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Abundance of apples This year's bumper crop features small but sweet fruit, suitable for baking, cooking or just enjoying as a snack

Good things come in small packages. That's especially true if we're talking about New York State apples. Especially true if we're talking about this year's crop of New York apples.

Spokesmen for the New York Apple Association are saying that the 2005 harvest now under way is outstanding -- the apples are much sweeter then normal.

Abundant sunshine, which increases the sugar content in fruit, gets the credit. But lots of sunshine means less rain, and the absence of rain this year means that much of this year's fruit will be smaller.

"That 90-degree weather in July and August sort of shut the tree down and kept the apples from growing," explains Daniel W. Sievert of Burt, who owns Niagara Orchards and Lakeview Orchards, about 2400 acres between them.

Remember last summer when it never stopped raining? Last year, the apples were larger. Somehow, we don't think you want to trade.

New York is an apple state, though, no matter what the weather. With 695 orchards producing an average of 25 million bushels of fruit a year, we are the second largest producers in the country behind the state of Washington.

But New York has an important distinction. We grow more varieties of apples than Washington ever thought of. We grow more varieties, in fact, than anywhere else in the country. There's an apple for everyone in New York State. Well over 30 varieties, probably, though some are somewhat obscure.

Each apple variety has its own harvesting season. Jerseymacs, Paulareds, Jonamacs and Gingergolds have already been harvested and are pretty much gone. But soon we'll start seeing Galas, McIntoshes and Cortlands.

Here's a guide to what to expect from now on. Most of these can be purchased in supermarkets.

Currently available:

Gala: Yellow-red color. Developed in New Zealand. With a very sweet flavor, they're good for eating and salads.

McIntosh: The most abundant and most popular variety in the state, Macs are sweet but have a good, tart tang to them. Pretty much an all-purpose apple, they are good for eating and sauce. Even good for salads and pies.

Cortland: The best for salads because they stay white.

Honeycrisp: Considered the apple of the future. Plantings increase every year. Yellow flesh, complex flavor; texture is always described as "explosive."

From the end of the month through early October:

Macoun: Very sweet and very aromatic; white flesh.

Empire: Introduced at the New York Experiment Station in Geneva with high hopes of it taking over from the McIntosh. A mix of McIntosh and Red Delicious is an-all purpose apple. The second most popular apple in the state.

Golden Delicious: A mild yellow apple that is good for eating as well as for pies.

And toward the end of the month will come:

Crispin: Originally called a Mutsu, this apple is green and delicious. It's an all-purpose apple, as well.

Idared: A red, time-honored variety first raised in Penn Yan. Wonderful for baked apples.

Rome: Sometimes called the Rome Beauty. A dark red apple with a medium tart taste.

Northern Spies: A tart apple perfect for pies.

But there are plenty of other varieties, too Like Rhode Island Greenings (for pie and other cooking) and Lady Apples (rosy apples that are sweet and excellent for decorative use) -- check roadside stands and farmers' markets.

Everybody knows apples made wonderful, healthful snacks and great desserts but fewer people cook with them. Here are three great recipes to try -- change apple varieties to suit your own supply and taste.

> Pork Fajitas with Apple Salsa

Apple Salsa:

3 Unpeeled Empire or Cortland apples, cooked and diced

1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered

1 small ripe avocado, peeled and diced

3 green onions, sliced

1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro leaves

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon lime juice

1 teaspoon mimced jalapeno pepper or more to taste

1 clove garlic, minced

Salt and pepper

Marinade:

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1/4 cup water

Juice of one lime

2 cloves garlic minced

3 teaspoons cilantro leaves, minced

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Black pepper and salt

Pork Wraps:

1 pound pork tenderloin or lean pork roast

8 Flour tortillas

Combine salsa ingredients in bowl and mix well. Cover and refrigerate several hours or overnight to meld flavors.

Combine marinade ingredients and mix well. Place pork in large sealable plastic bag and cover with marinade. Cover and refrigerate for several hours, turning occasionally.

Preheat grill. Drain marinated pork, save excess marinade. Place pork on grill and brush with reserved marinade. (Discard plastic bar with remaining marinade.)

Grill over hot coals or high heat, turning frequently for 8 to 10 minutes, until internal temperature reads 155 to 160 degrees. Remove from heat.

Wrap tortillas in foil, heat on upper grill rack for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, cut pork diagonally across the grain into thin slices. Arrange pork slices and 2 or 3 tablespoons of salsa in the center of tortilla. Fold bottom half of the tortilla over filling and overlap side on the top. Arrange on serving plate. Makes 4 servings.

> Ginger Apple Stir Fry

1 pound skinless boneless chicken breast, cut into strips

2 teaspoons vegetable oil

4 green onions, sliced

1 cup snow peas

1 small red pepper, cut into strips

1 garlic clove, minced

10 shiitake and/or white mushrooms sliced

1 to 2 teaspoons sesame oil

Freshly ground black pepper

1/3 cup applesauce, unsweetened

1/3 cup chicken broth or water

2 tablespoons cider vinegar

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon cornstarch

Sliced unpeeled apples for garnish

Heat vegetable oil in nonstick skillet or wok. Add chicken and cook stirring in hot oil until it becomes opaque all the way through. Remove chicken from skillet.

Add vegetables and sesame oil to skillet. Cook, stirring until tender crisp. Sprinkle with pepper.

Combine applesauce, soy sauce, vinegar and cornstarch and chicken broth, stirring to dissolve cornstarch.

Replace chicken in skillet, add sauce mixture and cook until sauce is thickened and clear. Serve over rice. Makes 4 servings.

> Apple Puff Omelet

2 large Crispin apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced

1/4 cup butter

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

4 large eggs, separated

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

1 tablespoon confectioners' sugar, optional

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Heat butter in medium skillet and saute apples for 5 minutes over low heat. Mix the brown sugar and cinnamon together and sprinkle over the apples. Toss and continue to saute apples for about 10 minutes until they caramelize. The mixture will be thick and syrupy. Spoon mixture into an 8 x 8-inch baking dish and keep hot in the oven.

Whisk egg yolks and granulated sugar until fairly thick. Beat egg whites in a large bowl with cream of tartar until stiff and shiny. Fold into yolk mixture, a third at a time.

Pour eggs over apples and bake for 8 to 10 minutes. The omelet will be puffed and golden.

Remove from oven and sprinkle with confectioners' sugar. Serve immediately. Makes 2 to 4 servings.

e-mail: jokun@buffnews.com

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