can be used in applesauce. They do get sweeter with age but I still don’t think they become sweet enough for no sugar added sauce.

Cameo
A later season apple that definitely packs the punch in the sweetness category.

Jazz
An apple gaining popularity depsite it’s inconsistency in flavor. Is on the sweeter side, but if Galas are available they still would be a better option.

Paula Red Apples

Less Common Varieties
These are varieties that either may be common in certain area of the country, available in some stores but not all, or ones that are reality new to the market place. With a bit of searching you should be able to find these. All of these apples are not available year round.

Ginger Gold
An early season apple that is very popular here in Michigan. A bit more tart than a Golden Delicious. Use for sauce when they are a nice yellow color, with no green.

Paula Red
Like the McIntosh, Paulas start out on the tart side. But wait a couple weeks and they will soften and get signficantly sweeter. I made an entire batch of applesauce from just Paula Reds and I didn’t feel the need to add any sugar.

Sweetie (super sweet, no flavor)
This is a new apple that is start to pop up at more and more stores. It is super sweet and lacks any acid whatsoever. I also think it lacks flavor. I can see adding them to a more tart, flavorful apple in a batch of sauce.

Kiku
A Kiku is a sport variety of a Fuji. It’s a natural mutation of a Fuji tree, that I find to taste better than Fujis in most cases.

Pinata
This apple is available around New Year’s Day and into the winter months. It has a tropical like taste and it sweet enough – more on the crisp side.

Opal
Another winter variety gaining in popularity. It’s a yellow apple that is more sweet than tart.

Golden Supreme
A yellow fleshed apple that is available before Golden Delicious.

Zestar!
Zestar! – a University of Minnesota developed apple, like the applecrisp, is available early in the season. It has a brown sugar like flavor that would do wonders in applesauce. They tend to go soft in a couple weeks, so if you have some hanging around your fridge, they would be perfect to toss into your sauce.

Sonya
A super sweet option that I would use in addition to more flavorful apples.

Pacific Rose
Same as Sonya, although slightly better in flavor when you get a good one.

Green Dragon Apples

Hard to Find, But Good Varieties

These apples are hard to extremely hard to find. They are either heirloom varieties or new ones that have limited availability. If you are able to find any of these, they all would make for excellent applesauce with no added sugar!

Pink Sugar
Just discovered this one this month. It’s super sweet, with no acidity whatsoever. I do not enjoy it for out of hand eating. It is guaranteed to sweeten up my next batch of applesauce.

Green Dragon
For super sweet apples, these have more flavor. Would work well mixed with a more tart apple.

Blondee Apples
Had these for the first time in 2013. They are sweet with a floral like flavor that was really refreshing. Ate them up to fast to try them in sauce. Sure they would make for a good addition.

Hudson’s Golden Gem
This is a Russett variety that has a brown skin with a golden color underlying. Sweet and flavorful.

Candy Crisp Apples
A more recent developed variety that is just like it’s name says, sweet as candy, more flavorful than the Sweetie or Pink Sugar I mentioned earlier.

Aurora (Golden Gala) Apples
An offspring of the ever popular Gala, the Aurora has the sweetness you need with middle of the road flavor.

Westfield’s Seek-No-Further Apples
I have only had one bite of this variety, but it was memorable enough to still make the blog. Great sweet flavor.

Pristine Apples
One of the earliest sweet apples around – Pristine is the perfect companion for all the tart apples found at the start of apple season.

Sweet Orin
Sweet with a very mild pear like flavor.

Are Cherries Out of Season?

in Fruit & Vegetables

Michigan Cherry Season

Have you ever walked into the grocery store, looking for your favorite fruit that you just bought last week and you can’t find it. You walk up to the nearest produce worker and ask them where it is, only to see the dreaded words “they are out of season”. Either one of two things happens next. Either your heart sinks and you slowly stroll away. Or you wonder how can anything be out of season, isn’t everything always available. In a country where you can buy apples, oranges, asparagus, etc year round, people tend to lose sight of the seasonality of produce. Not everything, even in our day and age can be available year round. One of those things you have to enjoy in season only is the cherry.

Skylar Rae Cherries

When Does Cherry Season End?
Typically the last you will see of cherries is around Labor Day, earlier or later depending on the year and the harvest. The last cherries come from the Pacific Northwest. The harvest has been extended in recent years thanks to companies like Stemilt Growers and Hood River Cherry Company.

Hood River Cherry Company
The orchards of Hood River are amongst the highest in elevation in the Northwest. This results in an extended growing season. They have three varieties of cherries – Sweetheart, Skeena, and Lapin that can be harvested as late as September 1st.

Stemilt Growers
Further north in the state of Washington, Stemilt Growers have orchards at high altitudes as well. In August they release their Half Mile Closer to the Moon Cherries. They are grown between 2,500 and 3,200 feet at Amigos Orchards – where the days are warm, but not super hot and the nights are cool. This helps to produce a firm, flavorful, and sweet cherry. They grow Skeena, Sweetheart, and Staccato cherries.

Balaton Cherries

Is There Any Other Time Cherries are Available?
There is no stendy supply of fresh cherries that we can import from other countries. You have to consider that cherries don’t last as long as other fruits like apples and oranges. You can’t store cherries in cold storage for months like you easily can with apples. During the winter months you may see some fresh cherries imported from Chile. Buyer beware – you are going to buy high prices for these cherries and the quality is not going to match the price. Usually they are very short lived and not carried by all grocery stores. Dried cherries can be found year round in both sweet and tart varieties – this is a way to get your cherry fix when they are not in season. Dried cherries are not as cheap as other dried fruits like cranberries and raisins, so look for sales or buy in bulk to save money. Also canned cherries are available year round as well.

Sweet Jubilee – A Flavor Promise Grape

in Fruit & Vegetables

Sweet Jubliee Flavor Promise Grapes

We are a seedless country. As a nation we don’t like seeds in our fruit. We want seedless oranges, seedless mandarins, seedless watermelon, seedless grapes, etc. I even had someone ask me if the cherries she was looking at were seedless (not holding my breath for the seedless cherry). Really are seeded grapes so bad, so evil that we need to avoid them like the plague? If you are a seedless only shopper, I challenge you to give seeded a chance, especially when it comes from grapes from Grapery. You trusted them with grapes that taste like Cotton Candy, can’t you trust them with grapes that have a couple seeds? They do come with a Flavor Promise!

Sweet Jubilee – A Flavor Promise Grape

The latest grape from Grapery’s Flavor Promise line I got to try was the Sweet Jubilee. This is a black seeded grape that is very large in size. My daughter Hannah was amazed at how big these grapes were. They were firm as well. If you hate when you buy a bag of grapes and they are soft, you will definitely not be disappointed with Sweet Jubilee. The bag was full of high quality grapes, not even a single grape had come off the vine. Usually when you buy a bag of grapes there are loose ones in the bottom. They are in season for a short time between mid August and early September.

Sweet Jubilee Flavor Promise Grapes

Due to the large size of this grape, the seeds are very easily managed. You can either easily spit out the seeds or cut open the grape and remove them before eating. They have average about 2 to 3 seeds even had some with just a single seed.

Does this grape deliverer in the Flavor Promise? You bet it does. I have never been disappointed with any grape from Grapery. This is a seriously sweet black grape that is worth having to deal with seeds. If you like Red Globe grapes you are going to be one happy camper with Sweet Jubilee. Check for these grapes were Grapery grapes are sold.

Cotton Candy Grapes From Vine to Your Store

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