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WE ARE ALWAYS INTERESTED in books about apples, and four titles published between 1993 and 2012 have recently come our way:

IMG_0393A Basket of Apples (Harmony Books, 1993) by Val Archer is a worthy addition to our collection for the author’s watercolor illustrations alone. Every page and every recipe is accompanied by a beautiful painting, and there is a section with thumbnail images of dozens of apple varieties. The book has a distinctly English flavor (Archer is a native and studied at the Royal College of Art). We have yet to try her recipes, so we cannot vouch for them, but there are some intriguing titles like “Apple and Stilton Strudel” and “Wilted Spinach Salad with Apple and Feta,” plus standards like apple pie and muffins.

IMG_0392Apples (Applewood Books, 2009) is chock full of apple images in painting, photography, and advertising. It is a picture book that provides a good overview of how apples have been grown and sold over the past century. A small, thin volume, it is entertaining through a combination of nostalgia and contemporary images.

Apples, Apples and More (Ineda Publishing, third edition, 2006) by McGarvey Summers is at the other end of the spectrum from Apples: a no-frills cookbook without illustration. The book opens with this warning: “These recipes are not low fat, low sugar, or low carbohydrate!! They were put together by old-timey cooks and bakers for enjoyment! They are not for those on a diet, or for those who don’t like good food.”

IMG_0394Despite this, honey replaces or reduces white sugar in many of the recipes, and a number of recipes include healthy ingredients like whole wheat flour. Some of the recipes are simple to prepare with processed foods among the ingredients, and there are some not-so-subtle advertisements for certain brands. But there are some interesting choices, too. Recipes that caught our eye include “Apple Rhubarb Pie,” “Baked Apple Charlotte,” “Cranberry Apple Cobbler,” and “Applesauce Pudding.”

IMG_0388John P. Bunker’s self-published Not Far From the Tree: A Brief History of the Apples and the Orchards of Palermo, Maine (third printing, 2012) contains a wealth of information about heirlooms and apple growing, lavishly illustrated with black-and-white drawings, many by the author. While his jumping off point is narrow, as the title suggests, and there is lots of local history, Bunker covers a lot of ground in his detailed, first-person descriptions of varieties and horticulture. Bunker’s interest in apples extends more than three decades as a founder of Fedco Trees, a source for many heirloom apple varieties.

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IMG_0396A FIFTH BOOK celebrating apples was previously known to us, but deserves special mention as it celebrates its 35th anniversary in 2013. The Apple Orchard Cookbook (Countryman Press, second edition, 2010) by Janet M. Christensen and Betty Bergman Levin resulted from an apple-cooking contest held on WCVB-TV’s former “Good Day!” program, which Levin wrote and produced. She suggested that a proposed cooking contest feature apples because of their accessibility, affordability, and, she says, “their extraordinary versatility and delectable taste!”

Three recipes were chosen from each New England state. The top selection from each state held a “cook-off” on the air in the studio “where I was able to get an oven manufacturer to provide six ovens and get them to the studio,” says Levin.

One recipe that Christensen and Levin included in the book’s second edition was from a cousin of Levin’s from South Africa, who made and served it at her grandson’s Bar Mitzvah. “It’s a recipe I’ve never seen elsewhere and was surprisingly good when I tasted it,” Levin says.

Julia’s Danish Herring

1 12 oz. jar marinated herring with onions

1/4 c vegetable oil

1/4 c tomato paste

1/2 c chopped apple (tart like Granny Smith or Rhode Island Greening)

1/4 c brown sugar

Cut herring into 1/2-inch squares or bits. Mix all ingredients. Refrigerate for 24 hours. Serve with crisp crackers or round of rye or pumpernickel bread.

***

 

'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.

'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.

***

 TO LEARN MORE about New England apples, visit our website, New England Apples.

 

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The apple orchard makes a distinctive contribution to fall foliage at Wellwood Orchards, Springfield, Vermont. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

The apple orchard makes a distinctive contribution to fall foliage at Wellwood Orchards, Springfield, Vermont. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Jonagold apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Jonagold apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

JONAGOLD is a bit of a mystery, more popular around the globe than here in the United States, where it was developed. Jonagold is an exceptional apple in flavor, texture, and appearance, but Americans have not yet embraced it in on a large scale. A relatively new variety (1968) named for its parents, perhaps Jonagold is compromised by an unexciting brand identity compared to such new entries as Honeycrisp (1991), Jazz (2004), and SweeTango (2009).

Whatever the reason, Jonagold ranks just 15th in popularity among varieties grown in the United States, sandwiched between Cortland at number 14 and Cameo at 16. Jonagold is much more popular in Canada, Japan, and Europe than in America, especially Belgium, where — like McIntosh in New England — Jonagold accounts for about two-thirds of the apple crop. It is the third most popular variety in Canada. Worldwide (excluding China), Jonagolds rank sixth in production.

Whatever the reasons Jonagold has lagged behind in the land in which it was developed, it is such a flavorful apple that it seems only a matter of time before Americans catch up with the rest of the world. Jonagold is an aromatic apple, sweet with a hint of tartness. It is very juicy, with a crisp, clean crunch reminiscent of Honeycrisp.

Jonagold’s color is variable, but at its best it is a stunning combination of its parents, the rich, red Jonathan, and Golden Delicious. Its flesh is light yellow. A good all-purpose apple, Jonagold’s exceptional juiciness and flavor make it well-regarded for both fresh and hard cider.

Jonagold was developed at Cornell University’s New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, New York, in 1943, and introduced commercially in 1968. Both of Jonagold’s parents have been prolific: Jonathan is the parent of more than 70 named offspring, Golden Delicious 25.

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Bishop's Orchard, Guilford, Connecticut (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Bishop’s Orchard, Guilford, Connecticut (Russell Steven Powell photo)

COUNT WINTER SQUASH among the many vegetables that pair well with apples. The apple’s versatility is further featured in a stuffing that can be used with eggplant, mushrooms, onions, tomatoes, or zucchini as well as with poultry and seafood.

Both recipes come from Janet M. Christensen’s and Betty Bergman Levin’s Apple Orchard Cookbook, Second Edition (Countryman Press, 2010).

Baked Stuffed Acorn Squash

3 acorn squash

3 Jonagold or other New England apple, unpeeled

3/4 c nut meats (optional)

1/4 c melted butter

1/2 c maple syrup or honey

Cut squash in halves and scoop out seeds. Dice apples and combine with nuts.

Place squash in a baking pan. Divide apple-nut mixture among the six squash halves. Drizzle butter and syrup or honey over each.

Add hot water to 1/2-inch depth. Cover pan loosely with foil. Bake at 400°F for 45 minutes, or until squash is tender.

All-Purpose Apple Stuffing

1 c Italian-flavored breadcrumbs

1 Jonagold or other New England apple, chopped

1 c hot water

2 T olive oil

Mix together breadcrumbs, apple, hot water, and olive oil.

Brush vegetables with 2 T olive oil before stuffing.

Eggplant or zucchini: Halve and scoop out centers, chop the remains and add to stuffing mixture.

Mushrooms: Break off and chop stems, and add to stuffing mixture.

Onions: Halve large onions and remove their centers; set onion shells aside. Chop onion centers and add to stuffing mixture.

Tomatoes: Remove inner part of tomato, chop, and add to stuffing mixture.

Baked stuffed vegetables at 350°F for about 40 minutes. Bake poultry or seafood according to your usual procedure.

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Chapin Orchard, Essex Junction, Vermont (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Chapin Orchard, Essex Junction, Vermont (Russell Steven Powell photo)

THIS WEEKEND is the 18th Annual CiderDays in Franklin County, Massachusetts. The two-day event Saturday, November 3, and Sunday, November 4, draws hard cider-makers and aficionados from around the country.

Many of CiderDays’ events are already sold out, but there is still time to join the festivities.

Visit CiderDays for more information and a schedule.

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America's Apple by Russell Steven PowellAPPLE DRINKS merit an entire chapter in America’s Apple, a new book by Russell Steven Powell with photographs by Bar Lois Weeks.

Several of the makers of fresh, hard, and ice cider from last year’s CiderDays are featured, including Boston’s Harpoon Brewery, makers of a commercial hard cider, and the artisanal Eden Ice Cider of West Charleston, Vermont.

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Late-season apples at Bolton Orchards, Bolton, Massachusetts. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Late-season apples at Bolton Orchards, Bolton, Massachusetts. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Bolton Orchards, Bolton, Massachusetts. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Bolton Orchards, Bolton, Massachusetts. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

THE DAY BEGAN damp and dreary, but Bolton Orchards in Bolton, Massachusetts, was beautiful nonetheless on Sunday, with a few late-season apples providing stark contrast in a landscape being slowly drained of green. Beneath the clouds and mist, the distant backdrop of fall foliage looked brighter than if the sun had been out.

View from Bolton Orchards, Bolton, Massachusetts. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

View from Bolton Orchards, Bolton, Massachusetts. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

The clouds dispersed by mid-afternoon, slowly exposing the long views afforded by the orchard’s hilltop location.

Bolton Orchards, Bolton, Massachusetts. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Bolton Orchards, Bolton, Massachusetts. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

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AS WITH the parentage of many heirloom apples, the origin of this antique recipe for Hermits is a little cloudy. Most likely the Hermit cookie dates back to 1880 from two sources: Plattsburgh, New York, in the Champlain Valley, and Boston.

The main difference in the two recipes is the New York recipe was made with brown sugar and no eggs, while the New England recipe called for white sugar and 3 eggs. Our version uses 2 eggs and molasses.

The origin of the cookie name “Hermit” is also unclear. Some believe the oblong hermit looks like the brown robe of an ascetic hermit. Others say the cookie’s flavor improves after they are “secluded” for a few days.

Late-season apple at Bolton Orchards, Bolton, Massachusetts. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Late-season apple at Bolton Orchards, Bolton, Massachusetts. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Apple Hermit Cookies

1/2 c butter

3/4 c brown sugar

1/4 c molasses

2 eggs

1-3/4 c flour (half whole-grain wheat flour)

1/2 c old-fashioned oats

1/2 t baking soda

Apple tree trunk at Bolton Orchards, Bolton, Massachusetts. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Apple tree trunk at Bolton Orchards, Bolton, Massachusetts. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

1/2 t baking powder

1/2 t cinnamon

1/4 t nutmeg

1/8 t cloves

1/8 t ginger

1/4 t salt

1 c New England apples, chopped

1 c dates, chopped (or try dried cranberries, currants, or raisins)

1/2 c walnuts, chopped

Preheat oven to 350°F. Cream together butter and brown sugar, then beat in molasses and eggs. Combine and stir in dry ingredients. Add fruit and nuts.

Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto greased cookie sheet. Bake 12 minutes or until almost no imprint remains when lightly touched. Careful not to overbake!

Late afternoon sun on apples at Bolton Orchards, Bolton, Massachusetts. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Late afternoon sun on apples at Bolton Orchards, Bolton, Massachusetts. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

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America's Apple coverAMERICA’S APPLE, a new book about apple growing in the United States by Russell Steven Powell, looks at apples as horticulture, food, cultural icons, and agricultural commodity. Powell, who has worked in the apple industry for the past 16 years, visited more than 50 orchards across the country gathering information for the book, and interviewed some of the nation’s leading apple researchers.

The hard-cover volume features nearly 50 full-color photographs by Bar Lois Weeks, plus a photographic index of 120 apple varieties grown in the United States. A paperback version, identical except for the photographic index, is available for $19.95.

To learn more, including how to order, visit America’s Apple.

Upcoming events

THIS WEEKEND the 28th Annual AppleFest will be held at Mount Wachusett in Princeton, Massachusetts. Red Apple Farm, as always, will have apples, fresh cider, cider donuts, and other baked goods from its Phillipston store and orchard. On Saturday, October 20, Russell and Bar will sign books from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., and at 2 p.m. they will serve as judges in the 3rd Annual New England Apple Pie Contest.

Russell will give a talk about apples at the Goodwin Memorial Library in Hadley, Massachusetts, next Wednesday, October 24, at 6 p.m., and at the Merrick Public Library in Brookfield, Massachusetts, Tuesday, November 13 at 7 p.m.

One of the more imaginative entries from last year's 2nd Annual New England Apple Pie Contest. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

One of the more imaginative entries from last year’s 2nd Annual New England Apple Pie Contest. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

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Some New England orchards had outstanding crops in 2012, like Tougas Family Farm in Northborough, Massachusetts. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Some New England orchards had outstanding crops in 2012, like Tougas Family Farm in Northborough, Massachusetts. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

IT’S DIFFICULT to draw a single conclusion about this year’s New England apple crop. While the region’s diverse geography and microclimates ensure some variability from year to year, the 2012 season has been more volatile than most. It began with a freak March heat wave that was followed, predictably, by sub-freezing temperatures in April, killing many of the premature blossoms and nascent (young) fruit. Orchards and blocks of trees in low-lying areas with poor air circulation sustained the greatest loss.

Some of the orchards that survived this catastrophe were then hit by hail in June and July, further reducing the size of the region’s crop. Even a brief hailstorm can devastate an orchard, leaving small nicks or pockmarks in the fruit’s skin. Hail makes an apple less pleasing to the eye and compromises its storage ability. But if eaten soon after it is picked the apple’s flavor and texture are unaffected.

Spring and summer were hot, and, while overall the apple crop received plenty of water, there were several long stretches between rains early in the season. This, combined with the early bloom, sped up the ripening process, resulting in a harvest that began one or more weeks sooner than usual, depending on location.

Mid-season varieties like McIntosh were being picked in some orchards as early as Labor Day Weekend, and many pick-your-owns have already closed for the season. The larger orchards growing for the wholesale market are finishing up their harvest earlier than usual as well.

Some New England orchards lost their entire 2012 crop to frost or hail damage, or both. Yet the news was not all bad. Many orchards had beautiful, full crops. Most fell somewhere in between: they had apples, but only 60 percent to 80 percent of a normal crop. When all of the apples are picked, New England in 2012 expects to harvest about 75 percent of a normal crop.

Despite this, New England did well and its growers feel fortunate compared to their peers in New York and Michigan, the country’s second and third largest apple-growing states, respectively, after Washington. New York lost half its crop, Michigan a staggering 85 percent, historic losses resulting from the same weather pattern experienced in New England: premature bloom from a March heat wave followed by a killing April frost.

What should consumers expect due to the earlier and smaller crop in New England and the Northeast?

A shorter season. If you want the orchard experience this fall, you should get there over the next few weekends. Visit our website, New England Apples, to find information about many of the region’s orchards. Call the orchard ahead of time to find out what varieties are ready and to see if pick-your-own is still available.

Dings and dents. With fewer fresh apples around this fall, growers are hoping consumers will accept an occasional blemish or flaw in exchange for an otherwise perfect apple.

Higher fresh cider prices. There simply are not enough juice apples this year, and there is no going to New York or Michigan to supplement the New England crop. The price of juice apples is up accordingly, and is likely to take cider prices with it.

An early end. The wholesale season will likely end early next spring. While there are plenty of fresh apples to go around now and through the holidays, the 2012 New England crop will be sold well before the 2013 crop is ready for harvest next August. In a good year, New England can supply its supermarkets with apples year-round. Many times there is a gap of a month or so between seasons, but the 2012 crop may be gone earlier than usual.

In the meantime, there are plenty of outstanding New England apples ripe for the picking and eating. Enjoy them while you can!

Like many growers, Roy Marks of Wellwood Orchards in Springfield, Vermont, will have apples at his country store through October, despite having just 60 percent of a normal crop. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Like many growers, Roy Marks of Wellwood Orchards in Springfield, Vermont, will have apples at his country store through October, despite having just 60 percent of a normal crop. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

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IF YOU ARE LOOKING for variety in your apples and can’t get to the orchard, two good options in western New England are River Valley Market in Northampton, Massachusetts, and the Brattleboro Co-op in Vermont. Both have extensive apple displays with many hard-to-find heirlooms like Knobby Russet, Ashmead’s Kernel, and Pitmaston Pineapple.

The best place to find an heirloom apple, naturally, is at the orchard, and you can find out who grows what by visiting Finding New England Apples by Variety. If you know of additional sources for heirlooms in New England, please add them as comments at the end of this post.

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THIS RECIPE for apple muffins was provided by Diane Brzozowski of Hatfield, who made them for runners at the end of Saturday’s Hatfield Harvest 5K Road Race, where they were quickly gobbled up. The original 1996 recipe came from the Healthy Eating for Life Program (HELP), Cooperative Extension Service, Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas.

Whole Wheat Apple Muffins

2 c whole wheat flour

1 T baking powder

1/2 t salt

1-1/2 t cinnamon

1/4 t nutmeg

1 egg

3/4 c milk

1/4 c oil

1/4 c honey

1 large McIntosh, Shamrock, or other tart New England apples, cored and chopped

Preheat oven to 375° F. Grease tins for 12 muffins.

Mix dry ingredients thoroughly. Mix together egg, milk, oil, and honey, and add them to the dry ingredients. Stir until batter is moist but lumpy.

Fill the muffin tins two-thirds full. Bake 25 minutes or until lightly browned.

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WEATHER IS just one of the challenges growers face as they guide their crop from spring bloom through harvest in America’s Apple, a new book about apple growing in the United States by Russell Steven Powell.Powell, who has worked in the apple industry for the past 16 years, visited more than 50 orchards across the country gathering information for the book, and interviewed some of the nation’s leading apple researchers.
The hard-cover volume features nearly 50 full-color photographs by Bar Lois Weeks, plus a photographic index of 120 apple varieties grown in the United States (a paperback version, identical except for the photographic index, is available for $19.95).
To learn more, including how to order, visit America’s Apple.

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Phyllis Tougas of Tougas Family Farm in Northborough, Massachusetts, with a fresh tray of cider donuts. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Phyllis Tougas of Tougas Family Farm in Northborough, Massachusetts, with a fresh tray of cider donuts. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

THE QUESTION of who makes the best cider donut inspires considerable debate and some controversy. These humble, cake-like orbs are nearly as high in demand as the freshly picked apples filling the bins or hanging from the trees at many orchards. Why do these apple-infused donuts provoke such fierce devotion, and what is the secret of their success?

We have sampled cider donuts from dozens of orchards around New England and can vouch for their nearly universal appeal, although no two are alike. They are all made with cider and very little shortening and come in two varieties: plain and sugar-coated. The latter are often mixed with cinnamon, as is the batter, giving the donuts their distinctive, lightly spiced flavor. That flavor is equally influenced by other spices added to the batter, notably nutmeg, but we can offer no further insight, as orchards guard their ingredients and proportions like state secrets.

Their texture is what further separates the very good from the truly exalted cider donut. Some are heavier, some a little lighter, but beauty, in this case, is in the taste buds of the consumer. Cider donuts inspire great loyalty: the best ones invariably are those made at one’s local orchard. For many, it is love at first bite.

Cider donuts are known primarily in the Northeast, and their popularity is staggering. Many orchards have trouble keeping up with demand, especially on fall weekends, and people will endure long lines to satisfy their appetite for this subtly sweet treat. The cider donuts made by Atkins Farms in Amherst, Massachusetts, were once named one of the top ten donuts in America by a national food magazine, and on fall weekends they make upwards of 10,000 per day.

We will have Atkins Farms cider donuts at our booth in the Massachusetts Building at the Eastern States Exposition (“The Big E”) daily starting this Friday, September 14, through Sunday, September 30, but you can find great cider donuts at your local orchard as well. After all, that’s where they’re the best.

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THIS RECIPE comes from Stephanie Waite of Westward Orchards, Harvard, Massachusetts. We’ve tried their cider donuts — it’s in our job description — and they’re outstanding, too.

Cider Donut Pudding

12-14 cider donuts, dried and broken apart

4 eggs beaten

2 T butter, melted

1/4 c sugar

1/4 c brown sugar

2 c milk

1 c apple cider

1 t vanilla

1 t cinnamon

1 t nutmeg

1 large Cortland or other New England apple

Preheat oven to 350°F. In a large mixing bowl, place donut pieces. In a separate bowl combine remaining ingredients except apple. Pour mixture over donuts and let sit 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, core and chop the apple and add to donut mixture. After 20 minutes, pour this into 9″ x 13″ baking dish and bake for one hour or until set.

Serve with whipped cream or ice cream.

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 America's AppleIN ADDITION to cider donuts, we will have fresh apples from a number of Massachusetts orchards at our booth at the Big E, plus apple crisp and pies made by Marge Cook of Cook’s Farm Orchard in Brimfield, fresh cider from Carlson Orchards of Harvard, apple butter and preserves from Bear Meadow Farm in Colrain, and the book America’s Apple, by Russell Steven Powell, with photographs by Bar Lois Weeks. Both Powell and Weeks will be staffing the booth and available to sign books and talk about apples.

We will also have recipe cards and brochures about New England orchards and apples. Stop by and say hello, grab a bite, and learn more about America’s most famous fruit.

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Honeycrisp (foreground) and Gala are among the apple varieties now ripe for picking at orchards like Honey Pot Hill Orchards in Stow, Massachusetts. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Honeycrisp (foreground) and Gala are among the apple varieties now ripe for picking at orchards like Honey Pot Hill Orchards in Stow, Massachusetts. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

THE 2012 NEW ENGLAND APPLE CROP was celebrated around the region yesterday, as state officials in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont visited orchards to meet with growers and sample fresh-picked apples.

Mary Jordan (3rd from right) of the Department of Agricultural Resources presents Karen Green, Stephanie Waite, and Gail Conlin of Westward Orchards in Harvard, Massachusetts, a proclamation from Gov. Deval Patrick naming September "Apple Month." (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Mary Jordan (3rd from right) of the Department of Agricultural Resources presents Karen Green, Stephanie Waite, and Gail Conlin of Westward Orchards in Harvard, Massachusetts, a proclamation from Gov. Deval Patrick naming September “Apple Month.” (Russell Steven Powell photo)

In Massachusetts, Governor Deval Patrick and the state legislature declared September “Apple Month.” Officials from the Department of Agricultural Resources visited Honey Pot Hill Orchards in Stow, Bolton Orchards in Bolton, and Westward Orchards in Harvard to present signed copies of the declaration.

In Connecticut, Agriculture Commissioner Steven K. Reviczky read Governor Dannel P. Malloy’s proclamation of September 5, at New England Apple Day at Belltown Hill Orchards in South Glastonbury. In Rhode Island, Ken Ayars, Chief of Agriculture, presented a similar proclamation at Appleland Orchard in Smithfield. State officials in New Hampshire gathered at Apple Hill Farm in Concord to show their support and present their New England Apple Day proclamation.

The 2012 New England apple crop is expected to be smaller than normal due to damage inflicted by a spring frost and scattered hail in mid-summer, but over all the harvest looks strong and is off to a robust start, a week or more ahead of schedule. There will be plenty of fresh apples for picking throughout the season.

Varieties like McIntosh, Cortland, Gala, and Honeycrisp are already being picked at many of the region’s orchards and should be available at pick-your-own farms this weekend. Call ahead to see what your favorite orchard is picking, or visit New England Apples for a listing of orchards throughout the six-state region.

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Gala apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Gala apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Gala has become one of the most widely grown apples in the world since it was introduced from New Zealand in 1934. It has a conical shape and red-orange coloring with yellow striping, and it often turns a deeper color late in the season and in storage. Gala is a sweet, crunchy apple, and juicy. Its flavor has hints of pear. Gala is well suited for both fresh eating and cooking, and it is ready for harvest in many orchards now.

Gala derives its genetic heritage from Cox’s Orange Pippin, an English apple dating back to 1825, and both Red and Golden Delicious. One of its offspring is Jazz, a managed variety introduced in 2000.

Managed, or club, varieties, are now the norm for new apples developed around the world. Growers can only plant these varieties if they are licensed to do so. The goal of managing varieties this way is to maintain quality and limit production, and return more revenue to the people and programs that develop them. While this can prevent a popular apple from being over-planted, it means that consumers may not find certain new varieties in their local orchard.

* * *

HERE’S A RECIPE for Galas or other New England apples adapted from the kitchen of Roy Palmquist. For a healthier version, substitute plain yogurt for the sour cream (try the Greek kind for extra creaminess), or applesauce for all or part of the butter.

Sour Cream Apple Cake

6 T butter

2 eggs

1 c all-purpose flour

1 c whole wheat flour

1/4 t salt

1 c sour cream

3/4 c sugar

1 t vanilla

1 t baking powder

1 t baking soda

2-3 apples like Gala or Honeycrisp, cored and thinly sliced

Topping

1/2 c walnuts or pecans, chopped

1/3 c sugar

1 t cinnamon

Icing

3/4 c confectioners’ sugar

3/4 t almond extract

milk

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Cream together butter and sugar. Add eggs and vanilla. Stir in dry ingredients and sour cream, and mix well. Spoon half the batter into a greased 9”x13” pan.

Layer apple slices on top and sprinkle with half of topping mixture. Repeat the three layers: batter, apples, topping.

Bake 45-50 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Mix together confectioners’ sugar and almond extract. Add just enough milk to make it moist enough to drizzle off a spoon. While cake is still warm, drizzle with icing.

* * *

America's Apple

America’s Apple

IT TAKES GREAT EFFORT and a little luck to bring an apple crop to the crescendo of harvest, but visiting an orchard teeming with apples in September and October is a treat for all of the senses.

Read about how about apples are grown and the challenges growers face as they guide their crop from spring bloom through harvest in America’s Apple, a new book about apple growing in the United States by Russell Steven Powell.

Powell, who has worked in the apple industry for the past 16 years, visited more than 50 orchards across the country gathering information for the book, and interviewed some of the nation’s leading apple researchers.

The hard-cover volume features nearly 50 full-color photographs by Bar Lois Weeks, plus a photographic index of 120 apple varieties grown in the United States.

To learn more, including how to order, visit America’s Apple.

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Still-young apples in mid-July at Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village in New Gloucester, Maine. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Still-young apples in mid-July at Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village in New Gloucester, Maine. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

AN EARLY SPRING BLOOM followed by a hot summer means early apples in New England, beginning with varieties like Ginger Gold, Jersey Mac, and PaulaRed. The crop is running one to two weeks ahead of schedule in many locations, meaning that PaulaReds are already available for picking, and McIntosh could be ready as early as Labor Day weekend. Check your orchard’s listing and click through to their website at Find a New England apple orchard to see where they are available.

PaulaRed apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

PaulaRed apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

PaulaReds are striking, red in color with light yellow or green striping and prominent lenticels, the tiny dots on an apple’s skin through which it respires. PaulaReds have a sweet-tart flavor with a hint of strawberry. Their flesh is white, firm, and slow to brown. They are good for both cooking and fresh eating. PaulaReds launch the fresh harvest but they are not available for long and should be eaten soon after picking, as they do not store well.

PaulaRed is a relatively new variety, discovered in Sparta Township, Kent County, Michigan in 1960, by grower Lewis Arends, who named the new variety after his wife, Pauline. PaulaReds came from a chance seedling near a block of McIntosh trees, and their sweet-tart flavor and two-toned color suggests they may have McIntosh in their parentage.

Here is a cool summer recipe featuring PaulaReds and another local ingredient, fresh mint.

Baked Apples with Fresh Mint

4 PaulaRed or other New England apples

1/2 c raisins

1/4 c brown sugar

1 T fresh mint, minced

2 t butter

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Core and peel a 1″ strip around the stem end of each apple. Place apples in a shallow baking dish. Combine raisins, brown sugar, and mint, and fill apples with this mixture. Top each with 1/2 t butter. Bake for 50 minutes or until apples are tender.

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IdaReds at Red Apple Farm, Phillipston, Massachusetts. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Idareds at Red Apple Farm, Phillipston, Massachusetts. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

AN EASY-TO-MAKE, satisfying-to-eat late-winter dessert is apple pandowdy. It’s really a deep-dish apple pie, with a thick apple filling and no bottom crust, but it is distinguished by its choice of sweetener — molasses, rather than sugar — and subtle blend of spices.

The origin of the word “pandowdy” is unknown, but it dates back to the early 1800s, according to Merriam-Webster. Some speculate that the name refers to the dish’s humble, plain origins (“pan” plus “dowdy”). It’s true that it doesn’t take long to make, especially if you keep the nutritious apple peels on, as we do. But that’s good, since apple pandowdy doesn’t last long, either. You can easily double this recipe and use a 9″ x 13″ baking dish.

Idared apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Idared apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

A good apple for this time of year is Idared, because its flavor develops greater sweetness and complexity after a few months in cold storage. Idareds are featured in many cider blends at this time of year and are outstanding in pies and in cooking.

A late-season apple, Idared was developed by Leif Verner at the Idaho Agricultural Experiment Station in Moscow, Idaho, in 1942. It is a cross between Jonathan and Wagener apples.

We paired two Idareds with two Mutsus from Rogers Orchards in Southington, Connecticut, for this recipe adapted from Joy of Cooking. It was delicious!

Apple Pandowdy

Crust

1 c  flour

1/4 c whole wheat flour

1/2 t salt

1-1/2 T butter

3 T water

Filling

4 large Idared, Mutsu or other New England apples

1/2 c molasses (or substitute boiled cider or maple syrup)

2 T cornstarch

1/2 t cinnamon

1/4 t nutmeg

1/4 t salt

dash allspice

1 T butter

Preheat oven to 400°. Make crust by mixing flours and salt, and then cutting in butter with a fork or pastry blender. Gradually add water and mix until dough forms. Roll out to about the thickness of pie dough, in the shape of an 8” baking dish. Refrigerate until ready to use.

In large bowl, mix together molasses, cornstarch, and spices. Core and cut apples into 1/4” slices. Add to bowl and stir with a wooden spoon until apples are coated.

Place apples in 8” baking dish. Dot with butter. Place dough over top, folding in edges. Bake for 30 minutes.

Reduce heat to 350°. Remove pandowdy and cut crust into squares. Allow any juice to coat the crust by tipping the baking dish or pushing down on the crust with a spoon. (Depending on the type of apple you use, there may not be much juice at this point.)

Return baking dish to oven and bake for another 30 minutes, or until apples are soft. Press top with spoon to allow juices to cover crust. Let cool slightly before serving.

Serve with vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt.

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New England apples (Russell Steven Powell photo)

(Russell Steven Powell photo)

New England apples (Russell Steven Powell photo)

(Russell Steven Powell photo)

THERE IS STILL TIME to make a big splash on Valentine’s Day Tuesday. If you are looking for a gift made memorable by your personal touch, try baking your sweetie this rare apple treat rather than reaching for the ubiquitous, ho-hum box of chocolates.

Like chocolate, Valentine’s Day Apple Cheesecake is decadent and sweet, but with a few healthy touches like the apples, pecans in the crust and topping, and the option of no- or low-fat cream cheese and sour cream.

But it’s really less about the ingredients and more about the thoughtfulness — and the effort — that makes this a uniquely special gift. As for the apples, there are plenty of good New England McIntosh available, or Cortland, or Empire, or any combination of them.

Valentine’s Day Apple Cheesecake

Serves 12

New England apples (Russell Steven Powell photo)

(Russell Steven Powell photo)

Crust

2 c graham cracker crumbs

2 T sugar

2 T finely chopped pecans

1 t cinnamon

1/2 c butter, melted

In a small bowl, combine crumbs, sugar, pecans, and cinnamon. Stir in butter. Reserve 1/8 cup for garnish. Press remaining in a greased 9-inch springform pan. Place pan on a baking sheet. Bake at 350° for 10 minutes. Cool.

Filling

4  8-oz packages cream cheese, softened (fat-free is fine)

3/4 c sugar

3 eggs, beaten

2 t vanilla

2 T cornstarch

1 c sour cream (fat-free is fine)

In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth and light. Beat in eggs, vanilla, and cornstarch just until blended. Stir in sour cream. Pour into crust.

Honeycrisp apples (Russell Steven Powell photo)

(Russell Steven Powell photo)

Topping

2-1/2 c New England apples, peeled and chopped

3/4 c cherry, beet, or cranberry juice

1/4 c sugar

1/2 t cinnamon

2 T chopped pecans

In a large bowl, combine apples and juice. Stir the apples gently and allow them to absorb for at least 15 minutes. Drain excess juice. Mix in sugar and cinnamon; spoon over filling.

Place pan on baking sheet and bake for 55-60 minutes or until center is almost set. Cool 10 minutes; then run a knife around inside of pan to loosen. Sprinkle with pecans. Chill overnight before serving. Refrigerate leftover cheesecake.

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HOW SHOULD YOU STORE your apples once they are home? Keep them cold! Watch this short video for suggestions about how to keep your apples crisp and fresh.

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Lady apples (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Lady apples (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

LADY APPLE PROVES THE ADAGE that good things come in small packages. Lady is small but intense! Its bright white flesh is crisp and juicy, with hints of citrus. Some liken it to the flavor of dried fruit. Lady’s red and green color varies depending on the amount of sunlight it gets; the green can lighten to yellow.

Lady is a late-season apple, ripening in late October into November. Because of its size, festive coloring, and ability to withstand a freeze, Lady is often featured in Christmas wreaths, and is also known as Christmas Apple. Lady is a brilliant sight in the orchard during late summer and fall, cascading in thick clusters.

Lady apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Lady apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

But Lady first and foremost is a culinary apple, packing a powerful punch of sweet-tart flavor. Its small size make Lady less than ideal for cooking, but they are popular in salads, eaten fresh, and pickled sweet or sour, in the latter case sometimes served with a hot sauce.

Lady is one of the oldest known apple varieties, having been cultivated in France since the 1600s during the reign of Louis XIII. It may be even older, dating back to ancient Rome.

The term “lady” has been a popular one when it comes to naming apples. The classic 1905 volume, Apples of New York, lists Lady Finger and Lady Sweet in addition to Lady, while the more recent Old Southern Apples (2010) lists Lady Skin plus four extinct varieties (Ladies Blush, Ladies Choice, Ladies Favorite, and Lady Lyons).

The Apple Book, also from 2010, describes primarily European varieties, especially apples cultivated in the United Kingdom; it adds Lady Sudeley and Lady Henniker, named for the wives of British lords.

Pink Lady apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Pink Lady apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

This tiny heirloom is sometimes confused with Pink Lady, another late-season — but very new — variety. Pink Lady is a firm, crisp, tart and honey-sweet apple with a deep pink flush over a green skin. Pink Lady is an outstanding fresh-eating apple, and it is also good for cooking and in sauce. They keep several months with refrigeration.

Pink Lady, introduced in 1989, is the trademarked name of an Australian cross of Golden Delicious with an Australian apple, Lady Williams. It was originally named Cripps Pink.

***

We’ve made a few alterations to this recipe credited to Martha Stewart.

Pickled Lady Apples

2 lbs Lady apples

2 c cider vinegar

1/2 c brown sugar

1/2 c granulated sugar

1-1/4 c cider or water

1-1/2 t salt

2 cinnamon sticks

1-1/2 t allspice berries

3 whole cloves

1 bay leaf

3/4 t black peppercorns

1/2 c raw cranberries

Prick apples in a few places with a fork. Bring vinegar, sugars, water, and spices to a boil in a medium saucepan, stirring until sugar dissolves.

Add apples and return to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook until  a fork inserted in the center of an apple meets slight resistance, about 8 minutes. Stir in cranberries, transfer to a bowl, and let cool. Cover, and refrigerate for at least 8 hours (or up to 1 month). Serve apples cold or at room temperature.

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2015 New England Apples wall calendar

2015 New England Apples wall calendar

THERE’S STILL TIME to order the 2015 New England Apple wall calendar. Each month features a different New England orchard and apple variety. The 12”x12” full color calendar makes an ideal gift for the apple lovers on your list.

To order your calendar, send $12.95 ($9.95 plus $3.00 shipping) to New England Apples, P. O. Box 41, Hatfield, MA 01038. Make checks out to New England Apple Association. We’ll send your calendar out within 24 hours of receiving your order.

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IF YOU ARE LOOKING Lady apples, follow the “Find An Apple Orchard” link on our New England Apples website, click on “Lady,” and then “Find Orchards” at the bottom of the page.

To view photographs of more than 120 New England apple varieties, go to Apple Varieties. For a description of each one, click on the image, or watch our three-part series on New England apple varieties, featuring Chuck and Diane Souther of Apple Hill Farm in Concord, New Hampshire.

Part two, “New England Varieties—Old and New” includes Lady, and is featured here.

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