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From the creators of Honeycrisp, SweeTango apples crop up

Friday, October 12, 2012

A new variety of apple- SweeTango- is showing up in Chicago restaurants and grocery stores.

Agricultural researchers at the University of Minnesota brought us the Honeycrisp, and that variety of apple was a hit, to be sure. Their latest creation, SweeTango, is a one-of-a-kind hybrid that brings together two very unique breeds: Honeycrisp and Zestar.

This is the third year in a row apple growers across the country are contending with the new kid on the block. From Michigan farms to Chicago's restaurant scene, the SweeTango has captivated the industry.

"Once it becomes the proper quality -- sweet enough, firm enough, juicy enough, the right color, the right appearance -- then it becomes branded as a SweeTango apple," said Trever Meachum, owner of the High Acres Fruit Farm in Michigan. "Brings the crunch and the texture of the Honeycrisp and it brings in awesome flavor complex from the Zestar apple."

Meachum says it takes years to develop a new variety.. always the result of a random cross. But this time around, he and other growers are hoping to change people's snacking habits.

"We want people to pick up a SweeTango apple and say, 'you know what, this isn't something that competes against an apple, this competes against a Snickers or a bag of chips. This is our new snack food."

In Logan Square, both chefs at Telegraph are excited about the prospect of working with SweeTangos.. From the savory side, it's an issue of balance.

"Right off the bat, super crunchy, nice, smooth, even flavor," said Telegraph chef John Anderes.

It works well with finely-chopped and sauteed vegetables that have been deglazed in a hot pan with calvados - an apple-based liqueur.. eventually making their way over a roasted and seared pork belly, sitting on a schmear of butternut squash; a salad of celery leaves and dried SweeTangos finishes it off, giving the dish extra crunch.

On the sweet side of the kitchen, the apples are peeled and sliced, added to mini pie-tins along with layers of gooey caramel and a crumble made from cinnamon, sugar, chopped hazelnuts and oats.

"It has a great texture for eating raw, but it also, when you cut big enough slices out of it, it bakes really, really well without losing its former structure; it doesn't break down too much in the baking process," said Telegraph pastry chef Katie Wyer.

It takes approximately 15 years to cross, grow, develop and test a new apple variety, before it can be marketed.

SweeTango apples are available at some Dominick's stores

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