Story and photo by Angie Sutton
Winter gave us a bit of a break the past few days. On my way to the car wash to chip away at the muck which has accumulated on (and in) my van since before we moved, I happened to drive by the market. Window marker on the expanse of glass lining the front of the shop detailed what was available.
On a whim I turned around and went back to the shop. The apples called to me. Green ones, pink ones, red ones and yellow ones. Not being able to pick just one variety, I selected several of each with a few recipes in mind. Apples aren’t “in season” now but the choice includes some quality standard varieties that make a nice addition to your dish.
Coincidentally my husband had just received an email from the Kansas Pork Association with a recipe he wanted to try. The Braised Pork Medallions with Apples was a simple dish to create and fairly quick to prepare. We experimented with three different apples and found that the Golden Delicious apple held up well during the cooking process but overall the Jonagold had a better taste. The Fuji apple was a close third.
At Westside Market in Manhattan, Kansas, owner Terry Olson likes the Missouri Jonathan when it is in season, from late September through November. The tart flavor is appealing, and it holds its shape well when cooked. She then switches to Granny Smith apples for the rest of the year. Terry suggests blending different types of apples in a recipe to provide a robust combination of flavors.
As I filled my bag of apples I asked Terry what I should be looking for. Her rule-of-thumb is to select apples that seem firm and heavy for their size. In the fall, look for apples that are from your region. In late spring to summer, apples from the Southern hemisphere will be the freshest.
All apples are not created equal—at least when it comes to cooking versus eat them fresh. But regardless of the variety, they are all good for you. A medium apple, about the size of a baseball, contains about four grams of fiber. Apples also offer a bit of vitamin C and potassium. Two popular choices in recent years are the Honeycrisp and Fuji because of their dependable flavor and crispness. For those on special diets, be sure to research which are higher in sugar content.
Texture is key. When baking with apples, you need to keep in mind that texture is important to enjoyment of the finished product. Good baking apples have a balance of intense sweet-tart flavor and will not fall apart when thrown in the oven. Sometimes though, baked apples don’t taste so great raw. Likewise, pairing apples with a meat dish may come down to personal taste bud preference of whether you like sweet or tart. So feel free to experiment!
Braised Pork Medallions with Apples
Source: Kansas Pork Association, www.eatpork.org.
1 pork tenderloin, sliced into 8 pieces
Mix the pepper and pumpkin pie spice together in a small bowl. Season medallions with the mix. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat; brown pork on both sides, remove from pan and reserve. Add onion and apples to the skillet, saute until just soft. Add apple cider to skillet, heat to a simmer. Return pork medallions to the pan, cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Serves 4.
Apron Strings Notes: We doubled the recipe and used our electric skillet to prepare this dish. It is easy to overcook your apples so keep that in mind during the saute process. We cut ours into wedges which looked nice and held up well. Toss in 1/2 cup finely chopped pecans when you saute the apples and onions for added crunch. Serve with prepared wild rice or a green salad.
This could easily be a dessert with ice cream or pair it with pork chops.
1/4 c. margarine
Melt margarine in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Add apples and turn to coat with the margarine. Cook until transparent (8 to 10 minutes depending on thickness). Meanwhile, mix sugar and cinnamon and then sprinkle evenly on apples, covering both sides. Continue to cook another 3 to 5 minutes.
This delicious treat can be coarsely mashed and served with pork chops or pureed into regular applesauce. You can add a bit more sugar and cinnamon to suit your tastes. Macintosh, Gala or Fuji would be good for this recipe.
5 apples, peeled and chopped
Melt butter in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Add apples and saute 5 minutes. Stir in lemon zest, lemon juice, sugar, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1 cup water; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, 45 minutes or until apples are tender. Remove from heat, let rest 10 to 15 minutes, mash to your desired consistency. Blend to puree if you wish.
Some recipes are more involved, but this simple version is quick to whip up and stick in the oven while you’re preparing the rest of the meal. Leave the peels on if you like! This recipe is easy to double (use a 9- by 13-inch baking pan) or to cut in half (use a small casserole dish). Granny Smith apples are tasty in this dish, but you may want to toss them in a tablespoon or two of granulated sugar. Braeburn and Gala are good choices as well.
4 apples, peeled and sliced
Preheat oven to 375 F. Spray bottom and sides of 8-inch square baking dish with cooking spray. Spread apples evenly in bottom of pan. In a bowl, stir remaining ingredients together (or use your hands to combine). Sprinkle over apples. Bake 30 minutes or until top is golden brown.
Apple Varieties Quick Guide
1 lb. of apples = 2 large, 3 medium or 4 to 5 small apples
1 lb. of apples = 3 c. peeled and sliced apples
Gala—Extra sweet, great for apple salads, drying and cider
Jonathan—Tangy, tart, crisp, the best choice for pies and sauce
Honeycrisp—sweet, tart, crisp, great for salads and pies or just to eat raw
Golden Delicious—sweet, juicy, okay for pies but add a bit of lemon juice
Jonagold—sweet, tart, juice, make a sweet pie or a tasty sauce
Macintosh—fruity, juicy, a little softer, great for applesauce
Red Delicious—crunchy, sweet, juicy, not a good apple for cooking, can be eaten raw but texture is a bit grainy
Cameo—tart, crisp, juicy, cooks okay
Fuji—sweet, crisp, juicy, cooks okay but add a bit of lemon juice
Granny Smith—tart, very crisp, juicy, great for pies or in recipes with spicy notes, holds shape well in cooking process
Braeburn—extremely crisp, tart, holds shape well in cooking process and tastes great in sauce
Pink Lady—extremely crisp, tart, does okay holding shape when cooked, great to eat raw
Source: Westside Market, Manhattan, Kansas, and other sources.