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Not too late for Asheville area apples

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10/9/2012 - Not too late for Asheville area apples
by Asheville Citizen Times

 Apple anxiety dominated this spring, thanks to a late freeze. But the worry has passed now that fall and the crop are here. 

 "We did lose fruit due to frost and freeze damage," shares Rick Jordan, an apple consultant for area farmers and owner-operator of Deerwood Nursery and Farms in Henderson County. "But there are still plenty of apples out there available." 

 For folks interested in picking and purchasing from the farm, Jordan and ASAP advise contacting area orchards directly and asking what they currently have available (see list). Many of the farms harmed by the freeze are still welcoming visitors and celebrating the season with a variety of fall activities, from hayrides to corn mazes to cookouts.

Local apples can also be purchased from farmers at neighborhood tailgate markets and grocery stores. Because apples store well, they'll likely be available for a while to come and at special indoor winter tailgate markets.

Jordan notes that this year's crop might contain some minor blemishes because of the unexpected cold temperatures early on, but he stresses those blemishes do not affect taste and that this season's apples are downright delicious.

While all varieties are delicious this year, everyone has a favorite.

"Right now, I'm loving Mutsu apples," says chef Nate Allen, of the Knife & Fork restaurant in Spruce Pine. "They're very versatile and hold their crunch through short-term exposure to heat."

That includes preparing the apples in unique ways. "They're perfect in quinoa pilaf with shallots, garlic and the last basil of this season, or thrown in the roasting pan with pork shoulder, or in fritters." (See Allen's local apple fritter recipe on this page.)

Of course, Allen adds, they're perfect for eating on their own or with a little local cheese.

In conjunction with Knife & Fork, 5 Walnut in downtown Asheville will host an Apple Fest to celebrate the Get Local program 4 p.m.-midnight on Oct. 22. They'll offer hot apple mulled wine and both sweet and savory apple tastings. There will be live music, and a portion of proceeds will support ASAP.

Apple Fritters With Salted Thyme Caramel

Courtesy of chef Nate Allen, Knife & Fork, Spruce Pine.

2 local Mutsu apples
3/4 cup sugar
2 cups self-rising flour
1 egg
1 cup heavy cream
Buttermilk
Canola oil
Fresh thyme leaves
Salt

Chop the Mutsu apples into 1/2-inch cubes and combine with 1/4 cup sugar, a pinch of salt, and 2 cups of self-rising flour. Next, add 1 egg and enough buttermilk to create the consistency of muffin dough.

Let the dough rest 5 minutes while you heat 1/2-inch of canola oil in a thick skillet. Then spoon balls of dough about the size of golf balls into the hot oil and tu rn over once golden. Remove the fritter once uniformly browned and drain on a paper towel.

To create the caramel sauce, heat 1/2 cup sugar and a pinch of salt in a 2-quart pan on medium-high heat. Once the sugar turns golden, add 1 cup of heavy cream and a pinch of fresh thyme leaves and lower heat, whisking until chunks dissolve.

Enjoy the fritters and sauce together!

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