With autumn just around the corner, fruit fans and home cooks are turning their attention to apples. And local orchards are starting to brim with the crunchy fruit.
"They taste great, they're convenient and easy to pack in a school box lunch or even a briefcase," said Allison Parker, director of consumer health and education for the U.S. Apple Association.
According to the U.S. Apple Association, the U.S. crop is estimated to be roughly 227 million bushels this year which equates to about 92 medium apples per person.
In other words, Americans love those apples. And we use them in a variety of recipes from sweet desserts to savory concoctions such as casseroles and salads.
Parker said Americans' consumption of apples is even greater these days, "especially with people focusing on local foods."
In the region, fruit lovers can satisfy their apple appetites by visiting a variety of orchards and fruit markets in the area including County Line Orchard in Hobart, Mowry's Fruit Farm in Crown Point and Garwood Orchards in LaPorte. U-Pick opportunities are available at the orchards or you can purchase already picked fruit.
"It's the perfect time to go picking. And it's a nice way to celebrate fall," Parker said.
According to Julie Laymon, an employee at Garwood Orchards, their business gets busier every year.
"It's a family thing and people love to come out and pick apples," Laymon said. Join in the fun of celebrating the fruit at Garwood Orchards Apple Fest on Sept. 17 and 18.
Laymon said among the most popular recipes home cooks use apples for are pies and crisps.
She suggests choosing Golden Delicious and Honeycrisp for the best tasting apple pies.
If you've going picking and are looking for ways to use all those apples you've gathered, food experts say you shouldn't hesitate to experiment with various recipes beyond the traditional apple pie.
Recipes featured on the U.S. Apple Association's website are testament to the fact that the apple is a diverse companion to other ingredients.
Among recipes on the site are Cider Baked Chicken and Sausage; Apple Walnut Crostada; Bacon Apple Sliders; Apple Turkey Chili; Applesauce Breakfast Parfaits; Apple-Cran Granola Bars; Apple Cheddar Mac and Cheese; and Apple Squash Soup.
In the association's apple variety guide, people can find information on flavor, uses, texture and season.
Smokey Apple & Butternut Squash Soup
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 large onions, finely chopped (about 4-1/2 cups)
1 teaspoon chipotle chili powder
2 pounds butternut squash, peeled and cut into chunks (about 6 cups)
1 pound sweet apples, peeled and cut into chunks (about 3-1/2 cups)
1 cup apple juice (more if necessary)
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
DIRECTIONS: Heat oil and butter in large saucepan; add onions and chili powder; cook and stir until onions are tender, about 10 minutes. Add squash, apples, apple juice, chicken broth, salt and pepper; bring to boil. Cover and cook on low heat until apples and squash are very soft, about 30 minutes. Cool. Puree with an immersion blender or a food processor; return to saucepan. Add additional apple juice or broth, if needed. Garnish with toasted pecans, sour cream swirls and thin apple slices, if desired.
Makes about 7 cups.
Nutrition information per serving (1 cup): 130 calories, 23 g carbohydrate (3 g fiber), 2 g protein, 4 g fat (1.5 g saturated fat), 5 mg cholesterol, and 290 mg sodium.
Source: U.S. Apple Association
Applesauce Breakfast Parfaits
1 apple, cored and chopped
1/2 cup red grapes cut in half
2 cups chunky cinnamon or plain applesauce
2 cups granola
1 cup vanilla Greek-style yogurt
1/4 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
DIRECTIONS: Select 4 large wine glasses or serving bowls for parfaits. Combine the apple and grapes in a small bowl. Layer 1/4 cup applesauce, 1/4 granola and 2 tablespoons yogurt in each serving glass. Add fresh fruit, about 1/3 cup per serving. Repeat layers of applesauce, granola and yogurt. Sprinkle each serving with 1 tablespoon tasted walnuts. Parfaits can be made 4 hours ahead. Refrigerate until served.
Makes 4 servings (about 1-1/2 cups each)
Nutrition information per serving (1-1/2 cups): 460 calories, 68 g carbohydrate (23 percent Daily Value), 8 g fiber (32 percent Daily Value), 14 g protein, 16 g fat (25 percent Daily Value), 3 g saturated fat (15 percent Daily Value), 0 mg cholesterol, and 35 mg sodium (1 percent Daily Value).
Source: U.S. Apple Association