Archive for September, 2010

Honeycrisp apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Honeycrisp apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

CORTLAND AND HONEYCRISP are two of the more popular apple varieties in New England, albeit for different reasons. The all-purpose Cortland has been a New England staple for more than a century. Honeycrisp is the region’s rising star—it has only been available commercially for the past 20 years.

Cortlands are moderately juicy, with a sweet-tart flavor that is slightly less tangy than a McIntosh. A deep, purple-red apple with yellow streaks, its white flesh browns slowly when sliced, making Cortlands ideal for salads or served with cheese. Cortlands hold their shape well when cooked, making them a good choice for pies.

Cortland apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Cortland apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

A cross between McIntosh and Ben Davis, Cortlands were developed at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, New York, in 1898.

Honeycrisp can range in color from all red to green with red striping. Their flesh is cream-colored, crisp, and very juicy. Honeycrisp have a sweet, slightly tart flavor. They are excellent for fresh eating.

Honeycrisp originally was thought to be a cross between Macoun and Honeygold, but DNA testing has since disproved this; its parentage is Keepsake crossed with an unnamed seedling. The original seedling was planted in 1961 at the University of Minnesota Horticultural Research Center, but they were not introduced commercially until 1991.

Try Cortland or Honeycrisp in the following recipe, singly or together.

Apple Pie Pops

2 apples, peeled, cored and finely chopped

1 t lemon juice

¼ c sugar

1 t apple pie spice

dash salt

1 T cornstarch

2 T water

1 unbaked pie crust

10 wooden lollipop sticks

1 egg, separated

2 t water

2 T sugar

½ t apple pie spice

Preheat oven to 375°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

In a medium skillet, cook apples mixed with ¼ c sugar, 1 t apple pie spice, lemon juice and salt, over medium heat for 3-5 minutes or until apples are nearly tender, stirring occasionally.

In a small bowl, combine cornstarch and 2 T water. Add slowly to apple mixture, stirring constantly until it thickens.

Roll pie crust into 12-inch circles. Cut into 3-inch rounds with cookie cutter. Press lollipop sticks firmly into center of each round. Spoon a scant tablespoon of filling into each center. You will have filling left over.

In a small bowl, whisk egg white with 1 t water until frothy. Use pastry brush or fingers to brush mixture around edges of each round of dough.

Place a second round on top. Seal edges.

In a small bowl, whisk together egg yolk with 1 t water. Brush on top of each “pie.”

In a small bowl, mix 2 T sugar and ½ t apple pie spice and sprinkle over top half of pies.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until pastry is golden brown.


NEW APPLE RECIPES have just been published by Woman’s Day online at www.womansday.com/Articles/Food/Recipes/5-Amazing-Baked-Apple-Desserts.html.


JUDGING BY THE FRUIT showcased at the Eastern States Exposition (“The Big E”), this is shaping up as an exceptional year for apple quality. We’ve featured apples from across the state at our booth in the Massachusetts State Building, and they have been outstanding in appearance and flavor. Atkins Farms (Amherst), Breezelands Orchards (Warren), Carlson Orchards (Harvard), Cold Spring Orchard (Belchertown), Hamilton Orchards (New Salem), Nestrovich Fruit Farm (Granville), Pine Hill Orchards (Colrain), and Red Apple Farm (Phillipston) have all supplied beautiful, flavorful apples to the fair.

The varieties have included Cortland, Empire, Gala, Ginger Gold, Golden Delicious, Golden Supreme, Honeycrisp, Macoun, McIntosh, Red Gravenstein, Rhode Island Greening, Snow, and Suncrisp.

The Big E will continue through this Sunday, October 3.


IF YOU WANT TO PICK your own apples this fall, go soon. There will be plenty of apples to buy at your farmstand and in grocery stores throughout the fall and winter, but the crop will be picked sooner than normal due to the unusually hot spring and summer.

In a typical year, the New England harvest lasts through October, but this year in many places the apples will be all picked by mid-month. It will be best to visit your favorite orchard by Columbus Day Weekend if you want to be sure that there is still fruit to pick.

As always, call ahead to find out what varieties are available.

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McIntosh apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

McIntosh apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

FEW THINGS are more quintessentially New England than a McIntosh apple. Its abundant, red-and-green fruit has been filling our orchards and beguiling our senses with a heady fragrance and explosive, sweet-tart flavor for more than a century now. McIntosh today account for about two-thirds of the New England crop.

McIntosh apples are known for their “strawberry or even elderflower flavor and sweet, glistening, melting, juicy, white flesh,” write John Morgan and Alison Richards in The New Book of Apples (Ebury Press, revised edition, 2002).

“Snap a rosy McIntosh from the tree and it’s like walking with Thoreau past Walden Pond in the 1840s, as the complex play of honeyed, tart, and spicy juices trickle down your throat,” add Frank Browning and Sharon Silva in An Apple Harvest (Ten Speed Press, 1999). They describe McIntosh as “juicy, lightly crisp,” with a “blush of strawberry-raspberry aroma.”

It’s not just the McIntosh’s outstanding fragrance and distinctive flavor that we value; they have had a far-reaching effect on the nation’s apple crop. “McIntosh has lent its good genes to several well-known varieties, including Cortland, Empire, Macoun and Spartan,” writes Roger Yepsen in his beautiful book, Apples (W. W. Norton and Co., 1994).

Yepsen’s volume is small in size (5”x6-1/2”) but long on information, with descriptions of more than 90 varieties with accompanying illustrations by the author, and a wealth of background on this amazingly diverse fruit.

The McIntosh is a cross between a Fameuse (also known as a Snow apple because of its bright, white flesh) and a Detroit Red by the Canadian farmer who gave the variety its name. It was discovered around 1800, but it was not until 1870 that the son of John McIntosh introduced the apple commercially.

The main knock against Macs is that they break down in cooking, making them ideal for applesauce but mushy in a pie. Some people prefer it that way, but if you like a firmer texture in your pie without sacrificing the superior McIntosh flavor, combine several Macs with two or three varieties that hold their shape better, such as Cortland, Ida Red, Northern Spy.

McIntosh apples also require careful handling, as they bruise easily and lose their crispness more quickly than some varieties, if not kept cold. At their peak flavor fresh off the tree, properly handled McIntosh in controlled atmosphere (“CA”) storage and then home in your refrigerator can be enjoyed throughout the year.

If you want fresh Macs, don’t delay this autumn; with the earlier-than-usual crop McIntosh may be done being harvested by mid-October rather than at the end of the month. As always, call your orchard ahead of time to see what varieties are available for sale or for picking.

Here’s a fabulous recipe featuring McIntosh for Apple Squares, passed down three generations by Margaret Richardson of Holden, Massachusetts. Two ingredients make it stand out: cornflakes, which are added to the filling to retain the McIntosh’s juices and give the squares texture, and a few drops of almond extract, in the icing.

For a healthier version, use half whole wheat flour, reduce sugar to ¾ cup, reduce butter to 3/8 cup and add ½ cup canola oil.

New England Apple Squares  

2-1/2 c flour

1 c butter

1 egg yolk


4-6 McIntosh or other New England apples, peeled, cored and sliced

1 c cornflakes

1 c sugar

1 t cinnamon

1 c. confectioner’s sugar

dash of almond extract

Beat egg yolk in measuring cup and add enough milk to make 2/3 c liquid. Cut butter into flour and salt. Mix wet and dry ingredients together into a dough.

Roll out half the dough so that it fills the bottom and sides of a 15-1/2” cook sheet. Sprinkle with cornflakes. Top with apples. Combine sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle over apples.

Roll out other half of dough and place on top of apples. Seal edges. Cut holes in top to let steam escape. Bake at 375° for 50-60 minutes, until crust is nicely browned.

Mix confectioner’s sugar with 3-4 t milk and almond extract. Drizzle over warm squares.

For additional apple recipes or to learn more about New England varieties, visit http://www.newenglandapples.org/.

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New England apple crisp (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

New England apple crisp (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

A FRESH APPLE PIE is a thing of beauty, delicious, substantial and versatile — elegant enough for a dinner party, familiar enough for breakfast the next morning. When you don’t have time to roll out a flaky crust to encircle your gently spiced apple filling, though, apple crisp is the next best thing. (Follow a perfect pie crust for tips when you do have time to make that pie.)
Apple crisp has all the good apple stuff that goes into a pie, with a rich, crunchy topping. There are many variations, such as adding other fruits like cranberries, raisins, or pears, or in the topping (one person recently told us she uses graham crackers for her crisp, and we can’t wait to try it). If you have a good apple crisp recipe, we’d love you to send it along.
Here is one of our favorites, passed down through the generations from Lois Castell Browns. We’ve added whole wheat flour to make it healthier than the original. Mix and match apples for maximum flavor. We recently used seven varieties in this recipe: Duchess of Oldenburg, Ginger Gold, Honeycrisp, PaulaRed, Rambo, Red Gravenstein, and Zestar. It was so good it exposed apple crisp’s one, great weakness: it doesn’t last.

Apple Crisp (serves 6)

6 New England apples, like Northern Spy, McIntosh, or Macoun
1 T lemon juice
1 t cinnamon
1/4 t nutmeg
1/2 t salt

3/4 c whole wheat flour
1/4 c old-fashioned oats
1/4 c brown sugar or 1/3 c maple syrup
5 T butter

Preheat oven to 350˚. Core and slice apples into a buttered 8” square pan. Sprinkle lemon juice and spices over the apples.
Combine topping ingredients to cover the apples.
Bake for 45 minutes or until apples have softened.

WE’LL BE SELLING APPLE CRISP, personal-size apple pies, apple pie pockets, fresh apple cider, and cider donuts, and fresh-picked apples from Massachusetts orchards in the Massachusetts State Building at the Eastern States Exposition (“The Big E”). It all begins this Friday, September 17, and continues daily through Sunday, October 3, from 10 a.m. until 9 p.m.

We’ll also be handing out copies of our 2010 brochure/poster, New England Apples, and recipe cards. If you are not out in the orchard, come by our booth and say hello.

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ALTHOUGH APPLES HAVE BEEN PICKED for the past few weeks, the official kickoff of the 2010 New England Fresh Apple Harvest will be celebrated this Friday, September 10, at several orchards and the region’s largest packing house.

Massachusetts Commissioner of Agriculture Scott Soares and members of his senior staff, together with Russell Powell, executive director of the New England Apple Association, will be among the people visiting these apple orchards and apple processing facilities:

  • 10 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., J. P. Sullivan and Company, packing house, 50 Barnum Road, Ayer
  • 11 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., Carlson Orchards, with cider-making, 115 Oak Hill Road, Harvard
  • 1:15 p.m. to 1:45 p.m., Red Apple Farm, 455 Highland Avenue, Phillipston

Friday is expected to be a beautiful day in New England’s orchards, with an early taste of fall: sunny, with temperatures in the 60s.

Saturday also should be ideal for picking apples, with sun and temperatures in the 70s, and while there may be some unsettled weather in parts of the region Sunday, either weekend day should be fine for getting out to visit your favorite orchard or farmstand.

Beginning 5 p.m. Friday and through the weekend, the New England Apple Association and Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (DAR) will sample apples and hand out its 2010 brochure/poster, New England Apples, at a booth at the Sterling Fair.

The fair will be open Friday from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. Bring a sweater, learn about New England’s apple varieties and take home a brochure. It has photographs and descriptions of 15 favorite varieties on one side, and storage tips, health information, a usage chart and recipes on the other side.

If you are back from the orchard, Saturday’s fair hours are 9 a.m. to 11 p.m., Sunday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, visit www.sterlingfair.org.

Powell and Mary Jordan, the DAR’s director of agricultural development, will give a presentation about several New England apple varieties Sunday morning at 11, including McIntosh, Royal Cortland, Gala, Honeycrisp, Rambo and Snow.

Gala apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Gala apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Gala is a sweet, crunchy and juicy apple, with red-orange skin and yellow stripes. Slightly conical in shape, it is well suited for snacking, salads and baking.

Galas were developed in New Zealand and introduced in the United States in 1934. Its genetic heritage comprises Cox’s Orange Pippin and both Red and Golden Delicious.

Honeycrisp is a relatively new star on the New England scene, esteemed for its exceptional juiciness and crunch. It has a bright red skin, often with patches of pale green. The inner flesh is cream-colored. The Honeycrisp is a sweet apple but retains a slightly tart flavor. It is excellent for salads or for eating as a snack.

Honeycrisp apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Honeycrisp apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Honeycrisp was produced from a cross of Keepsake and an unnamed seedling. The original seedling was planted in 1961 at the University of Minnesota Horticultural Research Center. They were introduced commercially in 1991.

Snow (also known as Fameuse) is red with pink highlights. It gets its name from its snow-white flesh, which has occasional crimson stains. A crisp, juicy apple with a slight strawberry flavor, the Snow hails from Canada around 1730.

Snow apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Snow apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Snows are one of the oldest and most desirable dessert apples, a parent of the aromatic McIntosh. They are delicious fresh or in cooking, and are a good cider apple.

To learn more about New England’s apple varieties, visit www.newenglandapples.org and click on “Apple varieties.”

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Ripe apples on the tree at Green Mountain Orchards, Putney, Vermont (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Ripe apples on the tree at Green Mountain Orchards, Putney, Vermont (Russell Steven Powell photo)

BARRING A LAST-MINUTE SURPRISE from Hurricane Earl, this should be a delicious holiday weekend for picking apples across New England. The forecast is for sunny weather Saturday, Sunday and Monday, with daytime temperatures in the 70s throughout most of the region.

Depending on your location, you may get to pick the season’s first McIntosh apples. They are running a week to 10 days early in most places, so you can get a head start on New England’s favorite apple, just in time for school lunches. If the Macs aren’t ready for picking at your favorite orchard, there should be plenty of other early varieties to choose from. You can call ahead to find out what’s being picked.

Overall, it is shaping up to be a good New England apple crop. Total volume region-wide is down about 17 percent, the result primarily of frost damage in late spring, particularly in the northern states. But you won’t notice the shortage this fall, if at all. Early reports indicate that New England’s apples are especially flavorful this year and that they are in abundance and of good color and size.

A day in the orchard is a powerful experience. The lush fruit hanging from the tree, the sweet aroma of apples in the air, and the gentle background sounds of honeybees and insects combine to flood the senses. You’ll feel calmer for the experience, and bring home some of the freshest, healthiest, tastiest food you can buy, with the satisfaction of having picked it yourself.

But don’t take our word for it. Discover the pleasure of apple-picking on your own.


THE 2010 NEW ENGLAND FRESH APPLE HARVEST will be celebrated Friday, September 10, in a daylong event around the region.

In Massachusetts, Commissioner of Agriculture Scott Soares, and Executive Director of New England Apple Association, Russell Powell, will visit  these apple orchards and apple processing facilities:

10 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. J. P. Sullivan, packing house, Ayer

11 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Carlson Orchards, with cider-making, Harvard

:15 p.m. to :45 p.m. Red Apple Farm, Phillipston

Beginning Friday evening through the weekend, the New England Apple Association and Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources will sample apples and give away recipes, brochures, and other educational materials at a booth at the Sterling Fair.

The fair’s hours are Friday, 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.; Saturday hours are 9 a.m. to 11 p.m.; and Sunday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Commissioner Soares and Powell will give a presentation on New England apple varieties Sunday at 11 a.m.

Details about events in the other New England states to follow!

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