As I walk across the Wolff’s parking lot, it occurs to me that it has been raining for days. It makes the atmosphere of the market a little damp, but that doesn’t stop the crowds from visiting the store in search of apples. I suppose it’s part of the experience. It isn’t often that you can pick up an apple from a bin and know that all this crazy weather you’ve been walking through, for better or worse, has contributed to the size, texture, and flavor of this wonderful piece of fruit.
Wolff’s current selection of apples include Summer Rambo, Akane, Mollies Delicious, Jona Mac, Gala, Honeycrisp, Golden Supreme, McIntosh, and Cortland.
It’s still a little early for local apples, but there are some varieties coming in from Lancaster and Avondale. Steve Rosazza is already harvesting Gala, and Richard Hass is now picking a very delicious variety called Golden Supreme. Very soon, the options will become dizzying as Wolff’s expands their displays with mountains of apples ranging from the subtle to the extravagant.
However, the first thing I learn upon sampling the selection with Ashley Wolff (a fifth generation Wolff) is that I have much to learn about apples. As it turns out, Ashley Wolff knows more about apples than I do.
Before I can even comment on my favorites, she informs me that the McIntosh variety has arrived. That makes two new varieties added since my tasting last weekend. JonaMac came in mid-week.
“Akane is an Okay apple. But it gets over-ripe too quickly. Mollies Delicious are too soft. Gala are too mild. I love the texture of Honeycrisp, but Golden Supremes are one of my favorites for flavor and texture!” she exclaims with a vibrant certainty that only comes with experience. It becomes apparent that Ashley has tasted every single variety that has been sold here.
“What is your favorite?” I ask. After a brief pause, she provides just the sort of answer I would expect from a true omnivore. “It’s tough. I would probably pick a different apple for every two week period.” she says.
It is the integrity of this answer that reveals why people come from all over to shop for apples here. They know the Wolff’s have years of tasting experience and the desire to sell not only apples, but inspiration.
Looking over my notes, it occurs to me that a list of adjectives may not be an accurate way to describe or help people understand apples. Apples have just about as many subtleties as wine. With this in mind, I would like to encourage those interested in truly enjoying apples to visit the store and select a variety of apples to take home and try. Invite friends and family over. Have a blind tasting! After you’ve had your fill, I guarantee you’ll feel differently about that same old apple you’ve been buying for years. Trust me. Trust Ashley. She probably knows more about apples than you, too.
Once you’ve had your tasting, I imagine you will have some random bits of apple around. For this, I recommend making apple sauce. It requires little effort and produces a delicious accompaniment to pork.
This recipe is from Mark Bittman’s book, How to Cook Everything Vegetarian.
- 5 pounds apples, preferably a mixture of varieties
- Cut the apples in half or, if they're very large, in quarters. If you don't have a food mill, peel and core. Put about ½ inch of water and a pinch of salt in the bottom of a large pot and add apples. Cover and turn the heat to medium.
- When the water begins to boil, uncover the pot. Cook, stirring occasionally and lowering the heat if the mixture threatens to burn on the bottom, until the apples break down and become mushy, at least 30 minutes. Let sit until cool enough to handle.
- If you have a food mill, pass the mixture through it, discarding the solids that stay behind. If not, mash if you like with a fork or potato masher. Freeze or refrigerate.