The apples of our eyes
Story By Michaela Satterfield
Apple season is in full swing in the cooler parts of the Carolinas. Find out where to get them.
Apples are the poster fruit of the fall. Nothing will get you in the mood for late September better than crisp, juicy apples in rich golden or burgundy shades. Pick them yourself or let someone else do the work. Make pies or even pancakes with them. Slice them up and eat them fresh with a tasty dip. Or just pick one up and take a bite. It’s as simple as that.
Easy as apple pie
Apple season begins in late July and runs through October. September, in the heart of the season, is a great time to get them. The heat and humidity of the Lowcountry mean growing apples here is no small feat. Those who produce them around here have to know what they’re doing. Support the hard work local farmers put in by buying locally. Red Delicious, Jonagold, Golden Delicious and Granny Smith are all apple varieties you can find at local markets this month. If you’re having trouble finding them, a road trip to North Carolina might be necessary. The Asheville and Hendersonville areas are home to many fantastic orchards, filled with any variety you can think of.
How do you like them apples?
Carolina apples are on another level than grocery store apples. They taste better and have more health benefits. Apples found in the store can be up to a year old. They’re stored in a sealed room where the temperature is kept just above freezing, and oxygen, nitrogen and carbon levels are closely monitored to keep them in a hibernation state. Once the room is opened, they immediately start the aging process again. They’re washed and sprayed with wax before landing on grocery store shelves. Buying fresh Carolina apples is a lot less complicated. Not to mention, the fresher an apple is, the more nutritional benefits it will have. Apples lose antioxidants after just three months of storage.
Go apple picking
Pick apples straight from the trees at one of the many wonderful orchards near Asheville or Hendersonville, N.C. Prime picking season is late September and October. Sky Top Orchard near Flat Rock offers a long list of apple varieties with panoramic mountain views. The kids will enjoy a barnyard area with animals and a bamboo forest to explore. Sky Top’s apple cider doughnuts alone justify a weekend road trip. The weather there this time of year is just perfect — a fresh breath of cool, crisp air with beautiful fall colors.
An apple a day
That age-old adage has some truth to it. Apples are excellent sources of vitamin C and fiber. Fiber can lessen the effects of acid reflux. Apples also have antioxidants, which can slow the growth of cancer cells. They can boost your immune system, too – something we’re all thinking about these days. Most of the nutritional benefits are found in the skin, so you won’t want to peel them if you want all the benefits.
If you are a fan of Bold Rock Hard Cider, consider visiting its cidery when this whole pandemic mess is over. It sources 100 percent of its apples from local orchards within 35 miles of the cidery, about 20 minutes from downtown Asheville. In Bluffton, get your fix at Bee Town Mead & Cider (featured in our 2019 Crafted in the Lowcountry Guide). Visit their operation on May River Road in Bluffton for tastings, pours and bottles to go. They also rent our their chic tasting room for special events.
A really good apple pie can be (and should be) easy to make. Warm, spiced apples in a crisp and buttery crust. Don’t overthink it. Great accompaniments include ice cream or fresh whipped cream. For a taste of New England, serve a slice of Vermont sharp cheddar on top (don’t knock it until you’ve tried it).
LOCAL Life Test Kitchen – Old-fashioned apple pie
2 (9-inch) unbaked pie crusts
7 cups peeled, cored and sliced apples
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon, ground
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg, ground
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter
Directions  Heat oven to 425 degrees. Combine apples, sugar, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in a bowl.  Line a 9-inch pie plate with one unbaked pie crust. Brush with butter and fill with apple mixture. Place top pie crust, poking holes to vent. Brush with butter.  Bake for 10 minutes. Turn temperature down to 300 degrees, then bake for an additional 40 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown and the apples are tender. Cool and serve.
If you like those expensive bags of dehydrated apples at the grocery store, you are sure to love this easy method for making tasty homemade apple chips with a dehydrator. They’re good enough to make you forget about all those sugar-packed snacks in the vending machine.
LOCAL Life Test Kitchen – Apple chips
Cinnamon and sugar mixture
Directions  Slice apples into thin rounds, about 1/8 of an inch thick, leaving on the peels. Use a mandolin slicer to ensure they are the same size.  Toss slices in the cinnamon and sugar mixture.  Place slices in a single layer in your dehydrator. Dehydrate for around 8 hours at 135 degrees or to your preferred level of crispness.
Butter it up
If a trip to a Carolina orchard or a local market has left you up to your ears in fresh apples, consider this recipe for delicious apple butter. Spread it on toast, stir it into oatmeal or use it to top waffles or pancakes. You also can brush it on chicken or pork during the last few minutes of cooking, slather it on warm biscuits (our favorite) or simply set it out in a bowl with a cheese plate.
LOCAL Life Test Kitchen – Lowcountry apple butter
6 1/2 pounds sweet apples
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Directions  Peel, core and slice apples. Place in slow cooker.  Add sugars, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and vanilla to cooker. Stir.  Cook for 10 hours on low setting, stirring every two hours.  Allow to cool, then puree in a blender until smooth. Cover and refrigerate. Freeze in small containers if desired.