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Column: Spend some time in an apple orchard this fall

Autumn is synonymous with the apple harvest in Minnesota. No matter how old you are, nothing tastes better than biting into a juicy, snappy, crisp apple for an evening snack or a quick after school snack. Because of our ideal apple weather this summer, the crop is ready two to three weeks earlier than normal and the yield is above average at most of the orchards.

Apple orchards offer a large variety of apples that are ready to please the most diverse apple lover. The chestnut crab, zestar, sweettango, sweet sixteen, McIntosh, courtland and honey crisp have been ready at the orchards and the farmers' markets for several weeks now. The honey crisp and McIntosh are good for eating, salads and sauces while the courtland is good for baking as well as eating, salads and sauces. During the fall when apples are abundant, I shred apples and mix with a little lemon juice, then package them in two-cup packages for baking later on. I also slice and freeze apples in packages for apple crisp or pies during the winter.

The easiest and quickest way to preserve apples is to make applesauce and freeze it. When the children and my husband were here, I baked a lot. I always used applesauce for half of the shortening called for in a recipe. Apple sauce was a favorite with German pancakes, a Jell-O salad with red hots or a side for pork chops or roast. It's so much better than what you get in the store.

One pound of apples is four small, three medium or two large apples. Two pounds of apples are needed for one nine-inch apple pie. Two medium apples yield one cup grated apples. One bushel of apples weighs 42 pounds and will yield 18 to 20 quarts of canned applesauce.

My sister makes snacks of the little round crab apples. She washes them, takes off the flower end, leaving the stems on and puts them in a single layer in a sprayed 13x9 pan. After she fills the pan, she sprinkles sugar, cinnamon and water over the top and bakes them until they are done. When they are cooled she packs them in pint containers and pours some syrup over before freezing them. They make wonderful evening snacks all year long.

A lady asked me what apples to use if she was making apple butter. Actually, you can use any type of apple or combine several kinds. Once put through the colander the desired sweetness can be adjusted if the apples are tart or sweeter.

A reader called and said she picked a big bag of apples. She wanted to know how to store them. I told her that I store apples in my crisper in the plastic bag they come in. I place a damp washcloth or towel over them in the bag and change once a week until they are used up. I've never had a problem keeping them fresh.

Before too many of our fall days slip by and while apples are abundant, make plans to visit one of the many apple orchards in our area. You can pick your own or buy a variety that has been picked. If your time is limited stop by one of the farmers' market. The vendors are more than happy to tell you about their apples and share recipes. For more information about orchards in our area log on to Minnesota Grown for the latest report.

Apple salad

4 cups chopped cabbage

1 cup apples, unpeeled, cored and diced

1/2 cup diced celery

1/2 cup Miracle Whip

Combine in bowl and cover. Chill for several hours before serving. Yield: six servings

Spiced apple cake

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 egg, beaten

2 cups shredded apples

1/4 cup chopped walnuts

Combine flour, sugar, soda, cinnamon and salt. Beat eggs and combine with apples. Fold into dry mixture. Fold in chopped walnuts. Pour in 8 x 8 sprayed baking pan. Bake in 350 degree oven for 25 to 30 minutes.

Carmel sauce

1/2 cup brown sugar

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Dash of salt

1 cup water

1 tablespoon butter

1/4 teaspoon vanilla

Combine sugar, flour, salt, cinnamon and water and boil for 2 minutes and thick. Stir in butter and vanilla. Pour over cake while still warm. Yield: 10 servings