Niles Caramel Apple Tour
One might not think of plastic-wrapped caramel apples as local or even fresh, but a factory tour of the Niles Affy Tapple company and its regally gourmet sibling, Mrs. Prindable’s, suggested otherwise. The apples themselves are sometimes sourced from Michigan (although more often Washington and California) and, on the less-expensive Affy Tapple side, change variety with seasonal availability. The caramel is made in house and the chocolate at Blommer in Chicago.
Because it’s hard to keep an apple fresh and its caramel jacket solid during long-range shipment, distribution is more often regional than national. Once poked by the stick (and they even have a special stick-poking machine!), the apple begins oxidizing its way to ruin. Then, it’s just a matter of days at room temperature until the skewered product becomes unsalable. For whatever reason, stickless gourmet apples don’t sell as well as their besticked cousins.
And Prindable’s takes its decorated Granny Smith apples very seriously. We watched employees hand drizzle black and white chocolate over the monstrous fruit (up to 4.5 inches diameter) in a chilled room, adding more chocolate or pecans to some, candy bits to others . At prices ranging from the mid-$20s and way way up from there, Mrs. Prindable’s has cornered the high-end apple market around here. Their finished products include purple and gold royal ribbons, small toys and various knick-knacks attached to the stick that serve as holiday and corporate gifts. Eating these works of art seemed a shame, but they were pretty darn good. In theory, one large apple can serve more than half a dozen people, each of whom must have a sense of restraint.
As good as the Prindable’s apples looked, the Affy Tapples smelled better. Walking through the caramel mixers was a heady experience, as the overwhelming buttery smell of the hot, gooey sweetness enticed us to jump into the bowls, mouths wide open. The automated dipper and nut rolling equipment was magical to behold. The smell of crushed peanuts competed with the batches of fresh caramel for dominance in our noses.
The company does not offer public tours, so this special blogger-only tour was a real treat. For another viewpoint, click here. Apples can be purchased on QVC, in stores and at www.mrsprindables.com or www.affytapple.com.