Apples, lots of apples. We had boxes of Rome and Granny Smiths from local growers and packing houses. I received an email after the Pomodoros vs Admiral event questioning how the apples could have been local since they were out of season. My reply was – “only through a lot of hard searching and perseverance”!
I had started several weeks early when we had identified the next secret ingredient, looking in local stores and searching markets. I had just cleared my “root cellar” of last year’s apples and I knew that they could still be available if properly stored, but where to find them. The logical answer was Hendersonville! Well known for its Apple Festival (http://tiny.cc/ujo9d) and as a major producer of apples for processing and juices, if apples could be found, they should be there.
I know I needed a cooking apple, one that was firm and tart. I started by checking with the NC Apple Growers (http://www.ncapples.com/) and after calling a few growers and learning that they did not store apples over winter, I decided that more assistance was needed. I then called the Hendersonville Extension Service and after speaking to an extension agent, who was actually working in a growers field that morning, he gave me a few names of packers who might have what I needed.
A few more phone calls and internet searches I located Allan Henderson of Henderson’s Best and C.L. Henderson Produce in Hendersonville (www.hendersonsbest.com/). Yes, they had apples in cold storage and would be glad to be a sponsor of the Chefs Challenge. Their facility covered many acres of storage, processing and shipping buildings. They also package snap beans, cucumbers, bell peppers, yellow squash, decorative gourds, mini pumpkins, Indian Corn and over sixty various apples products from cider, juice, chutneys, chow-chow and Apple Tree Chips for use in “smoking” meats. Read more about this challenge at (http://tiny.cc/d8bus).
Just a note about this latest challenge. I’m always learning more about food than I ever thought I could. One of the foods used was Farro (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Farro). It was described to me as wheat that was harvested while green and dried. Someone mentioned that it was referenced in the Bible. Another term was” ras el hanout” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ras_el_hanout), a North African blend of spices that is unique to each chef. It is amazing what you can find in the many wonderful kitchens here in WNC!