Archive for October, 2010

ONE OF THE BEST THINGS about apples is their versatility. They can be served at any meal, in any course, cooked or uncooked, in combination with countless other foods. Apples are the perfect snack, too: sweet but healthy, easy to eat and carry in a pocket or hold in your hand.

Apples can be both sweet and tart, and their flavor and texture change when cooked. As a result, they can be combined to great effect with foods as disparate as cheddar cheese and raisins, eggs and pork, sugar and mayonnaise.

There’s no bad time, or way, to eat an apple. One place to test out this assertion is with sandwiches. There are all kinds of variations that include the crunch and flavor of apple with a favorite ingredient of choice. One simple sandwich is to replace the jelly in a PBJ with slices of fresh apple, such as McIntosh or Empire. Add a handful of dried cranberries or a drizzle of honey or maple syrup for a twist.

The other day Chris Weeks of Hatfield, Massachusetts, opened a can of tuna fish, and when he went to the fridge looking for mayo, he couldn’t find any. Instead he found a jar of applesauce, and stirred it into the tuna, adding a few fresh Cortland chunks. The result was decidedly different, but pleasing.

A day later he found a Fuji and tuna sandwich in the deli at a local grocery. It included lettuce, mayo, and tomato, but otherwise seemed identical to his ad lib.

Chris keeps experimenting, and has developed a great new variation on grilled cheese. We include it here with another favorite of ours, an open-faced broiled sandwich that is easy to make. It admirably demonstrates how apples can combine with unusual ingredients to take the ordinary to new culinary heights.

Apple Pie Grilled Cheese

THIS UNIQUE SPIN on a pair of classic comfort foods combines the warmth of a New England apple pie — complete with Cheddar cheese! — with the youthful exuberance of French toast. The result is a sweet and savory grilled cheese bursting with warm, gooey New England apples and sharp Cheddar cheese. There is no shame in using a fork and knife on this one!


1 New England pie apple, such as Cortland or McIntosh

1 T cinnamon-sugar

1 T butter


4 slices whole wheat bread

1 egg

1 T milk

1 T cinnamon-sugar

Extra-sharp Cheddar cheese, sliced

Core and thinly slice apple. In skillet, sauté apples in butter over medium heat until medium-soft, about 2 minutes. Remove from skillet, sprinkle with 1 T cinnamon-sugar, and set aside.

In shallow bowl or pie plate, whip egg, milk, and 1 T cinnamon-sugar. Dunk bread into egg mixture and add to skillet, browning both sides over medium heat. Arrange cheese on all four pieces of the toast.

Allow cheese to melt slightly before placing apple filling on two pieces of the toast. Top with remaining pieces of toast, slice in half, and serve hot.

Yield: 2 sandwiches

Apple-Cheddar Sandwich

1 New England apple, sliced thinly

2 slices sourdough or other whole-grain bread

2 oz Cheddar cheese

2 thin onion slices

Whole-grain mustard

Spread mustard on bread; top with apples, onion, and cheese. Briefly broil until cheese is bubbly.

* * *

Spencer apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Spencer apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

A GREAT LATE-SEASON sandwich apple is Spencer. It’s a relatively new (1959) cross between McIntosh and Red Delicious. Spencers are crisp, juicy, and sweet, but less so than a Delicious. Nearly solid red in color, they are an outstanding apple for both fresh eating and culinary use. You won’t find them everywhere, but they are worth the search.

A more readily available choice for sandwiches is Fuji. Popularized in Japan and Washington state, it is grown in New England, so look for your local variety.

Fuji apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Fuji apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Fuji is a medium to large apple, with orange-red skin. Its flesh is firm, crisp, and juicy. Fujis are excellent eating apples, and good dried in slices. They also keep well, maintaining their quality for up to a year refrigerated or several weeks left in a fruit bowl. Fujis ripen in late October.

Fuji was developed in Japan in 1939, but it was given its name in 1962. Named for Japan’s tallest and most sacred mountain, Fuji is a cross between a Ralls Janet, an heirloom variety from Virginia, and Red Delicious.

Read Full Post »

Mutsu (Crispin) apples on the tree at Brookfield Orchards, North Brookfield, Massachusetts. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Mutsu (Crispin) apples on the tree at Brookfield Orchards, North Brookfield, Massachusetts. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

TRY THIS: go to your favorite orchard farm stand or nearby grocery store, and purchase a dozen New England apples. Choose at least four varieties.

Quarter the apples and put in a deep saucepan with 1 cup apple cider or water. Cook until soft. Put through a food mill. Applesauce. Presto.

Pure apple flavor, each batch a rare blend of sweet and tart resulting from the particular mix of varieties. No sugar needed. Maybe cinnamon (maybe not).

Take note of the varieties, flavor, texture, and color. Repeat, using different varieties.

* * *

Mutsu apples can range in color from green to yellow. (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Mutsu apples can range in color from green to yellow. (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

One good variety to choose is Mutsu. They make outstanding sauce and cider. Also known as Crispin, Mutsus have a sweet, light flavor when cooked, and hold their shape well. An excellent dessert apple, they are also especially good in salads.

Mutsus are a late-season apple ranging in color from greenish to yellow, with an orange blush. Their firm, juicy flesh is creamy white to pale yellow. They can grow quite large (a pie made with Mutsus may require as few as three apples).

Mutsu has its origins in Japan, from a Golden Delicious crossed with an Indo, a Japanese seedling, in 1930. It was introduced in the United States in 1948.

* * *

Our three-part series on apple pie begins Wednesday, November 3.

* * *

To learn more about New England apple varieties, visit New England Apples.

Read Full Post »

Westfield Seek-No-Further apple

Westfield Seek-No-Further apple

WHEN WAS THE LAST confirmed sighting of a Westfield Seek-No-Further? Has anyone seen a good Shamrock lately?

Westfield Seek-No-Further is an heirloom dessert apple, dating back to Westfield, Massachusetts, in the 1700s. It was a popular New England variety in the 1800s.

Shamrock is a green apple that originated in British Columbia less than 20 years ago. It is a tart apple, and works well with other varieties in pies and sauce.

We have descriptions and photographs (the Westfield Seek-No-Further taken from the classic work from 1905, The Apples of New York, the Shamrock source unknown) of both apples on our website, newenglandapples.org, but have not personally seen or tasted either.

Both, we believe, continue to be grown somewhere on New England soils. We just don’t know where. If you grow either Westfield Seek-No-Further or Shamrock, please let us know. We’d like to learn more, and get new photographs.

The photos, incidentally, are among more than 100 pictured on the New England Apple Association website. Most of the images are original photographs by Bar Lois Weeks. See New England apple varieties. We’re still writing and rewriting some of the descriptions. Perhaps you can help.

Tell us what you know about apples. We’d love to hear from you about this fascinating fruit: your favorite or hard-to-find varieties; recipes, new and handed down; horticulture; photographs and artwork. You can post your comments below or email them to info@newenglandapples.org.

(We have since found several sources for Westfield-Seek-No-Further and Shamrock, and have photographs of both apples.)

* * *

WE MET JUDY MATHER at the Sterling Fair September 12, and although she does not use a computer she was kind enough to handwrite a letter and send it with a pair of recipes as a follow-up to our conversation about apple crisp and New England apples.

She writes, “I’m still looking for the words to “Sippin’ cider through a straw.” (Using our computer, we found them at Sippin’ Cider, reprinted below.)

Mather’s apple crisp recipe is a family favorite passed down from Edith Crosby, her grandmother. Note the unusual egg in the topping.

Judy Mather’s Apple Crisp

Apples — pare (optional), core and slice thin McIntosh, Cortland, and Golden Delicious (or a mix ).

Place sliced apples in a 9” pie plate or casserole dish.

Spread over apples ½ c sugar and ½ t cinnamon.

Topping — 1 c sugar, 1 c. flour, 1 t baking powder, pinch of salt. Stir in 1 whole egg. Mix together and spread on top of apples.

Bake at 350° until top is a light “nut” brown and crunchy and apples are done —20-30 minutes approximately.

Mather, who lives in Sterling, sent this as well:

“This is a favorite apple recipe, also from my grandmother, Edith Crosby. I entered it in a cookbook back in the 1980s. It’s a great accompaniment to Thanksgiving dinner, to top hamburgers, etc. I also add it to ham salad.”

Old Fashioned Apple Chutney

24 Golden Delicious apples

4 green peppers

6 onions

4 T salt

1 c raisins

4 T white mustard seed

½ t cinnamon

½ t ground cloves

5 c vinegar

6 c brown sugar

Boil vinegar and sugar until clear. Chop apples, pepper and onions into small chunks and add to sugar/vinegar mixture. Add remaining ingredients. Simmer gently for 2 hours. Process in canning jars.

* * *

Sippin’ Cider

The prettiest girl I ever saw

Was sippin’ cider through a straw

I told that gal I didn’t see how

She sipped that cider through a straw

Then cheek to cheek and jaw to jaw

We sipped that cider through a straw

And now and then that straw would slip

And I’d sip some cider from her lip

And now I’ve got a mother-in-law

From sippin’ cider through a straw

The moral of this little tale

Is to sip your soda through a pail!

Read Full Post »

WITH THIS FALL’S EARLY HARVEST, mid-season apples like Empire and Jonathan are already available at farm stands and stores. There will be plenty of apples throughout the fall, but if you want to pick your own, you should plan to go this weekend or next, at the latest, except for parts of northern New England (call the orchard to see what is being picked).

Empire apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Empire apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

The Empire apple is a cross between McIntosh and Eastern Red Delicious. The result is a variety whose flavor is sweeter and less tart than a McIntosh. Empires have juicy, firm white flesh that does not easily bruise. They are high-quality dessert apples and good for all culinary uses. They have a deep red skin brushed with gold and green.

Empire is a newer variety, raised by R.D. Way in 1945, and introduced commercially in 1966 by the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, New York.

Jonathan apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Jonathan apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Jonathans are a popular cooking apple, with a spicy, tangy flavor. Their flesh is crisp and juicy, and they have a deep red skin. Applesauce made with Jonathans turns a rich pink from the brilliant red skin color.

Two cautionary notes about Jonathans are that they have a relatively short storage life, and they are not considered especially good for baked apples.

From Ulster County, New York, the Jonathan dates back to the mid-1800s, from an Esopus Spitzenburg seedling.

*            *            *

THIS RECIPE for “Juniper and Apple Soup” comes from Massachusetts native Bea Ruggles Dobyan, now living in Missouri, via Michigan (she found it at a Spice Merchants shop in Ann Arbor).

“It sounded different,” Bea writes, “and that’s the kind of cooking I like.” She will serve it as the first course at a dinner party this weekend, and says it is a great opener for a fall day.

“You can take the girl out of New England, but you can’t take New England out of the girl,” says Bea, who grew up in the central Massachusetts town of Brookfield. “I’m crazy about using herbs and spices in my cooking. That is what I’m known for here in the Midwest.”

Juniper and Apple Soup

1 T juniper berries (cracked)

4 cardamom pods

3 whole allspice

1 cinnamon stick

1 bunch fresh parsley

2 T olive oil

3 New England apples, peeled, cored and diced, such as McIntosh, Empire, and Jonathan

2 celery stalks, finely chopped

2 shallots, chopped

1 inch piece of fresh ginger root, finely chopped

4 c chicken or vegetable stock

1 c apple cider

1 c cream

3 T Armagnac or apricot brandy (optional)

salt and pepper to taste

chopped fresh parsley to garnish

Put juniper berries, cardamom pods, allspice, and cinnamon stick in a piece of cheesecloth and tie together with string. Tie the parsley together with a string.

Heat oil in a pan, add apples, celery, shallots, and ginger. Season with salt and pepper. Cover the pan, and cook gently for 10 minutes.

Add the stock and apple cider and stir well. Add the spices and parsley. Bring slowly to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 40 minutes. Remove the spices and parsley.

Pour the soup into a blender and purée. Then pass it through a sieve (strainer) into a clean pan. Bring to a boil and add the cream and the Armagnac/brandy. Add salt and pepper if necessary. Serve hot, garnish with fresh parsley.

Optionally, you can add cooked ham and crispy bacon, as well.

*            *            *

BECOME A FACEBOOK FRIEND of New England Apples by visiting www.newenglandapples.org.

Read Full Post »