Topaz Apples

How often do you associate apples with the Czech Republic? You may have thought that they only come from our country with the exception of those Fujis from the far east. I hate to burst your bubble but American as apple pie isn’t quite right. Apples are not native to North America. They originated in Central Asia and spread into Europe to countries like the Czech Republic. This is the same country that the growing in popularity Opal apple comes from. In fact the apple I am going to review today is a parent of the Opal apple. The Topaz apple originated in the Czech Republic in the 1990s. It is known for being a disease resistant apple, good news for apple growers.

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

Aspect Score
Crispiness 7
Tartness 8
Apple Flavor 8
Sweetness 3
Juiciness 8
Where I Bought Them Busch's (Saline MI)

Topaz Apples

Overall Feeling: If you are a fan of a more tart apple, then you will enjoy Topaz. It has a sharp, clean tart flavor that is juicy and enjoyable. I do not feel it’s too tart to enjoy out of a hand. A good altertnative during the winter months to the Granny Smith. This apple would make an excellent dessert apple. My wife really wants to try use them for some cinnamon fried apples. Would be a great option for pie, although I do like an apple that is a little drier for pie, Topaz I am sure would work.

Where to Find Topaz Apples?
I got mine at my neighborhood Busch’s store. This is the only place I have seen this apples. The sticker that came with the apple did not provide me with any information on who grew the apple. If anyone else has spotted this apple, please share where you got it and what you think of it.

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Green Dragon Apples

Anyone that know me, knows how I excited I get to try a new piece of fruit. I am searching them out all the time. Sometimes when searching for new produce to try, a name can attract my attention. When I saw the Green Dragon apple on Frieda’s Specialty Produce website, I was intrigued. At least it’s a great name. You also don’t see a ton of green apples not named Granny Smith on the market. When some arrived at my front door I couldn’t wait for that first bite.

Green Dragon originated in Japan. It’s a cross between an Orin or an Indo apple (I read both online, not sure which it is really is) and a Golden Delicious. It’s an heirloom variety that Frieda’s is trying to get the word out about. It’s green with small brown spots. To avoid people thinking these spots mean the fruit is bad, Frieda’s has started putting stickers on the apples that say “Freckled Skin”. They are a later season apple, being made available in October and November.

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

Aspect Score
Crispiness 8
Tartness 1
Apple Flavor 7
Sweetness 8
Juiciness 8

Overall Feeling: People think that green apples must be tart, like it’s some universal law. If they ever bit into a Green Dragon their story would change in a hurry. This apple is anything but tart. Hard to find any tartness in it. It’s a pure sweet as they get. If you like tartness in your apples, your not going to like this one. But if you are a sweet apple fan, fan of the modern day sweet favorites like Galas or Fujis then you are in for a treat with this apple. It has a better, more complex flavor than those popular apples. To me it has hints of tropical and pear flavors. The apple has that pear like sweetness. Juicy and refreshing. Green Dragon are best enjoyed right out of hand. Not enough tartness for me to want to cook with.

Look for Green Dragon apples wherever you find Frieda’s products. Ask your store’s produce manager about availability. The crop is said to be bigger this year but they are still in short supply, so don’t hesitate.

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Friedas and Heirloom Orchards

Last week, I received another package from my friends at Frieda’s Specialty Produce. I was super excited to have the chance to try 3 new for me, yet very old varieties of organic heirloom apples grown at Heirloom Orchards in Hood River, Oregon. The wonderful thing about these 3 varieties – King David, Roxbury Russett, and Orleans Reinette is that they all look and taste different. I couldn’t have picked out better 3 better apples to taste together. This is my version of the perfect wine tasting. The really cool thing about each of these heirloom apple is the history behind them. Each have a story to tell that is captivating and full of American history. History buffs get ready for a blast through American’s apple past.

King David Apples

King David was discovered by Ben Frost in Arkansas in 1839. It was originally promoted in the late 19th century by the Stark Bros Nursery, one of the country’s most famous nurseries. It is likely a cross between a Jonathan and a Arkansas Black. We aren’t 100% sure as this was a chance seedling. The trees are able to perform well in warmer southern climates.

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

Aspect Score
Crispiness 7
Tartness 6
Apple Flavor 9
Sweetness 6
Juiciness 7

Overall Feeling: This apple had a very fruity taste, similar to a fruit punch drink that isn’t too sweet. I found notes of cherry in the flavor with a slightly spicy finish on the tongue. The apple has the perfect balance of sweet and tart. It might be the most perfectly balanced apple I have ever come across! It was crisp and juicy enough to be satisfying. A great apple for out of hand eating, also works well in juice or cider.

Orleans Reinette

This variety is even older than the King David. It is believed to have originated in France the same year our country was fighting for it’s independence!

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

Aspect Score
Crispiness 7
Tartness 6
Apple Flavor 10
Sweetness 5
Juiciness 4

Overall Feeling: Very complex taste, that will just blow your mind. It has the tart flavor of a good piece of citrus – something I have never experienced in an apple before. It finished with some nutty flavor. One of the best out of hand apple eating experiences I have had! There are reasons why this apple is not available on store shelves across this country. It does not keep that well and the trees don’t produce like most commercial varieties, so it’s not easy to find. The fun thing about buying heirlooms is that these apples are grown for the flavor, not for how much profit they can bring in. It’s a way I really appreciate and admire.

Roxbury Russet

Last up is the Roxbury Russett. I have had several Russet apples. These apples normally have brown coloring in their skin, much like that of a Russett potato. As you see in the picture above this apple doesn’t have a lot of brown, mostly green. With this particular variety the amount of “russeting” depends on the year. I have had Russets that were completely brown.

The really cool thing about this apple is that it may be the first apple ever developed in American history! The name “Roxbury” comes from the town of Roxbury in the Massachusetts Bay Colony where it was grown even before our independence in the early 17th century. This apple was also part of the famous Thomas Jefferson orchard at Monticello. Talk about an apple with a history – a history that I got to taste!

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

Aspect Score
Crispiness 6
Tartness 6
Apple Flavor 9
Sweetness 4
Juiciness 5

Overall Feeling: My wife described this apple as having a pure apple flavor. When you think of what an apple tastes like, this is the apple you are thinking of. It has such a clean, tart flavor, with enough sugar to it for out of hand enjoyment.

I am very appreciative of Frieda’s for sending me these organic heirloom apples. They were a delight to try. Check out the other apples they have send me. Here is a short list below of where you might purchase these apples. If you want to see a store in your area carry them, call your store and ask the produce manager about Organic Heirloom apples from Frieda’s. Make sure to check at any store that carries Frieda’s products. You can find stores that do by searching using their online store locator. If I receive more store information I will provide it here.

Store Listing
Sprouts in California and Nevada
Central Markets in Texas

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Honeycrisp Apples on Tree

Looking for the best deal on Honeycrisp Apples? I have collected prices across the nation to attempt to find out the best deal on American’s new favorite apple. Here are the results of my research. What I found is a large range in prices, some low and some pretty high even on sale. I included a few organic prices too. If you have any information that you can contribute please leave a comment below telling me the price and the location of Honeycrisp apples. I also have an organic list below.

Please note for chain stores I listed an exact location featuring the price. It can vary location to location so check your local store.

Related Post – Why Are Honeycrisp So Expensive

Hillers | All Michigan Apples including Honeycrisp for $.99/pound (Sept 23rd to Oct 6th Ad) | Ann Arbor, Michigan
Meijer | Michigan Grown for $1.77/pound (Sept 29th Ad) | Ann Arbor, Michigan
Kroger | Michigan Grown for $1.88/pound (Sept 30th Ad) | Ann Arbor, Michigan
Dominicks | Michigan Grown for $1.99/pound (Oct 2 to Oct 8 Ad) | Chicago, Illinois
Ralphs | $2.49/pound (Wednesday, October 2 through Tuesday, October 8 Ad) | Southern California
Whole Foods Market | $2.49/pound | Ann Arbor, MI
Sweetbay Suppermarket | $2.49/pound (Oct 2 to Oct 8 Ad) | Tampa, Florida
The Fresh Market | $2.98/pound (regularly $4/pound) (Oct 2 to Oct 8 Ad) | Toledo, Ohio

Who Has the Cheapest Organic Honeycrisp Apples

Publix | $3.49 pound (normally $5 lb) through October 9th
Whole Foods Market | $3.99/pound | Ann Arbor, Michigan

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Sweetie Apples

I am all about following what’s the latest and greatest in the apple world. There are new varieties coming out all the time. Everyone wants to have the next Honeycrisp. Broetje Orchards in Washington are growing a new apple called the Sweetie. It is distributed by First Fruits Marketing. They also released the Opal apple a few years back. The apple itself originated in New Zealand.

Are Sweetie Apples GMO
No. They were made by crossing a Gala and a Braeburn the old fashion way. As of now they are no commercially available genetically modified apples (read my post on GMOs & Apples).

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

Aspect Score
Crispiness 9
Tartness 1
Apple Flavor 1
Sweetness 10
Juiciness 9
Where I Got Them Meijer (Ypsilanti MI)

Overall Feeling: This apple sure lives up to it’s name. It is super sweet, crisp, and juicy. One of the sweetest apples I ever had. But really no tartness to balance that and in the end no real flavor. It was like eating water. I couldn’t wait to be done with it. I have no desire to try one of these apples again. It does look pretty and has the sweet, crisp, and juicy elements that people seem to ask for. Have our standards gotten so low that those are all we care about and flavor doesn’t come into the equation?

Are Sweetie Apples Good for Cooking or Baking?
In my opinion the only useful thing this apple may have is added to a batch of applesauce containing tart apples, to add some sweetness. They are way too sweet and flavorless to bake with.

Of course this is all just my experience. What’s yours? I am sure they are people out there that still do enjoy this apple and I am not going to complain about someone eating fruit. If you wish to try Sweetie Apples, they should be available at the end of September and beginning of October in these locations:

Pacific Northwest
Haggen
Safeway
Winco

California
Safeway

Texas
Central Market
HEB

Midwest
Byerly’s
Lunds
Hy-Vee
Meijer

Florida
Sweetbay

Here are some apple related kitchen tools I recommend:
Amco Dial-A-Slice Adjustable Apple Corer and Slicer : Allows you to slice apples into either 8 or 16 pieces
Zyliss Soft Skin Peeler : The best peeler I have ever owned. Does a great job peeling an apple.
Mirro Foley 2-Quart Stainless Steel Food Mill : A great tool for making your own applesauce. You can make the sauce without having to do any peeling.

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Blondee Apples

After last year’s tragedy apple crop lost here in Michigan, I was really looking forward to getting out and picking some apples this year. We decided to head over to Fruit Acres Farm in Coloma, Michigan. I have been wanting to go to this u-pick farm for years. My in-laws from California met us there in a surprise to our kids. I was most excited about this apple picking trip with the chance to pick and try and new apple, the Blondee. This apple is was discovered by covered Tom and Bob McLaughlin of Portsmouth, Ohio. No genetically modification apple here. It is believed to be related to the Gala apple. It ripens just a few days before Galas around early September. It doesn’t have the same color as Gala at all but the shape does look like a Gala.

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

Aspect Score
Crispiness 7
Tartness 5
Apple Flavor 8
Sweetness 7
Juiciness 8
Where I Got Them Fruit Acres Farm (Coloma MI)

Overall Feeling: A wonderful early season apple! A good crunch and juicy. It has really good flavor with some floral notes. One of the best yellow apples I ever had. I enjoy more than Golden Delicious or Golden Supreme and it’s on par with Ginger Gold which are available around the same time.

Are Blondee Apples Good for Cooking or Baking?
I tested them out in some mini pies I made. They cooked up nicely. They were able to hold their shape. I don’t think cooking them really enhance their flavor, but they aren’t a bad option if you have some on hand. They would work well in adding more sweetness to an applesauce made with McIntosh apples that are available at the same time. I think that would be a winning combo.

Where Can I Buy a Blondee Tree?
Adams County Nursery
Stark Bros

Farms That Grow Blondee Apples
Fruit Acres Farm (Coloma, MI)
Tree-Mendus (Eau Claire, MI)
Mackintosh Fruit Farm (Clarke County, VA)
McDougal Orchards (Springvale, ME)
Harvest Time Orchards (Twin Lakes, WI)
Tougas Family Farm (Northboro, MA)
Steffens Orchards & Market (Sparta, MI)

Here are some apple related kitchen tools I recommend:
Amco Dial-A-Slice Adjustable Apple Corer and Slicer : Allows you to slice apples into either 8 or 16 pieces
Zyliss Soft Skin Peeler : The best peeler I have ever owned. Does a great job peeling an apple.
Mirro Foley 2-Quart Stainless Steel Food Mill : A great tool for making your own applesauce. You can make the sauce without having to do any peeling.

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SweeTango Apple non GMO

If you have been paying any attention to food in the last year or two, the three letters G.M.O. would have at least crossed your path once if not a bunch of times. Everyone is talking about GMOs. With good reason, I don’t think they are good for us. However when an issue gets this much publicity they are bound to be some confusion and misinformation out there.

As the GMO debate has been raging on a new apple variety has been taking the nation by storm. I am talking about the SweeTango. It is a cross between a Zestar and a Honeycrisp. Now when people hear this, is when some get worried. They see the word cross and think someone started gentically modifiing Honeycrisp to make a better apple. I have had people coming to my site searching for this information. Well I am here to clear the air about this. SweeTango are NOT GMOs. Nor is any commercially available apple. Yes, SweeTango was created directly by man. But it was done in the way that apples have been crossed for centuries. Whenever a popular apple comes along or one with at least 1 desirable trait, people will try cross it with another apple to create a new apple that may be even better. Every apple you are going to have is some kind of cross. Like I said before a SweeTango was made when someone at the University of Minnesota crossed a Zestar apple with a Honeycrisp. The Honeycrisp itself was a cross between a Macoun and a Honeygold. Other crosses of popular apples include: Gala (Golden Delicious X Kidd’s Orange Red), McIntosh (Fameuse X possibly Detroit Red), Golden Delicious (Grimes Golden?), Jonagold (Jonathan X Golden Delicous).

Is there a risk of a GMO apple in the future? Yes they is. While currently no GMO apples are available commercially here in the United States – Okanagan Specialty Fruits from Canada are trying to get approval from the USDA to introduce GMO apples to the market. They have developed both a Golden Delicious and Granny Smith GMO apple that resists browning and bruising. So until that happens and I am hoping it doesn’t, you won’t find GMO apples in any store.

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Mini Apple Pies

Have you ever had this problem – you wanted to make an apple pie (or your daughter was asking really nice for you to make one). You wanted to test out different apples in the pie but didn’t want to mix them up. While pretty much everyone doesn’t have this problem, a food blogger does. I wanted to do my own personal testing of how some apples held up in baking. I didn’t want to bake several huge pies to test these apples out. So instead I thought small – mini pies made in ramekins. A nice single serving which no additional dishes needed to serve them up.

The apples I used this time around in my test were Gala, Blondee, Cox’s Orange Pippin and Ribston Pippin. The last two I got in a shipment from Frieda’s Produce. Both of these are heirloom varieties. Other varieties you can use include: Honeycrisp, Jonathan, Granny Smith, Rhode Island Greening (my favorite for pies), Northern Spy, Empire, and Ida Red.

All of the apples I used this time around held their shape well. The Cox’s Orange Pippin baked up the softest but not too soft, my wife liked that texture. Galas are just too sweet in my opinion for baking. Yes they held their shape but the pies baked with those lacked acidic to round out the flavor. Blondee is a relatively new yellow apple are related to Galas but have a better flavor with a floral quality. These had a little more acidic which made them a better choice. The Ribston Pippen was the most acidic one I baked with on this occasion. It worked just fine. Not as well as my favorite baking apple – Rhode Island Greening which actually taste better when baked.

You can pick whatever pie crust recipe you like. I personally am a fan of Alton Brown’s Pie Crust. It uses both butter and lard for a nice one-two punch of flavor, tenderness, and flakiness. I found that baking these small pies made for a more delicious flaky crust!

I used 5 inch creme brulee ramkeins that I got from Cost Plus World Market I could get 3 mini pies out of 1 pie dough recipe, with having to re-roll the dough out once.  You can also buy a set that comes with a torch from Amazon.

Mini Individual Apple Pies
3
 

Ingredients
  • 1 pie dough recipe
  • 3 medium sized apples (1 per pie)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar (more or less depending on the sweetness of the apples)
  • ½ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
For the topping
  • 2 tablespoons cold, butter, cut into cubes
  • ⅛ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour

Instructions
  1. Follow your pie dough recipe
  2. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  3. Roll out your pie dough. Place your 2 ramekins on top of the dough. Trace around each one leaving about 1 inch of space between your trace and the ramekin.
  4. Flip the ramekins and dough over at the same time. Form the dough to fit the ramekin. Dock the dough with a fork.
  5. Re-roll the dough once to fit an additional ramekin.
  6. Bake the empty pies in the oven for 5-7 mintues until slighty brown. Remove from oven and reduce heat to 375.
Preparing the apples
  1. Peel and core 3 apples. Place them in a bowl and add the brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and nutmeg. Mix to combine.
  2. Evenly distribute the apples into the ramekins.
To make the topping
  1. Combine the flour and brown sugar. Add the butter. Rub with your finger tips to work in the butter. It should look like cornmeal when your done. Evenly distribute the topping over the apples.
  2. Bake in the oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until they are browned and the apples are cooked. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before eating. You can remove the pies from the ramekins if you want to serve, they should pop right out.

 

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Cox's Orange Pippin

In the produce world, whenever the word “heirloom” is brought up, people start getting excited. They should be. Heirloom varieties are typically varieties that big commercial growers have passed on because they don’t have the shelf life or the look they say the consumer wants. Although now we are seeing the big growers starting to sell more heirloom tomatoes because people have requested them so much. When it comes to heirlooms it’s not tomatoes that I get excited about it’s apples. There are just so much varieties of apples out there, you will never try them all. It’s always a quest of mine to find heirloom that I haven’t tried before each fall. The quest was made easier this year thanks to my friends at Frieda’s Produce. They send me a package of heirloom varieties to try out. Even cooler is that these were Organic Heirlooms. Putting those two words in the same sentence is really going to get people excited!

Cortland Apples

The varieties that I received where:

Cox’s Orange Pippin – An popular English apple that is tart but with enough sweetness to enjoy out of hand. A flavorful apple that you can bake with.

Cortland – An apple developed in New York at the end of the 19th century. It’s a McIntosh cross, so has a similar flavor but stores a couple weeks longer without going soft. Better for applesauce than baking.

Ribston Pippin – A parent of the Cox’s Orange, this apple has been around since 1708! It has a high vitamin C content (30mg/100mg).

Here is a list of stores where you can purchase Organic Heirloom apples. If you want to see a store in your area carry them, call your store and ask the produce manager about Organic Heirloom apples from Frieda’s. Make sure to check at any store that carries Frieda’s products. You can find stores that do by searching using their online store locator. If I receive more store information I will provide it here.

Ribston Pippin

Store Listing
Sprouts in California and Nevada
Central Markets in Texas

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Honeycrisp Cobbler

Can Honeycrisp Apples Be Used for Baking?

It’s September and the apples are rolling in! I have already had all sorts of varieties and many more to come! I wanted to take a moment to look at one apple that has been gaining in popularity over the last decade – the Honeycrisp. I first have to state this isn’t my favorite apple. Please resist the urge to hit the back button on your browser. I am just not a fan of the skin. The flavor can still be good, but the quality can vary from apple to apple as would be expected with an apple grown by so many sources some for flavor, some just for profit. As it is a popular apple I felt I needed to spend more time with it so I can help my readers understand how this apple can be used. So the first question to address is can you bake with Honeycrisp? I will answer that question by answering a series of questions.

Honeycrisp Apples on Tree

Do Honeycrisp Apples Hold Their Shape? | Answer: YES
The most important factor for me when it comes to baking with an apple is can it hold it’s shape when baked. I don’t want to bake a pie and have it filled with applesauce. The Honeycrisp does in fact hold it’s shape and does so quite well. Actually it came out perfectly in terms of texture.

Are Honeycrisp Too Sweet to Bake With? | Answer: NO
When baking with an apple you want some tartness. Since you will be adding sugar either to the apples or the topping or both, you want to balance out that sweetness. Honeycrisp does have enough in the way of tartness to satisfy this requirement.

Do Baked Honeycrisp Apples Have Good Flavor | Answer: YES
Again not being my favorite apple, I think there are apples out there that bake up with better flavor, the Honeycrisp does retain some good flavor when baked. I was pleased with the results.

The Final Verdict – Can You Bake with Honeycrisp? | Answer: YES
Honeycrisp meets all the criteria for a baking apples, so feel free to use them in any apple baking application. The best baking apples typically come in October, so having Honeycrisp around to use in early September is a nice perk as they aren’t a lot of good baking apples at the start of the primary season.

Individual Honeycrisp Apple Cobbler
I tested Honeycrisp out by making individual apple cobblers. I used oven safe tea cups. Going the individual route helps control the portion you eat as well as makes for less cleanup as you are eating the cobbler right out of what you cook it in. I sweetened the apples (and added more flavor) with just a touch of maple syrup and added standard crumble topping (flour, brown sugar, and butter) along with some cinnamon and Demerara sugar for a little crunch.

Honeycrisp Apple Cobbler
 

Ingredients
  • 3-4 Honeycrisp apples, cored, peeled, and sliced
  • 1½ tablespoons maple syrup (grade B if you can find it)
For the topping
  • ½ cup flour
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup cold butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • sprinkling of Demerara sugar (optional)

Instructions
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees
  1. Peel, core, and slice the apples.
  2. Distribute them evenly among 3 oven proof ramekins or cups.
  3. Add about ½ tablespoon of maple syrup to each cooking vessel.
To make the topping
  1. Mix together the flour and the brown sugar.
  2. Add the butter. Using your hands rub the butter into the dry ingredients until it resembles cornmeal.
  3. Evenly distribute the topping. Sprinkle the cinnamon and Demerara sugar (if using) on top.
  4. Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly.
  5. Serve hot, room temperature, or cold whatever floats your boat!

 

To learn more about different types of baked fruit desserts, read my post on What is the Difference Between a Cobbler and a Crisp?

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