Apple turn over: It’s how you tell if its fresh

Friday, November 9, 2012, Vol. 36, No. 45

Last weekend, Don and I attended a church dinner party at the home of a friend, where I ate a piece of cake – actually, I ate three pieces of cake, but they were cut into small squares – that was so delicious. Had we stayed long enough, I would have probably finished it off.

Seriously, this was a super apple cake, and when I asked for the recipe, the cook told me that it was in our church cookbook, which I happen to have a copy of, so that is what you get today. After looking further, this is the same recipe my mom has made before, too, and it is a family favorite!

All the apple displays in the markets look so tasty. I can hardly walk by them without buying a few just because of the pretty pink, red, yellow and green colors stacked up so high and looking so good.

But this also makes me pause somewhat and wonder if they’re fresh. An apple, as we all know, can look good sitting out on a table for, geez, I guess at least a month. And when they have been in cold storage, they can last a pretty long time.

So, I delved into apple freshness and what we, as consumers, should be aware of before purchasing. More than once, I have purchased some pretty good-looking apples, but once I got them home, they were mealy-tasting, so they got pitched right out to the birds and squirrels, who really don’t care.

Searching for information on the Internet about apples was a bit more time-consuming than I realized it would be. First, you have to dig through all of the MAC, iPod, iPad and iPhone stuff before you can find something on eating apples instead of talking or typing on one. However, here are a few facts I found on various websites about apples and their freshness:

Apples are harvested once a year, stored in cold storage (to prevent the ethylene they emit from rotting them) and then brought out over the course of the winter until the next harvest. This is so we can have apples year around, which, actually, we expect.

How to spot the freshness factor: It might smell like an apple, look like an apple and be firm and un-bruised – but does that mean it’s fresh? Not necessarily, so here’s a simple test: Turn it over and look at the blossom end. If the blossom is closed tightly, it’s fresh. If it’s opened up, it’s not. As an apple ages, the blossom opens up. You might find some apples with a dry, tan or brown-colored areas on the skin. This is known as “scald” and usually has no effect on the flavor.

The fiber in apples helps to keep you full. If you have a craving for something sweet, eat an apple. The craving will go away and you’ll stay full for some time. Some people think eating an apple before dinner helps them eat less – perhaps a good trick to try before dinner parties where you might be tempted to over-indulge. (Maybe I should have eaten an apple before I ate the apple cake).

Even though apples are beautiful, and when you buy them, you might be like me and store them in a pretty bowl on the table. This is a no-no if you want them to last. To retain their freshness, they need to be stored in 30 to 40 degree temperatures (refrigerated). However, I’m not keen on cold fruits. I like almost all my fruits at room temp. So I guess to keep my apples fresh for eating, I need to start getting one out of the fridge about 30 minutes before I plan on eating them.

Fresh Apple Cake with Caramel Sauce

1/2 cup of butter, softened

3/4 cup of sugar

1 egg

1 cup of all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon of baking soda

1/2 teaspoon of ground nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon

2 cups of chopped and peeled tart apples

1/2 cup of chopped walnuts


1/2 cup of packed brown sugar

2 tablespoons of cornstarch

1/2 cup of light corn syrup

1/4 cup of half-and-half cream or evaporated milk

1/4 cup of butter, cubed

1/4 teaspoon of salt

1 egg, lightly beaten

In a small bowl, cream the butter and sugar until they’re light and fluffy. Beat in the egg. Combine the flour, baking soda, nutmeg and cinnamon; gradually add to the creamed mixture and mix well. Stir in the apples and walnuts. Pour into a greased 8-inch square baking dish. Bake at 350° for 30 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.

Meanwhile, for the caramel sauce, combine the brown sugar and cornstarch in a saucepan. Add the remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil; cook and stir until thickened – about three minutes. Serve the cake warm or cold with warm caramel sauce. Also great with a dollop of Cool Whip.