A New Apple of Your Eye

It won’t be long before people will start harvesting apples from their backyard trees. Some of those who have a cool place to store the apples will be enjoying good eating for two to three months down the road. Others, perhaps, will freeze some or make apple pie in a jar for later use. And once the home-grown apples are gone, it’s off to the supermarket until next fall.

Perhaps later this winter, there will be a new kid on the apple block in local supermarkets. It’s called SweeTango. Growers are about to introduce the new apple as a successor to the Honeycrisp, which along with SweeTango, was developed at the University of Minnesota. It’s a cross of the Honeycrisp with Zestar!, another U of M variety.

According to a university apple breeder, SweeTango has inherited Honeycrisp’s texture, and it actually has more flavor than Honeycrisp, which was big hit in the apple industry and is sold for about $1 more a pound than other varieties because its taste and texture are so good. SweeTango investors, who’ve formed a cooperative to grow and sell it nationwide, are hoping for the same reaction.

The new apple variety will begin showing up in some Minnesota farmers markets this weekend and arrive in selected grocery stores around the Twin Cities, Seattle and Rochester, N.Y., a few days later. If all goes according to plan, the apple should be available nationwide in 2011 or 2012, said Tim Byrne, who’s president of the cooperative and vice president of sales and marketing for Pepin Heights Orchards in southeastern Minnesota.

Another asset, Byrne said, is SweeTango is ready in early September. Very few premium apples come out then, when produce managers are eager for something new to start the fall season, Byrne said.

In the meantime, here’s a recipe for an apple fruit tart to try, from "Savoring the Seasons of the Northern Heartland" by Beth Dooley and Lucia Watson, which you make using your home-grown fare. 

Apple Harvest Fruit Tart
3 cups flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
2 egg yolks
6 to 7 tablespoons ice water
1 cup chopped dried prunes
1 cup chopped dried apricots
½ cup golden raisins
1 cup peeled, chopped apples
1/3 cup sugar
½ cup chopped walnuts
¼ cup melted butter
2/3 cup Grand Marnier or orange juice
To prepare the crust: In a large bowl, mix together flour and sugar. Cut in the butter to make soft, small crumbs. Stir in the egg yolks and then add the water, 1 tablespoon at a time, to make a soft dough. Gather the dough into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least an hour.
To prepare the tart: Roll out half of the tart-crust dough and line a 10-inch tart pan; refrigerate.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Place the dried prunes, apricots and raisins in a medium-size saucepan and add just enough water to cover the fruit. Bring to a boil, cover the pan, and cook for about 20 minutes, or until the fruit is very soft. Drain the fruit and cool slightly.
Add the apples, sugar, walnuts, butter and Grand Marnier or orange juice and stir until the sugar is melted. Heap the filling into the tart pan. Roll out and cut the remaining dough into strips and make a lattice top, crimping the edges. Bake for about 30 to 35 minutes. Remove from oven and cool slightly before serving.
Yield: Serves 12.
Approximage nutritional analysis per serving: 473 calories, 24 grams fat (13 grams saturated), 141 milligrams sodium, 58 grams carbohydrates, 35 milligrams calcium, 6 grams protein, 3 grams dietary fiber.