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McIntosh Meets Cardamom

The view from North Star Orchards, Madison, Maine, in mid-October. Like many New England orchards, North Star's farm store will remain open until Christmas. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

The view from North Star Orchards, Madison, Maine, in mid-October. Like many New England orchards, North Star’s farm store will remain open until Christmas. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Scandinavian Apple Cake (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Scandinavian Apple Cake (Russell Steven Powell photo)

VERSATILE as apples are, I have not come across many recipes that combine them with the sweet spice cardamom. Though native to India, Guatemala is now the leading producer of cardamom, an unusual spice that is often featured in Scandinavian baked goods.

My fondness for cardamom dates back to childhood, when my mother made a braided Scandinavian coffee bread every Christmas flavored with this distinctive spice. She always made breads to give away in addition to the loaves inhaled by our family of six, to family, friends, even the postman and milkman some years.

The coffee bread was highly aromatic, moist, and chewy, and it came served with butter topped by a thin layer of almond extract-tinged icing decorated with candied cherries and finely chopped walnut pieces. But it was the cardamom that gave the bread its distinctive bite.

In making the recipe below I followed my mother’s method of peeling whole cardamom seeds from their whitish husks, and grinding them by hand with mortar and pestle to the consistency of coarse pepper. This worked to great effect in her bread — you could see little shards of cardamom bursting with intense cardamom flavor — and whole seeds kept in glass jars keep their flavor longer.

But the cardamom flavor in the cake I made was too mild using this technique, overshadowed by the pecans. I subsequently read that finely ground cardamom is the preferred consistency for most baked goods, infusing them with stronger cardamom flavor than the rougher mortar-and-pestle-crushed seeds.

This Scandinavian Apple Cake recipe was adapted from one given to my mother by Trish Leipold of Wolfeboro Falls, New Hampshire, years ago; my mother only recently passed it along to me.

I made a few mistakes in my first attempt, corrected here. Further chopping of the cubed apples will improve the cake’s texture and make it moister by releasing more of the apples’ juice. The apple’s skin, incidentally, included for nutritional purposes, adds flavor and color to the cake.

I used three McIntosh and two Golden Delicious apples. The cake is delicious, and definitely merits another try.

Scandinavian Apple Cake

1 c white flour

1 c whole wheat flour

2 t cinnamon

1 t baking powder

1 t baking soda

⅔ t ground allspice

¼ t ground cardamom

pinch of salt

 

5 medium-sized New England apples, cored and chopped

½ c sugar

1 c chopped pecans or walnuts

⅔ c butter, melted

2 eggs, slightly beaten

2 t vanilla

 

Preheat oven to 350°. Grease a 9”x13” baking dish.

In large bowl, combine flours, baking powder, baking soda, and spices. Set aside.

In another large bowl, mix together apples, sugar, nuts, and butter. Using a food chopper or processor, make apple pieces about the size of peas. Stir in eggs and vanilla.

Add dry ingredients to apple mixture, stirring just until combined. Spread into prepared baking dish and bake for 30 minutes or until the apples are soft and a toothpick inserted in the cake comes clean.

***

THIS SUNDAY, November 23, from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. author Russell Steven Powell will sample apples, answer questions, and sign copies of his new book, Apples of New England, at Tags Hardware in the Porter Square Shopping Center, 29 White St., Cambridge, Massachusetts.

'Apples of New England' by Russell Steven PowellAPPLES OF NEW ENGLAND (Countryman Press, 2014), a history of apple growing in New England, includes photographs and descriptions of more than 200 apple varieties discovered, grown, or sold in the region. Separate chapters feature the “fathers” of American wild apple, Massachusetts natives John Chapman (“Johnny Appleseed”) and Henry David Thorea; the contemporary orchard of the early 21st century; and rare apples, many of them photographed from the preservation orchard at Tower Hill Botanic Garden in Boylston, Massachusetts.

Powell is senior writer for the nonprofit New England Apple Association after serving as its executive director from 1998 to 2011. Photographer Bar Lois Weeks is the Association’s current executive director.

Available in bookstores everywhere.

'America's Apple' coverAMERICA’S APPLE, (Brook Hollow Press, 2012) Powell’s and Weeks’s first book, provides an in-depth look at how apples are grown, eaten, and marketed in America, with chapter on horticulture, John Chapman (aka Johnny Appleseed), heirloom apples, apples as food, apple drinks, food safety insects and disease, labor, current trends, and apple futures, with nearly 50 photographs from orchards around the country.

The hardcover version lists for $45.95 and includes a photographic index of 120 apple varieties cultivated in the United States. America’s Apple is also available in paperback, minus the photograph index, for $19.95, and as an ebook.

Available at numerous bookstores and orchards, and Silver Street MediaAmazon.comBarnes and Noble, and other online sources. For quantity discounts, email newenglandapples@verizon.net.

 

 

 

 

Fresh apples for sampling at Clarkdale Fruit Farms, Deerfield, Massachusetts, during Franklin County CiderDays. (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Fresh apples for sampling at Clarkdale Fruit Farms, Deerfield, Massachusetts, during Franklin County CiderDays  (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

TWICE A DAY at least I reach into a paper bag in my refrigerator and pull out an apple. It could be any color, size, or shape — I like to be surprised. I take an apple on my morning and afternoon walks, where it can be savored in its natural environment, without distraction.

An apple is perfect for walking, clean and compact, fitting neatly in my pocket, giving me a sweet energy boost and fresh juice along the way. Apples work on all the senses, beautiful to behold (especially in contrast with November’s muted landscape) and lightly perfuming the air, their smooth, round or conical shape weighing comfortably in my hand.

While the last New England apples have been picked, the bounty of the harvest will last until late spring, at least. During the fresh harvest I was able to amass a wide variety of my favorite apples from around New England, which will supply my walks at least through Thanksgiving.

From my orchard visits in October I picked up small bags of Baldwin, Northern Spy, Rhode Island Greening, plus Honeycrisp, Jonagold, and McIntosh. I had some Gala, Empire, Macoun, and a few Silken left over from our booth at the Eastern States Exposition (“The Big E”) in September.

One bag is filled with heirloom varieties like Esopus Spitzenburg, Ribston Pippin, and Roxbury Russet. There are a few loose stragglers on the refrigerator’s shelves, a Golden Delicious one day, Suncrisp the next. I never know what I will retrieve when I reach in.

Jonagold apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Jonagold apple            (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Monday I ate a Jonagold in the morning, and a Macoun in the afternoon — two of my favorite fresh eating apples. There are mixed reports about the storage qualities of Jonagold, a 1968 cross of Golden Delicious and Jonathan, but this one, purchased a month ago, held up beautifully, crisp and loaded with juice, with its characteristic flavor, sweet with a little tartness.

Macoun apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Macoun apple                  (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

After a similar time in storage, the Macoun, the offspring of McIntosh and Jersey Black parents introduced in 1923, remained crisp, and its flavor was rich and complex, with its spicy, strawberry notes more pronounced than ever.

Tuesday I ate two heirlooms, McIntosh from Canada (1801), and Northern Spy (1840 New York, from seeds from Connecticut).

McIntosh apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

McIntosh apple             (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

The Mac was outstanding, early in its flavor “arc” that sees the apple gradually sweeten and soften over several months. It had been two months since this McIntosh was harvested, and much of the apple’s tartness remained intact, giving it a rich flavor as beguiling as fresh-picked and spicier, more complex.

Northern Spy apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Northern Spy apple         (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

The pink Northern Spy was huge, firm, and juicy, its initial tartness gradually transforming into something broader and deeper. It is easy to see why this apple was a favorite for nearly a century despite being somewhat unreliable and difficult to grow, as it stores well, and is equally good for fresh eating and baking.

I began Wednesday with a giant Honeycrisp that had been sitting in the crisper drawer for about two months.

Honeycrisp apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Honeycrisp apple             (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

While still juicy, its flavor was unexceptional, certainly nothing like what the apple has become famous for since it hit the marketplace in 1991, from a 1961 cross of Keepsake and an unnamed seedling at the University of Minnesota.

Some Honeycrisp store better than others, depending on where they were grown and when they were picked, but it is an apple that is appreciably better eaten fresh. A good Honeycrisp can also be almost solid pink-red in color, much like Northern Spy.

Baldwin apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Baldwin apple                 (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

I ended the day with a Baldwin, one of New England’s oldest varieties, dating back to 1740 in Wilmington, Massachusetts. Baldwin was the region’s most popular apple for nearly a century before McIntosh’s ascendancy in the early 1900s.

The Baldwin I ate was the crispest and tartest of the six apples I tasted during the three days (it may have been the last of these varieties to be picked). Beneath its round, nearly solid vermillion skin, freckled with cream-colored pores, or lenticels, the Baldwin’s crisp, juicy flesh was pleasingly tart at first but finished sweeter, ending in sublime flavors of pineapple and melon.

*          *          *

The view from Clarkdale Fruit Farms, Deerfield, Massachusetts, early November.  (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

The view from Clarkdale Fruit Farms, Deerfield, Massachusetts, early November           (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

HERE ARE A FEW ways to get the most from your fresh apples:

When trying a new variety, always purchase at least four apples. Eat two of the apples a few days apart, within a week of purchase. No two apples are exactly alike. Subtle flavors like vanilla, nuts, or mango can vary in intensity from apple to apple, and sometimes can be hard to detect. By trying two fresh apples, you are more likely to experience the variety’s full range of flavors.

Place the other two apples in your refrigerator, and mark the date they were purchased or picked. Ideally, seal the apples in plastic bags and store them in your crisper drawer. As long as they are kept cold, though, most apples keep pretty well in a paper bag. Either bag helps them retain moisture, and keeps them from absorbing odors from foods around them.

Wait a month before tasting the first of these stored apples. Note if there is an appreciable difference in flavor and texture, good or bad. Some apples peak in flavor around this time.

Many varieties follow a similar ripening arc, albeit it at different rates, gradually losing some of their initial tartness and becoming sweeter, more complex, and juicier over time. The same variety can be appreciated in different seasons for different reasons.

From a crisp, tart green apple in late September, Shamrock gets progressively spicier and juicier for about a month before it begins to break down. The flesh of the Connecticut heirloom Sheep’s Nose is dry at harvest, but becomes mellower and juicier after a month or more in storage.

Idared’s best flavor will not emerge until the new year, when it excels in pies and in cider. The flavor of Suncrisp is said to improve in storage, but I wouldn’t know — I enjoy their sweet-tart, citrusy taste so much eaten fresh that I cannot seem to make one last long enough to find out. I have one left in my refrigerator this year, and I am determined to make it last to December, at least.

If your apple has held up well for 30 days, leave the remaining one in the refrigerator for another month (or more) before tasting it. Fuji is famous for its storage qualities. Russeted-covered apples like Ashmead’s Kernel and Roxbury Russet are well known for developing richer, more complex flavors in storage, sometimes months after they have been harvested.

Obviously, the apples available now in grocery stores, farmers markets, orchards, and farm stands, were picked weeks ago. But they have been maintained in either regular, or controlled atmosphere (CA) storage, retarding their ripening process.

Stored properly — meaning kept cold — the apples may be slightly less crisp than the day they were picked, but not much. You can test an apple’s ripening qualities any time you make your purchase.

Don’t reject perfectly good fruit. You can’t always judge an apple by its skin. Most surface blemishes on an apple are harmless and easily removed, such as a patch of apple scab, a dent from hail, or spot russeting. An otherwise fine apple can be misshapen because it rested on a branch as it grew. The apple’s flavor is in no way impaired.

All apples bruise if treated roughly, and some varieties are more susceptible than others. A thin-skinned apple like Silken or a tender-fleshed one like McIntosh require special care in handling. But a bruise here and there on an apple’s surface can easily be ignored, avoided, or removed.

A perfectly good apple often awaits beneath that less-than-perfect exterior. The Galas from The Big E are looking a little wrinkly on the outside, but their flesh remains firm and their flavor is as good as ever. The color of Galas changes in storage, too. It typically has patches of yellow at harvest, and gradually deepens to a rich red-orange.

Rub the apple, eat the skin. While apples leave the orchard and packinghouse clean, like all produce it is best to wash them off before eating, mostly because of the possibility of contamination by human handlers. You never know who may have previously picked up that apple in the bin.

The natural film or “bloom” on an apple, sometimes mistaken for pesticide residue, helps the apple retain moisture. Some of the bloom gets washed off in the packinghouse, and in some cases a drop of wax is applied to replenish it and give the apples a shine. Both the natural bloom and the cosmetic wax are harmless.

The majority of the chemicals used to treat apple pests and disease are applied in the spring and early summer, some before the fruit is even formed. Most residual traces of chemicals are washed off by rain over the summer, and apples entering the packinghouse are first dunked in a tank of water where they float for ten feet or more before entering the packing line, where they will be further buffed and brushed along the way.

But it’s always a good idea to clean your fruit before you eat it. The beauty of the apple is that you don’t need water to wash it— just rub it on your shirt, especially convenient when outdoors.

The peel and the flesh just beneath it contain much of the apple’s nutrients, so there are compelling reasons to eat it. That’s automatic for most people eating a fresh apple, but requires some rethinking on the part of many bakers and cooks. Prepared properly, though, apple skins can add color as well as nutrients to any dish.

Make sure your apples are ripe. It’s good to know what you are getting. The best way to tell if an apple is ripe is by examining its seeds. The apple should not be picked until the seeds are dark brown, almost black, in color.

If you find that some of your apples were not fully ripe when picked, you can eat them without harm. They are likely to be more tart than usual, though, may not store as well, and may have inferior flavor.

I purchased some Ginger Golds in August, and when I cut several of them open, their seeds were white, not brown. The apples tasted alright, but nowhere near as good as Ginger Golds I have had in the past.

Today, two-and-a-half months later, the apples have slowly ripened in my refrigerator, and the seeds are now medium brown. But the ripening has been uneven; the flavor is not much improved, the flesh is beginning to go soft, and they are not very juicy. Reluctantly, I’ll have to throw them out.

*          *          *

For more information about New England apples, including where to find them, visit New England Apples.

*          *          *

'Apples of New England' by Russell Steven PowellAPPLES OF NEW ENGLAND (Countryman Press, 2014), a history of apple growing in New England, includes photographs and descriptions of more than 200 apple varieties discovered, grown, or sold in the region. Separate chapters feature the “fathers” of American wild apple, Massachusetts natives John Chapman (“Johnny Appleseed”) and Henry David Thorea; the contemporary orchard of the early 21st century; and rare apples, many of them photographed from the preservation orchard at Tower Hill Botanic Garden in Boylston, Massachusetts.

Author Russell Steven Powell is senior writer for the nonprofit New England Apple Association after serving as its executive director from 1998 to 2011. Photographer Bar Lois Weeks is the Association’s current executive director.

Available in bookstores everywhere.

'America's Apple' coverAMERICA’S APPLE, (Brook Hollow Press, 2012) Powell’s and Weeks’s first book, provides an in-depth look at how apples are grown, eaten, and marketed in America, with chapter on horticulture, John Chapman (aka Johnny Appleseed), heirloom apples, apples as food, apple drinks, food safety insects and disease, labor, current trends, and apple futures, with nearly 50 photographs from orchards around the country.

The hardcover version lists for $45.95 and includes a photographic index of 120 apple varieties cultivated in the United States. America’s Apple is also available in paperback, minus the photograph index, for $19.95, and as an ebook.

Available at numerous bookstores and orchards, and Silver Street MediaAmazon.comBarnes and Noble, and other online sources. For quantity discounts, email newenglandapples@verizon.net.

The apple pie evaluators took their job seriously at White Memorial Conservation Center, Litchfield, Connecticut. (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

The apple pie evaluators took their job seriously at White Memorial Conservation Center, Litchfield, Connecticut. (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

AFTER TWO MONTHS of intensive research, we are forced to admit failure — once again — in our perennial quest to definitively answer a question that has plagued civilization since the discovery of the cooking fire: what is the best pie apple?

Our failure was not due to a lack of effort, and we had the help of prodigious pie-makers from across the region. We began by baking, inhaling, and serving more than 2,000 five-inch, single-serving apple pies at the Eastern States Exposition (“The Big E”) for 17 days in September, and tasted not a few of them.

We talked pies with Kim Harrison, one of a team of volunteers that made the pies to raise funds for The Preservation Society in Granby, Massachusetts. We spoke with dozens of customers about the merits of one variety over another.

The Big E pies have a flaky top crust covering a filling of several varieties lightly spiced. Many people topped off their pie with vanilla ice cream, a few with thin slices of cheddar. The apples were supplied by five Massachusetts orchards: Cold Spring Orchard in Belchertown, Clarkdale Fruit Farms in Deerfield, Nestrovich Fruit Farm in Granville, Pine Hill Orchards in Colrain, and Red Apple Farm in Phillipston.

The apple pies at the Big E featured a mix of varieties. (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

The apple pies at the Big E featured a mix of varieties. (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Most of the pies included McIntosh, a perennial contender for the gold standard since its discovery on an Ontario farm more than two centuries ago. (McIntosh was introduced  to New England in 1868 by Vermont’s Dr. Thomas H. Hoskins.)

Its flavor and aroma are so good that most people forgive McIntosh’s tendency to break down when baked, and add at least some to any varietal mix.

Akane, an early season apple developed in Japan in 1937 and introduced in the United States in 1970, was also noteworthy in this year’s pies for its lightly tangy flavor and texture.

In our informal survey of visitors, opinions about the best pie apple ran the gamut, from heirlooms like Baldwin (Wilmington, Massachusetts, 1740) to recent entries such as Pink Lady (Australia, 1989). Northern Spy (East Bloomfield, New York, in 1840, from seeds from Salisbury, Connecticut) has a particularly loyal fan base.

The closest we came to discovery, though, was the radiance of a woman purchasing 14 Gravenstein apples, an early season heirloom from Europe that dates back to at least the 1600s. The now hard-to-find Gravs were popular in New England until the bitterly cold winter of 1933-34, when many of the trees perished (along with more than one million Baldwin trees). It has never recovered as a commercial apple, but can still be found at some orchards.

Pie preferences are often passed down from generation to generation. The woman purchasing 14 Gravensteins put six in her bag at first, and as we talked she kept adding to her total until she got to 14. She planned to make two pies with them, just the way her mother did.

It was not the first time during our years at The Big E that the sight of Gravensteins has inspired such passion, and we suspect it will not be the last. I have not made a pie using just Gravenstein, but if it is as good baked as it is eaten fresh, the woman may be on to something. The apples were special, bursting with juice, with a lightly crisp, lemony tart flavor.

The flavor of nearly all of the varieties cited at The Big E, we noted, is more tart than sweet. That’s not to say that you can’t make a great pie using sweet apples, but a hint of tartness lends a pie complexity and zest.

Bakers pose with their entries prior to judging at the 2014 Great New England Apple Pie Contest. (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Bakers pose with their entries prior to judging at the 2014 Great New England Apple Pie Contest. (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

NEXT WE TRIED immersion, serving as judges in the 5th Annual Great New England Apple Pie Contest October 18 at Wachusett Mountain’s annual AppleFest in Princeton, Massachusetts. We dutifully sampled 30 pies in less than two hours, using the two-bite method: an introduction to the pie, and a second impression. It is the only way to do justice to this many pies.

There were some incredible-looking pies — entries are judged on appearance and presentation as well as flavor and texture — in two categories, Apple Only and Apple And Other. Several had latticed or elaborately sculpted crusts, including the winner of Apple Only, Theresa Matthews of Gardner, Massachusetts.

Theresa Matthews' winning 2014 Great New England Apple Pie Contest pie is in the foreground. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Theresa Matthews’ winning 2014 Great New England Apple Pie Contest pie is in the foreground. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

The judges, in addition to me, were Bar Lois Weeks, executive director of the New England Apple Association, for the third year; local businessman Burt Gendron, a veteran pie taster; Julia Grimaldi, representing the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources; and radio personalities Chris Zito of WSRS and Ginny Sears of WTAG, both in Worcester.

We did not know the varieties used in any pie, although we were able to identify McIntosh flavor and texture in some, and make good guesses about Cortland, an 1898 cross of McIntosh with Ben David, similar in flavor to McIntosh but larger and firmer.

Most of the entries were good to very good, with several reaching exalted status. The few low-scoring pies suffered more from lackluster crusts than poor apple flavor.

One pie pairing pears with apples tasted mostly of apples — finding a balance that allows the milder pear flavor to come through can be tricky. But apples and pears is a proven combination, well worth the effort to get it right.

Green grapes and apples, on the other hand, may go well together fresh in a fruit salad, but made an undistinguished pie filling. While there are many flavorful ways to serve apples with bacon or peanut butter, the pies that combined them did justice to neither apple nor “other.”

Other ingredients in Apple and Other were caramel, cranberries, cream cheese, raisins, walnuts, and Jack Daniels. They all worked well with this versatile fruit.

Apples in a number of pies had been sliced by a mandolin slicer, and generally this did not improve the pie’s texture. The thin, uniform slices often stick together in a stack, which can lead to uneven cooking and consistency.

Theresa Matthews used only Cortland apples in her winning Apple Only pie. Both contest winners in 2012 also used just Cortland. Could this make Cortland the undisputed champ?

Chef Gerri Griswold, rear right, looks on as people sample her pies at White Memorial Conservation Center, Litchfield, Connecticut. (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Chef Gerri Griswold, rear right, looks on as people sample her pies at White Memorial Conservation Center, Litchfield, Connecticut. (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

FROM THERE we conducted another experiment, at the White Memorial Conservation Center in Litchfield, Connecticut. Chef Gerri Griswold baked a dozen pies for our October 25 apple talk and tasting event, two each using single varieties: Cortland; Empire, a 1945 offspring of McIntosh, crossed with Red Delicious, released in 1966; Gala (New Zealand, 1934, 1970), Honeycrisp (Minnesota, 1961, released in 1991), Macoun, a 1909 cross of McIntosh with Jersey Black in New York, released in 1923); and McIntosh.

Gerri scrupulously followed the Joy of Cooking apple pie recipe for all 12 of her creations, using the same prepared Pillsbury crust. We sampled each pie several times, as did the 20 or so people of all ages in attendance. A sheet of paper nearby for our scores and comments went mostly untouched, as most people were content to savor the experience.

There was plenty of excellent pie, but no clear-cut winner. Cortland had the most support in an informal poll, but the Empire, Macoun, and McIntosh pies all had champions. The McIntosh pie had surprisingly firm texture, soft but not mushy, and holding together.

Gerri had tried a similar experiment during our first appearance at White Memorial two years ago, baking four pies using single varieties. On that day, Mutsu, a large yellow apple discovered in Japan in 1930 (also known as Crispin), was the favorite pie apple.

The pies made with the sweet Gala and Honeycrisp apples did not fare as well as the others. For most of us, they were a little too sweet and their flavor lacked character. Gerri acknowledged that were it not for the taste test she would have reduced the sugar in the pies made with these varieties.

WE CONTINUED our study this past Sunday, November 2, during Franklin County CiderDays. Sue Chadwick, who grows a wide range of rare heirloom apples at her Second Chance Farm in Greenfield, Massachusetts, kindly donated a pie for our research, one of just three left from the 20 she baked to sell at the event the day before.

Sue uses a mix of apples in her pies, and the varieties could be different every time. Even if she could tell exactly what went into each pie, it would be hard for most people to find the apples to replicate it. The pie she gave us had rich apple flavor, as good or better than any made with a single variety.

Having made such little progress, we are going back to view Andrea Darrow’s three-part video series about apple pie-making, below. Andrea, of Green Mountain Orchards in Putney, Vermont, bakes hundreds of apple pies every fall, peeling every apple by hand. She uses several varieties, including Cortland and McIntosh, and piles them high.

Theresa Matthews with all that was left of her winning 2014 Great New England Apple Pie Contest pie after the judging. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Theresa Matthews with all that was left of her winning 2014 Great New England Apple Pie Contest pie after the judging. The Apple Rose Tarts on top were long gone. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

THERESA MATTHEWS has been working on her apple pies since she was a teenager. “My Mum was the reason behind that. She never measured for her pie crusts and I could never, ever get it right.”

Theresa’s preference for Cortland goes back at least a generation. “I’ve tried other apples, but I always go back to Cortland. I got that from my Mum as well.”

She did get it right. Here is the recipe for Theresa Matthews’ first-place pie.

Mum’s Apple Pie

Crust

3 c all purpose flour

1 t sea salt

1 T granulated sugar

1-½ sticks unsalted butter (cold)

⅓ c shortening (cold)

½ c ice cold water

one egg white

In a food processor bowl place flour, salt, sugar, butter, and shortening. Cover and pulse until blended about the size of peas. While running the processor, pour cold water in a steady stream until pastry ball forms. Divide into two balls, chilling for at least 30 minutes.

Roll out one crust on lightly floured parchment paper 1” larger than pie tin. Carefully transfer pastry to pie tin, and try not to stretch to avoid shrinking. Take egg white and brush onto entire bottom crust and refrigerate for 15 minutes or until filling is set.

Filling

6 thinly sliced Cortland apples

½ c unsalted butter

3 T all purpose flour

¼ c water

½ c granulated sugar

½ c packed light brown sugar

1½ t cinnamon

½ t nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350°.

Melt butter in a saucepan. Stir in flour to form a smooth paste. Add in water, sugars, and spices and bring to a boil. Reduce temperature to a simmer. In a large mixing bowl place sliced apples. Pour sauce over apple slices and mix carefully to keep apple slices whole.

Carefully spoon coated apple slices into bottom crust, mounding slightly. Take care not to pour too much liquid to run out, reserving 2 T sauce. Brush bottom crust edge with egg whites and cover mounded apples with top crust, trim and press to seal. Cut slits for steam to release during cooking and brush glaze onto top of pie.

Cut pie dough scraps into the shapes of leaves and arrange them on the pie where the rose tarts will be placed. Brush glaze over leaves. Save remaining pie dough for Apple Rose Tarts (recipe below).

Place in preheated oven and lay a sheet of aluminum foil over pie to prevent burning. Bake 60-75 minutes or until deep golden brown. Cool. Serve as is or with ice cream. Makes one 9” pie.

Apple Rose Tarts

Preheat oven to 350°.

Inspiration from diy-enthusiasts.com/food-fun/easy-apple-desserts-apple-roses/

2 Cortland apples sliced thinly

3 c water with 1 c sugar dissolved to make a simple syrup

1 T lemon juice (to help prevent browning)

Cinnamon sugar

Pie crust dough (left over from Mum’s Apple Pie, above)

Add apple slices to a pan of sweet syrup, making sure to cover all apples. Cook over medium-low heat until apples are pliable.

Roll out remaining pie dough in a rectangle about 8 to 10 inches wide and 10-12 inches long. Cut 8-10 one-inch wide strips along dough’s length.

Dry off 6 apple slices on a paper towel before arranging on a strip of pie dough. Lay out Overlap slices on strips so when rolled they will form the apple rose petals. Take care to leave about 1/2” of dough to seal the tart once rolled. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar before rolling up tart into a rose. (Photo references available on aforementioned website)

Place tarts on parchment paper about 2 inches apart and bake for 25 minutes or until brown and bubbly. Once tarts are cool, remove from parchment and using toothpicks insert into place on baked and cooled apple pie.

*          *          *

'Apples of New England' by Russell Steven PowellAPPLES OF NEW ENGLAND (Countryman Press, 2014), a history of apple growing in New England, includes photographs and descriptions of more than 200 apple varieties discovered, grown, or sold in the region. Separate chapters feature the “fathers” of American wild apple, Massachusetts natives John Chapman (“Johnny Appleseed”) and Henry David Thorea; the contemporary orchard of the early 21st century; and rare apples, many of them photographed from the preservation orchard at Tower Hill Botanic Garden in Boylston, Massachusetts.

Author Russell Steven Powell is senior writer for the nonprofit New England Apple Association after serving as its executive director from 1998 to 2011. Photographer Bar Lois Weeks is the Association’s current executive director.

Available in bookstores everywhere.

'America's Apple' coverAMERICA’S APPLE, (Brook Hollow Press, 2012) Powell’s and Weeks’s first book, provides an in-depth look at how apples are grown, eaten, and marketed in America, with chapter on horticulture, John Chapman (aka Johnny Appleseed), heirloom apples, apples as food, apple drinks, food safety insects and disease, labor, current trends, and apple futures, with nearly 50 photographs from orchards around the country.

The hardcover version lists for $45.95 and includes a photographic index of 120 apple varieties cultivated in the United States. America’s Apple is also available in paperback, minus the photograph index, for $19.95, and as an ebook.

Available at numerous bookstores and orchards, and Silver Street MediaAmazon.comBarnes and Noble, and other online sources. For quantity discounts, email newenglandapples@verizon.net.

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An atmospheric fire adds to the view at March Farm, Bethlehem, Connecticut. (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

An atmospheric fire adds to the view at March Farm, Bethlehem, Connecticut. (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

A RENEWED INTEREST IN APPLE CIDER, fresh and hard, is evident wherever it is sold. Visitors to the New England Apples booth in the Massachusetts Building at the Eastern States Exposition (“The Big E”) bought more than 300 gallons of Carlson Orchards fresh cider in seven-ounce cups over 17 days in September — and fresh cider was sold at a dozen other places at the fair.

Beginning this Friday, October 31, cider aficionados from not just New England, but across the country and around the globe, will gather in western Massachusetts, to celebrate the 20th Annual Franklin County CiderDays. The event continues through Sunday, November 2, with a wide range of tastings, panels, orchard tours, and more at orchards across the county (click on the link above for a full schedule of events).

Next month comes Vermont Cider Week, actually a 10-day affair beginning Friday, November 14, through Sunday, November 23, with tastings at a number of venues.

Why this renewed interest in what was once America’s favorite drink?

Clarkdale Fruit Farms in Deerfield, Massachusetts, will have several blends of fresh cider on hand during CiderDays. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Clarkdale Fruit Farms in Deerfield, Massachusetts, will have several blends of fresh cider on hand during CiderDays. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

IT STARTS with the incomparable flavors produced by squeezing the juice out of apples. Even the most sour or bitter apple is transformed into something special when pressed into juice, and the blends made by expert cider makers add richness and body to the experience.

Slightly fizzy, lightly alcoholic hard cider, once consumed year-round by young and old alike, expands the range of flavors even further, from sweet to dry.

New England cider typically is made from locally grown fruit. Drinking it connects us to the land, and to our past. To press, ferment, and drink cider is to partake in a tradition that dates back to the 1620s, less than a decade after the Mayflower landed at Plymouth Rock.

For more than two centuries, nearly all New Englanders drank cider, and lots of it. Middlesex County, Massachusetts, to cite just one example, produced 33,436 barrels of cider in 1764, “or seven per family, well over a barrel for every man, woman, and child.”

Cider’s dominance ended in the mid-1800s, squeezed by temperance movements that targeted hard cider at the beginning and end of the 19th century. Rural New Englanders flocked to its cities during the Industrial Revolution, where immigrant populations, especially from Germany, demonstrated a talent for brewing beer, an inexpensive alternative to hard cider.

Passage of the Volstead Act in 1919 led to Prohibition, further reducing demand for hard cider, and the market never recovered even after Prohibition was lifted in 1933.

People still thirsted for fresh cider, though, and almost every orchard, large or small, pressed its own until 1996, when an isolated tragedy in the Pacific Northwest permanently changed the landscape for producers.

The incident involved Escherichia coli (E. coli) contamination traced to a single source, the Odwalla Juice Company in Washington state. One child died and more than 60 people became ill after drinking Odwalla fresh apple juice.

Odwalla immediately recalled all its products containing apple or carrot juice, and in 1998 pleaded guilty to 16 misdemeanor charges of selling adulterated food products, paying a $1.5 million fine. Odwalla made improvements to its production line in an effort to avoid future outbreaks, and began to flash pasteurize its juices.

Alyson's Orchard in Walpole, New Hampshire, one of the many small New England orchards that sell unpasteurized cider at the farm. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Alyson’s Orchard in Walpole, New Hampshire, one of the many small New England orchards that sell unpasteurized cider at the farm. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

AS ITS LONG AND ILLUSTRIOUS history suggests, New England cider has always been safe to drink. In all of my research for Apples of New England, I did not encounter a single report of illness traced to New England cider, and I am not aware of any in my lifetime — including nearly 20 years working with the New England apple industry. Yet the Odwalla incident resulted in new regulations for how apples and other crops are harvested and processed.

The federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) eventually required that all fresh cider be pasteurized, with the exception of small producers who sell at their orchard or farm stand (they must attach a warning label). Many small orchards chose not to invest in the expensive equipment needed to pasteurize and simply stopped pressing cider.

Common sense, tradition, and its irresistible flavor appear to be overcoming this latest taint on cider, judging by the demand for fresh ciders like Carlson’s, the popularity of festivals like CiderDays, and the proliferation of artisanal hard ciders and commercial brands like Angry Orchard, Harpoon, and Woodchuck.

It is not just fresh and hard cider, either, that appeals to the apple-loving palate. A new generation of vintners is coming up with distinctive dry and semi-dry apple wines in addition to the traditional sweet dessert ones, and niche products like ice cider are capturing the apple’s essence and showing its remarkable versatility in new and exciting ways.

Here are a few things to know about cider as you prepare to visit CiderDays, an orchard, or grocery store, or as you simply sit back to sip your favorite apple drink:

The term “apple juice” applies to the clear, amber liquid sold in bottles in grocery stores.

“Fresh cider” is the name for the brown, unfiltered apple drink sold at farm stands, farmers’ markets, and orchards, and in the refrigerated sections of grocery stores, usually in the produce aisles.

“Hard cider” is the alcoholic drink fermented from fresh cider, roughly as strong as beer.

Bottled apple juice is fresh cider that has been heated above 175°F for 15 minutes to 30 minutes, then filtered to a clear liquid. Commercial apple juice is also made from concentrate and water. With the help of stabilizers and preservatives, bottled apple juice stores indefinitely.

Fresh cider, the sweet, thick drink found at most orchards, contains nothing but apples. If sugar or any other ingredients have been added, it is not the same drink.

Unpasteurized fresh cider will keep approximately 10 days to two weeks, several weeks if pasteurized, and up to several months with preservatives like potassium sorbate, added by some of the largest producers and grocery stores. Fresh cider may be frozen for up to six months.

Any apple can be used in fresh or hard cider, even an unnamed chance seedling, and each variety contributes distinct sweet, acid, or astringent properties. All-purpose heirlooms like Ashmead’s Kernel, Golden Russet, and Roxbury Russet are particularly prized for cider, while varieties like Dabinett, Harry Masters Jersey, Tremlett’s Bitter, and Yarlington Mill are cultivated exclusively for fresh and hard cider.

Large-scale makers of fresh cider necessarily rely on varieties planted in sufficient quantities to meet their high demand, which rules out most heirlooms. Varieties like Cortland, Gala, McIntosh, Idared, PaulaRed, and other New England staples are used according to season. An early season batch may differ slightly in taste from one made later in the year.

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'Apples of New England' by Russell Steven PowellAUTHOR RUSSELL STEVEN POWELL, senior writer for the New England Apple Association, and Executive Director Bar Lois Weeks will discuss apples, answer questions, and sign their new book, Apples of New England, at at three western Massachusetts orchards during CiderDays weekend.

As part of CiderDays, Powell and Weeks will appear at Pine Hill Orchards, 248 Greenfield Rd., Colrain, Saturday, November 1, from 10 a.m. to 12 noon, and at Clarkdale Fruit Farms, 303 Upper Rd., Deerfield, Sunday, November 2, also from 10 a.m. to noon.

Powell and Weeks will also appear at Atkins Farm, 1150 West St., Amherst, Saturday from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.

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TO LEARN MORE about how commercial fresh cider is made, view this short video:

Honeycrisp apples, Boothby's Orchard and Farm, Livermore, Maine (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

This will probably be the last weekend for picking late-season varieties like these Honeycrisp apples at Boothby’s Orchard and Farm, Livermore, Maine (Bar Lois Weeks)

THE LIST OF APPLES grown in New England that originated in Australia and New Zealand is short, with just two major varieties each from each country. But they are among the most well-known apples in the world. Three of the four are late-season apples, one of which, Granny Smith, is sparsely grown in New England due to its long growing season.

Find these and other mid- to late-season varieties at your favorite New England orchard. Visit New England Apples and choose “Find an Apple Orchard” to search by map, state, zip code, or variety.

Braeburn apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Braeburn apple (Bar Lois Weeks)

Braeburn is a slightly conical, late-season apple, crimson red overlaid on thin, yellow skin. Its yellow flesh is dense, aromatic, and juicy, and it flavor is nicely balanced between sweet and tart, with hints of citrus. Braeburn is good for both fresh eating and cooking, and it has three to four times as much Vitamin C as the average apple. It keeps well in storage.

Though it was widely planted through the 1990s, its popularity appears to have peaked. Braeburn was discovered on the farm of O. Moran in Nelson, New Zealand, in 1952 and named for the apple’s first commercial distributor, Braeburn Orchard. It is probably a seedling of Lady Hamilton; by some accounts, it is a cross of Lady Hamilton with Granny Smith.

Gala apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Gala apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Gala is a medium-to-large, conical, mid-season apple, red-orange in color with yellow highlights. Its cream-colored flesh is crisp and juicy. It is a sweet apple with hints of pear, and it is outstanding for all uses, especially for fresh eating.

It tends to have yellowish color early in the season and becomes a darker red-orange as the harvest progresses and in storage.

Gala was discovered in New Zealand in 1934, and introduced in the United States in the 1980s. It has since become one of the most widely grown apples in the world. Its complex parentage includes Cox’s Orange Pippin, Kidd’s Orange Red, Red Delicious, and Golden Delicious.

Royal Gala, a sport variety of Gala resulting from a mutant limb discovered at the New Zealand orchard of W. M. McKenzie, has deeper color than its parent.

Granny Smith apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Granny Smith apple                     (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Granny Smith has been the most popular green apple in the world since its arrival in the United States in the 1970s. Medium-sized, round, and slightly oblate, it has solid green color with an occasional pink blush (New England-grown Granny Smith apples are especially apt to have a pink or sometimes red blush).

Its white flesh is crisp and juicy, and its flavor is tart with hints of citrus. It is good for both fresh eating and cooking, and it stores well.

Maria Ann Smith, who emigrated from England to Australia, discovered the first Granny Smith seedling in the 1860s in a marsh on her property in Sydney. Its parentage is unknown, but it may be from the seed of a French Crab. It was first exported to England in the 1930s.

Granny Smith has reached its commercial peak but remains popular around the world. Only a few New England orchards have had success with Grannies, but as the climate warms, that number may increase.

Pink Lady apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Pink Lady apple (Bar Lois Weeks)

Pink Lady, also known as Cripps Pink, has a lot going for it: distinctive color, intense flavor, a beautiful shape, and a glamorous, campy name evoking the grenadine-laced cocktail of the same name, stirred by Della Street, perhaps, in a 1960s Perry Mason mystery.

Pink Lady is large, conical, late-season apple with a deep pink blush over green skin. Its cream-colored flesh is dense, and its flavor, more tart than sweet, is citrusy. It is good for both fresh eating and cooking. It holds its shape when cooked, and it stores well.

Originally named Cripps Pink, Pink Lady in 1989 became the first variety to be sold and marketed under a trademarked name. It was developed in the 1970s by John Cripps at the Department of Agriculture and Food in Western Australia. Lady Williams, an Australian apple from the 1930s, gives Pink Lady its characteristic shade. Its other parent, Golden Delicious, supplies its conical shape.

If the apple has too much of the green base coloring, Pink Lady reverts to Cripps Pink — the apple must be two-thirds pink to qualify for the premium name. To heighten pink color, some growers remove leaves from the tops of the trees to admit more light, or place reflective strips on the ground beneath the rows of trees to increase sunlight to fruit on lower branches.

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'Apples of New England' by Russell Steven PowellAUTHOR RUSSELL STEVEN POWELL, senior writer for the New England Apple Association, will talk about apples and read from his new book, Apples of New England, at four sites in the next five days.

Photographer Bar Lois Weeks, executive director of the New England Apple Association, will appear with Powell on Friday, October 24, at Lyman’s Orchards in Middlefield, Connecticut, and will co-present with Powell at the White Memorial Conservation Center in Litchfield, Connecticut on Saturday, October 25.

Here is the lineup:

Wednesday, October 22, 7 p.m.

Goodwin Memorial Library

50 Middle St., Hadley, Massachusetts

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Friday, October 24, 1 p.m.

Lyman Orchards

32 Reeds Gap Rd., Middlefield, Connecticut

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Saturday, October 25, 2 p.m.

White Memorial Conservation Center

80 Whitehall Rd., Litchfield, Connecticut

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Sunday, October 26, 2 p.m.

River Valley Market

330 North King St., Northampton, Massachusetts

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North Star Orchards, Madison, Maine (Russell Steven Powell photo)

North Star Orchards, Madison, Maine (Russell Steven Powell photo)

THE ORCHARD is a beautiful place in all seasons. October is an especially good time to visit — there are late-season apples on the trees at most orchards, and the surrounding fall foliage is at its peak.

In addition to apples, many orchards and farm stands sell pumpkins, fresh and hard cider, pies and cider donuts, cheeses, honey, maple syrup, and other locally made products long after the last fresh apple is picked. Some orchard stores remain open through the holidays, some are open all year.

To find apple varieties, products, contact information, and directions to New England’s finest orchards, visit Find An Apple Orchard.

Here are some recent images from a few of them.

Spencer apples, Brookfield Orchards, North Brookfield, Massachusetts (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Spencer apples, Brookfield Orchards, North Brookfield, Massachusetts (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Brookfield Orchards, North Brookfield, Massachusetts (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Brookfield Orchards, North Brookfield, Massachusetts (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Brookfield Orchards, North Brookfield, Massachusetts (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Brookfield Orchards, North Brookfield, Massachusetts (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Lapsley Orchard, Pomfret Center, Connecticut (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Late afternoon in Lapsley Orchard, Pomfret Center, Connecticut (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Rainbow, Lapsley Orchard, Pomfret Center, Connecticut (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

A sudden cloudburst, then a rainbow, Lapsley Orchard, Pomfret Center, Connecticut (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Lapsley Orchard, Pomfret Center, Connecticut (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Last blast of sun glow, Lapsley Orchard, Pomfret Center, Connecticut (Bar Lois Weeks)

North Star Orchards, Madison, Maine (Russell Steven Powell photo)

North Star Orchards, Madison, Maine (Russell Steven Powell photo)

North Star Orchards, Madison, Maine (Russell Steven Powell photo)

North Star Orchards, Madison, Maine (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Golden Delicious apples, Lanni Orchards, Lunenburg, Massachusetts (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Golden Delicious triplets, Lanni Orchards, Lunenburg, Massachusetts (Bar Lois Weeks)

Golden Delicious apples, Lanni Orchards, Lunenburg, Massachusetts (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Golden Delicious apples, Lanni Orchards, Lunenburg, Massachusetts (Bar Lois Weeks)

Gala apples, Boothby's Orchard and Farm, Livermore, Maine (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Gala apples, Boothby’s Orchard and Farm, Livermore, Maine         (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Cortland apples, Boothby's Orchard and Farm, Livermore, Maine (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Cortland apples, Boothby’s Orchard and Farm, Livermore, Maine      (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Honeycrisp apple, Boothby's Orchard and Farm, Livermore, Maine (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Honeycrisp apple, Boothby’s Orchard and Farm, Livermore, Maine (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Honeycrisp apples, Boothby's Orchard and Farm, Livermore, Maine (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Honeycrisp apples, Boothby’s Orchard and Farm, Livermore, Maine      (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Ricker Hill Orchards, Turner, Maine (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Ricker Hill Orchards, Turner, Maine (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Suncrisp apples, Ricker Hill Orchards, Turner, Maine (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Better than Honeycrisp! Suncrisp apples, Ricker Hill Orchards, Turner, Maine               (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Wallingford's Fruit House, Auburn, Maine (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Wallingford’s Fruit House, Auburn, Maine (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Stukas Farms, Lewiston, Maine (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Stukas Farms, Lewiston, Maine (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Stukas Farms, Lewiston, Maine (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Stukas Farms, Lewiston, Maine (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Crabapples, planted primarily for pollination purposes, Ragged Hill Orchard, West Brookfield, Massachusetts (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Crab apples, planted primarily for pollination purposes, Ragged Hill Orchard, West Brookfield, Massachusetts (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Ragged Hill Orchard, West Brookfield, Massachusetts (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Ragged Hill Orchard, West Brookfield, Massachusetts (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Golden Delicious, a late-season West Virginia apple shown here at Lanni Orchards in Lunenburg, Massachusetts, is nearly ready for picking in New England orchards. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Golden Delicious, a late-season West Virginia apple shown here at Lanni Orchards in Lunenburg, Massachusetts, is nearly ready for picking in New England orchards. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

THE AMAZING APPLE has traveled back and forth across America since its arrival in New England in 1623, and nearly half of the United States have produced apples currently cultivated in New England. In addition to natives of the six New England states, previous posts in this series have highlighted varieties from apple-breeding programs in Minnesota, New York, and a consortium of the University of Illinois, Purdue University in Indiana, and Rutgers University in New Jersey (PRI).

While not exhaustive, this list (and the links above) represents the vast majority of apples grown in New England orchards that were discovered in other states. To find out more about where these apples are grown, visit New England Apples and choose “Find An Apple Orchard” to search by map, state, zip code, or variety.

ARKANSAS 

Arkansas Black apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Arkansas Black apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Arkansas Black (Arkansas Black Twig) is a round, deep red, conical apple with heavy skin and dense, cream-colored flesh. It has a spicy flavor, more tart than sweet. A late-season apple, Arkansas Black is widely used for processing and cider making. It stores exceptionally well, and its skin naturally darkens in storage.

There are conflicting reports about Arkansas Black’s origins, but both stories trace the apple to Arkansas’ northwest corner around 1842. One account attributes it to Mr. Brattwait of Benton County, while another claims it was discovered on the farm of John Crawford in Washington County. Introduced around 1870, it is the result of a cross between a Winesap and an unknown apple.

KENTUCKY, TENNESSEE, or VIRGINIA

Ben Davis apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Ben Davis apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Ben Davis is a late-season apple, roundish, mostly red or red-striped over a rather tough, yellow skin. Its tender, cream-colored flesh is aromatic and juicy, and it has mild flavor, more sweet than tart. It stores exceptionally well.

Ben Davis dates back to the early 1800s. Its discovery is credited to three southern states, none definitively, but it had spread throughout these states and other parts of the South and Midwest well before the Civil War. It is not widely grown in the Northeast, but it is a parent of one of New England’s most popular apples, Cortland.

IDAHO

Idared apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Idared apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Idared is a large, round, late-season apple with a chewy, ruby-red skin. Its crisp flesh is white with a green tinge. Idared’s flavor is more tart than sweet when first picked, but it develops sweetness and complexity and becomes juicier over time. After a month or more in cold storage, it becomes a superb apple for sauce, pies (it holds its shape when cooked), and cider.

Idared, a cross of Jonathan with Wagener, was discovered in 1935 by Leif Verner, head of the Department of Horticulture at the Idaho Agricultural Experiment Station in Moscow, and released commercially in 1942.

ILLINOIS

Blushing Golden apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Blushing Golden apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Blushing Golden (Stark’s Blushing Golden, Goldblush) is a yellow, conical, late-season apple with a pink-orange blush and tough, waxy skin. It has cream-colored flesh and a rich flavor, more sweet than tart, that develops in storage. It is good for cooking, especially in pies, and it stores well.

The original tree, a cross of Golden Delicious and Jonathan, came from the farm of Ralph B. Griffith of Cobden in the 1960s.

INDIANA

Goldrush apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Goldrush apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

GoldRush is a late-season apple, medium-large, round to conical, golden yellow with an orange-red blush. It is crisp and juicy, with a complex, spicy, sweet-tart flavor that mellows over time. It is an all-purpose apple especially good fresh, in cider, and in salads, as it is slow to brown. It stores exceptionally well, and its trees are disease resistant.

GoldRush was developed in 1973 in West Lafayette, Indiana, by PRI, the joint apple-breeding program of Purdue University, Rutgers University, and the University of Illinois. Its parentage includes Golden Delicious, Melrose, Rome Beauty, Siberian Crab, and Winesap.

Released commercially in 1993, GoldRush was named Illinois’s official state fruit in 2008.

Winter Banana apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Winter Banana apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Winter Banana is a large, round or boxy late-season apple with pale yellow skin and a light red blush. Its white flesh is crispy, aromatic, and moderately juicy, and it is considered better for fresh eating than cooking due to its mild, sweet flavor. It is also good in cider. It bruises easily, but stores reasonably well.

Despite its name, most people do not detect any banana flavor; the apple’s name likely comes from its color.

Winter Banana was discovered on the farm of David Flory in Adamsboro, Cass County, Indiana, in 1876, and released in 1890. Its parentage is unknown. While still grown in parts of the Midwest, its main use in New England is to pollinate other varieties.

IOWA

Red Delicious apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Red Delicious apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Red Delicious (Hawkeye), a late-season apple, is one of the most widely recognized apples in the world. Although its popularity has peaked, Red Delicious remains the most widely grown apple in the United States, and it is the most commercially successful apple of all time. It is known for its striking red color and distinctive, conical shape, and it ships and stores well. The trees are easy to grow and highly productive.

Sweet, lightly aromatic with crisp, cream-colored flesh, Red Delicious is an all-purpose apple.

Its predictably sweet flavor often lacks character, though, becoming cloying or bland. Newer sweet apples like Gala, with its distinctive pear-like flavor, and other varieties that offer a broader range of flavors and textures have begun to erode Red Delicious’s dominance in the marketplace.

Discovered on the farm of Jesse Hiatt in Peru, Iowa, in the 1870s, the apple was known as Hawkeye until 1893. It won an apple competition that year sponsored by Stark Brothers Nurseries. After biting into one, C. M. Stark is alleged to have said, “My that’s delicious — and that’s the name for it!” Hawkeye was reissued as Red Delicious two years later, in 1895.

KANSAS

Stayman apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Stayman apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Stayman (Stayman Winesap) is a striped, cherry red, late-season apple with prominent lenticels and some russeting. It has tender, juicy, cream-colored flesh. Its balanced flavor is slightly more sweet than tart, with hints of honey, and it is highly aromatic. It resembles its Winesap parent (its other parent is unknown), but tends to grow larger, and its color is not as deep. It is an all-purpose apple that stores well.

Stayman was discovered by Dr. Joseph Stayman in 1866 in Leavenworth, Kansas, and it was released in 1875. As it requires a long growing season, it is mostly a Southern apple, and it is not widely grown in New England.

MICHIGAN 

Opalescent apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Opalescent apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Opalescent (Hudson’s Pride of Michigan) is a large, mid-season apple with red overlaid on a yellow skin, with prominent white lenticels. Its coarse, yellow flesh is moderately juicy, and its mild flavor is more sweet than tart. It resembles Twenty Ounce, an heirloom from the 1840s, in size and looks, but its flavor is not considered as good, and it does not store well.

Once widely grown in New England, Opalescent was discovered by George Hudson in Barry County, Michigan, a cross of Golden Delicious with Newtown Pippin. Originally called Hudson’s Pride of Michigan, it was renamed when it was commercially released in 1880. Some sources trace its release to Xenia, Ohio, in 1899.

PaulaRed apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

PaulaRed apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

PaulaRed is an early season apple, red with occasional light yellow or green striping and prominent white lenticels. PaulaRed’s tender white flesh is more tart than sweet, with a hint of strawberry. It is good for both cooking and fresh eating, and it is slow to brown, making it good in salads. It is also good in cider. Ripening in mid- to late August, it is one of the first apples of the New England season, but it is not available for long and it should be used soon after picking, as it does not store well.

PaulaRed was discovered by grower Lewis Arends in Sparta Township, Michigan, in 1960, from a chance seedling near a block of McIntosh trees, and named after his wife, Pauline. Its sweet-tart flavor and color suggest PaulaRed may have McIntosh in its parentage. It was released commercially in 1968.

NEW JERSEY

Maiden's Blush apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Maiden’s Blush apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Maiden’s Blush (Lady Blush, Maiden Blush, Red Cheek, Vestal) is a medium-to-large, mid-season apple with a red blush and light striping over greenish-yellow skin. Its white flesh is crisp and juicy. More tart than sweet, with notes of citrus when first harvested, its flavor mellows over time and in storage. It is best used for cooking, drying, and in cider and wine making.

Maiden’s Blush was introduced by Samuel Allinson of Burlington, New Jersey, in the late 1700s, of unknown parents. Once widely grown in America, it was especially popular in Philadelphia in the early 1800s.

Winesap apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Winesap apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Winesap is a small, round, late-season apple, cherry red in color with a chewy skin. It has crisp, light yellow flesh, and is moderately juicy. It has outstanding flavor, more sweet than tart, with hints of cherry. It is an all-purpose apple, especially good for fresh eating and in cider. It stores exceptionally well.

While some have suggested that it has a wine-like flavor, Winesap more likely was named for its deep red color.

Winesap requires a long growing season, so it is mostly cultivated it in the South. It was widely grown in the South in the 1800s, especially in Virginia, and it remained popular until about 1950. Its decline resulted from its generally small size and the rise of controlled atmosphere (CA) storage, which made Winesap’s excellent storage qualities less important.

Its age and origin are unknown, but Winesap was first recorded by Dr. James Mease of Moore’s Town, New Jersey in 1804, and it is generally thought to have originated in New Jersey sometime before 1800.

Yellow Bellflower apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Yellow Bellflower apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Yellow Bellflower (Lady Washington, Lincoln Pippin) is a mid-season apple, medium to large in size, conical in shape, with lemon-yellow skin and a peach-colored blush. Its cream-colored flesh is crisp, juicy, and aromatic, and its flavor, more tart than sweet when picked, mellows in storage. It is best in cider and for cooking, especially in pies. It bruises easily and does not store well.

One of the oldest heirloom apples from New Jersey, it was discovered in Crosswicks in the late 1700s, of unknown parents. It was not much grown in New England until after 1850. Its name may come from the fact that it hangs like a bell from the tree.

OHIO

Blondee apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Blondee apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Blondee is a round, medium to large, mid-season apple with smooth, yellow skin and an occasional red blush. Its crisp flesh is moderately juicy, more sweet than tart, and a little spicy. It is good for fresh eating and in salads, as it browns slowly when sliced. It stores well.

It was discovered on the farm of Tom and Bob McLaughlin in Portsmouth, Ohio, overlooking the Ohio River, in 1998. A sport, or mutant branch, from a tree with complex parentage including Kidd’s Orange Red and Gala, Blondee is now a trademarked variety.

Holly apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Holly apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Holly is a large, conical or boxy late-season apple, with rich, pink-red color over a yellow skin. Its cream-colored flesh is crisp and juicy. Mostly sweet like its Red Delicious parent, it has a little tartness from its other parent, Jonathan. It is an all-purpose apple and a good keeper.

Holly was developed by the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center in 1952, and released in 1970.

Melrose apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Melrose apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Melrose is another Red Delicious-Jonathan cross, with markedly different results. It is a large, round, mid-season apple, yellow-green overlaid in red, with occasional russeting. Its coarse, crisp, white flesh is juicy, and its flavor, tart with a some sweetness when first picked, mellows over time. It is good for cooking, as it keeps its shape.

The official state apple of Ohio, Melrose was discovered by Freeman S. Howlett at the Ohio Agricultural Experiment Station in Wooster in 1944. It is not to be confused with another apple of the same name (also known as White Melrose), a yellow apple attributed to the monks of Melrose Abbey, Scotland, around 1830.

Rome Beauty apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Rome Beauty apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Rome Beauty (Rome) is a medium-to-large, round late-season apple known for its deep red color and excellent storage qualities. Its green-white flesh is crisp and juicy, with flavor that is more tart than sweet, and it has a thick skin. Rome Beauty is good eaten fresh but is used mostly as a cider apple and for baking, as it holds its shape well.

A tree planted in 1816 by H. N. Gillet in Rome, Ohio, on the banks of the Ohio River produced a shoot from below the graft — the part of the tree that is not supposed to bear fruit. Growers generally trim these unwanted shoots off, but this branch survived to bear beautiful red fruit. It was introduced commercially in 1848.

While its popularity has waned in New England in recent years, only one other apple on America’s top ten list, McIntosh, discovered in 1801, is older than Rome Beauty.

OREGON

Hidden Rose apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Hidden Rose apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Hidden Rose (Airlie Redflesh, Red Flesh, Schwartz) is a small, conical, late-season apple with light yellow-green skin and a pink blush. This sweetly aromatic apple has a pleasing tartness with hints of citrus, but it is not very juicy. Its dense, pink flesh is slow to brown, making Hidden Rose a good choice in salads. Due to its small size, it is mainly good for fresh eating, but it is used some in cooking, especially to color applesauce.

In just half a century, Hidden Rose has already had several identities. It was discovered as a chance seedling in the 1960s on land owned by Lucky and Audrey Newell near Airlie, Oregon. Although they sent samples to Oregon State University, the variety remained unknown even after the Newells sold the property.

In the 1980s, Louis Kimzey, the retired manager of a neighboring farm, rediscovered the tree, and gave it the name Airlie’s Redflesh (eventually shortened to Red Flesh). In the 1990s, several nurseries grew the apple locally under the name Schwartz.

Kimzey and his former employer, Thomas Paine Farms, finally decided to commercialize the apple, and in 2001 they trademarked the name Hidden Rose.

Hudson's Golden Gem apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Hudson’s Golden Gem apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Hudson’s Golden Gem is a medium-sized, conical, late-season apple with light russeting over a green-gold skin. Its cream-colored flesh is crisp and juicy, and its outstanding sweet flavor has hints of nut and pear. An all-purpose apple, it is especially good eaten fresh and in cider. It stores well.

Hudson’s Golden Gem was discovered in 1931 as a chance seedling along a fence at the Hudson Nursery in Tangent, Oregon. With its elongated form, bronze russeting, and evocative flavor, it was originally marketed as a pear.

PENNSYLVANIA

Smokehouse apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Smokehouse apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Smokehouse (English Vandevere, Red Vandevere) is a late-season apple, medium to large, round, mostly red with yellow highlights. Its cream-colored flesh is moderately crisp and juicy. Its flavor, sweet with some tartness, is on the mild side, often lacking distinction. It is primarily a fresh eating apple.

It dates back to 1848, discovered on the farm of William Gibbons in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, who named it for its proximity to his smokehouse. Smokehouse closely resembles Vandevere, a Maryland variety from 1806 presumed to be one of Smokehouse’s parents (the other parent is unknown).

York apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

York apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

York (York Imperial) is a medium-to-large, often lopsided apple with red streaks covering a green skin. Ripening in mid-season, it has crisp, yellow flesh, and is moderately juicy. Its flavor, more tart than sweet when picked, becomes milder and sweeter in storage. It is good for both fresh eating and cooking, but it is mostly a processing apple due to its yellow flesh, which adds color to sauce and pies, and its small core. It is an excellent keeper.

Discovered in York, Pennsylvania, in the early 1800s of unknown parentage, York is not widely grown in New England, but it is popular in Virginia and its state of origin.

VIRGINIA

Ginger Gold apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Ginger Gold apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Ginger Gold is a medium to large, round to conical, early season apple with smooth, green-yellow skin and an occasional pink blush. Its crisp, juicy, white flesh is more sweet than tart. Ginger Gold is a good all-purpose apple, especially good in salads, as its flesh browns slowly when sliced. Ripening in late August, it has become an outstanding early season variety in New England, although its season is short.

Ginger Gold was discovered in the orchard of Clyde and Ginger Harvey in 1969 in Lovington, Virginia, in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Clyde Harvey wanted to name the apple “Harveylicious,” but cooler heads prevailed, and he chose his wife’s name instead. Ginger Gold’s parentage is uncertain, but it may include both Golden Delicious and Albemarle Pippin.

WASHINGTON

Cameo apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Cameo apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Cameo (Carousel) is a slightly conical, late-season apple with a thin, light-yellow skin with heavy red striping. Its flesh is crisp and juicy, and it has outstanding flavor, nicely balanced between sweet and tart.

A chance seedling found by Darrel Caudle near Dryden, Washington, in 1987, Cameo may be a cross between Red Delicious and Golden Delicious. It was released commercially in 1998.

WEST VIRGINIA

Golden Delicious apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Golden Delicious apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Golden Delicious (Mullins Yellow Seedling) is a medium-to-large, conical, late-season apple, golden yellow with an occasional pink blush and russeting around the stem. Its yellow flesh is crisp, aromatic, and juicy, and it has rich, mellow, sweet flavor, with hints of honey. It is an outstanding apple for fresh eating, and good in cooking, especially in pies, as its flesh holds up well when cooked. It has excellent storage qualities.

West Virginia’s official state fruit, Golden Delicious is one of the most widely planted apples in the world, and parent to a number of other varieties. But although it shares its conical shape and many flavor characteristics with Red Delicious, the two apples are unrelated.

Discovered by Anderson H. Mullins near the town of Odessa, Clay County, West Virginia, in 1890, and originally called Mullins Yellow Seedling, Golden Delicious was renamed by Stark Brothers Nursery when it was introduced commercially 1916 in an effort to replicate Red Delicious’ success. It may be a seedling of Grimes Golden.

Golden Supreme apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Golden Supreme apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Golden Supreme is a medium to large, early season apple, conical, yellow with prominent brown lenticels and a pink-orange blush. Its cream-colored flesh is crisp and juicy, and it has a pleasant but mild flavor that is more sweet than tart. It is an all-purpose apple especially good for fresh eating, in cider, and in salads, as its flesh browns slowly. It stores well.

Its age and origin are unclear; while generally credited to Clay County, West Virginia, some accounts say that Golden Supreme originated in Idaho.

Grimes Golden apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Grimes Golden apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Grimes Golden (Grimes, Grimes Golden Pippin) is a medium round, mid-season apple, gold to deep yellow in color. Its yellow flesh is crisp, aromatic, and moderately juicy, and its flavor is nicely balanced, spicy, a little more tart than sweet. It is good for fresh eating and in cider.

Grimes Golden dates back to the early 1800s, of unknown origin. It may be parent to a more famous apple also from West Virginia, Golden Delicious. Some accounts erroneously claim that Grimes Golden grew from seeds left by John Chapman (“Johnny Appleseed”), but Chapman planted orchards in only two states, Indiana and Ohio.

Nevertheless, Grimes Golden is highly regarded in its native state. Wood from the trunk of the original tree (which blew down in a storm in 1905 after bearing fruit for more than a century) was used to make gavels for the West Virginia Agricultural Society. A portion of the trunk is preserved at West Virginia University, and a stone monument marks the site of the original Grimes Golden tree.

WISCONSIN

Wolf River apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Wolf River apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Wolf River is a large, bulky mid-season apple, often exceeding one pound. Its pale yellow skin is covered in red. Its coarse flesh is juicy, with mild flavor balanced between sweet and tart. It is best used in cooking and in cider. It does not store well. Its main distinction besides its size and lopsided appearance is that its trees are hardy and disease resistant.

Wolf River was discovered on the farm of W. A. Springer Fremont, Wisconsin, in 1875 along the river that gave it its name. It closely resembles and is probably a seedling of the Russian apple, Alexander.

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'Apples of New England' by Russell Steven PowellNEW ENGLAND APPLE ASSOCIATION Executive Director Bar Lois Weeks and Senior Writer Russell Steven Powell will both be judges at the 6th Annual Great New England Apple Pie Contest at Wachusett Mountain’s 31st Annual AppleFest this Saturday, October 18.

Judging will begin at 11 a.m.

For information about how to enter, visit Great New England Apple Pie Contest.

Powell will have copies of his new book, Apples of New England, and his first one, America’s Apple, available for sale and signing. Weeks took the photographs for both volumes, with more than 200 apple varieties discovered, grown, or sold in New England illustrating Powell’s text in Apples of New England.

AppleFest will continue on Sunday.

 

 

 

 

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