While apples have been at the markets since late July, come December they can be soft and mealy. In January a whole new apple world opens up. When orchards pick apples in the fall, some go to the market, some get stored to be used through December, and still others go into Controlled Atmosphere (CA) storage. CA storage nearly halts the ripening process so that apples coming out of storage are as perfect as you remember them in October. This is the time of year that most orchards take their apples out of storage (feel free to ask an orchard if you're unsure).
I tried a Samascott Orchards apple recently at Dag Hammarskjöld Greenmarket and was floored: gone was that mealy, unappealing rendering of an apple that I had had just a few weeks prior. This apple, a Macoun, was wonderfully crisp and tart. My mind thought of orange leaves on the trees and pumpkin pie. This is the kind of apple you want to leave on the desk of your favorite teacher.
• At Samascott Orchards, Kinderhook, NY: most apple varieties, $1/lb; eggs, $2.50/dozen; apple and pumpkin pies, $3.75; apple cake, $1.25/slice.
• At Buone Pane, Secaucus, NJ: muffins, $1.50 or 4 for $5; focaccia (mushroom, spinach and gorgonzola; tomato, artichoke and goat cheese; eggplant, artichoke and hummus), $3.75 or 2 for $6; baguettes, $3; Tuscan wheat, $3.
You can find Samascott Orchards year-round at Columbia, Thursdays and Sundays, Dag Hammarskjöld, Wednesdays and Union Square, Fridays, in Manhattan.
Columbia Greenmarket is located at 114th and Broadway in Manhattan and is open year-round, Thursdays and Sundays, 8am - 6pm.