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The view from Lyman Orchards, Middlefield, Connecticut (Russell Steven Powell photo)

The view from Lyman Orchards, Middlefield, Connecticut. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

IF McINTOSH were its sole contribution, Canada would occupy a special place among producers of New England apples. McIntosh has thrived in New England’s soil and climate ever since Dr. Thomas H. Hoskins of Newport, Vermont, planted the first McIntosh sapling in the United States, purchased from the John McIntosh family nursery in Dundela, Ontario, in 1868.

McIntosh apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

McIntosh apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Macs rapidly gained in popularity due to their unbeatable combination of outstanding flavor and hardiness. McIntosh has been New England’s leading apple variety since the 1940s, and still account for about two-thirds of the region’s crop.

A round, medium-sized apple with splashes of green and red on a thin skin, McIntosh is ready for picking in most locations soon after Labor Day. It has white, juicy flesh, is highly aromatic, and more tart than sweet in flavor. It is outstanding for both fresh eating and cooking. Its flavor is superb in pies and other baked goods, and it is often mixed with varieties with denser flesh for a firmer texture, as its tender flesh breaks down when cooked.

McIntosh needs New England’s cool nights of late summer and early fall to produce apples with the greatest color and flavor, accounting for its success here.

McIntosh’s influence can be tasted throughout the season, as a parent to such popular New England varieties as Cortland, Empire, and Macoun, and redder strains like Marshall McIntosh, Rogers Red McIntosh, and RubyMac.

While no other apple can come close to matching McIntosh’s far-reaching influence, Canada has produced a number of other varieties that have developed a niche in New England. These include the heirloom Melba (1898), and newer varieties like Chinook (2000) and Nova (1986).

Silken apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Silken apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Silken is an early season apple, medium-sized, conical in shape, pale yellow in color with an occasional pink blush or light russeting around the stem. Its tender, cream-colored flesh is aromatic and juicy, and it has mild, sweet flavor. Like many early season apples, it is best eaten fresh, as it has a short storage life.

Silken is a cross between another Canadian apple, Sunrise, and Honeygold, a variety from Minnesota. Both of Silken’s parent apples include Golden Delicious in their lineage, accounting for Silken’s sweetness and color (Sunrise’s other parent, incidentally, is McIntosh).

Silken was developed in 1982 by W.D. Lane and R.A. MacDonald at Canada’s Pacific Agri-Food Research Centre in Summerland, British Columbia, and released commercially in 1998.

Shamrock apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Shamrock apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Shamrock is another new apple developed at the Pacific Agri-Food Research Centre. It is a round, green apple, medium to large in size, mostly solid green in color with an occasional pink blush. A mid-season apple, its tender, cream-colored flesh is more tart than sweet when first picked, with a finish hinting of honey or butterscotch.

Like many apples, Shamrock’s flavor improves in storage, becoming progressively sweeter, spicier, and juicier for several weeks, but its storage life is relatively short. It is a 1992 cross of a Spur McIntosh and Spur Golden Delicious (a spur variety results when an apple branch develops outstanding characteristics that differ in some significant way from its parent tree).

Due to its green color and initial tartness, Shamrock has been promoted as an East Coast alternative to Granny Smith, which requires a longer growing season, or the heirloom Rhode Island Greening, which is difficult to grow. But it has yet to develop a strong following in New England.

Creston apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Creston apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Creston is even newer than Shamrock, released in 1998. It is a large, conical apple, yellow with a red blush or stripes. Its yellow flesh is crisp, juicy, and more sweet than tart. It is a late-season apple that has been compared to Jonagold in flavor, texture, and appearance. But while some say it stores better than Jonagold, others contend that it can become greasy or soft in storage.

A cross between Golden Delicious and an unnamed seedling, Creston was developed at the Pacific Agri-Food Research Centre.

In addition to these recent entries, Canada’s apple-breeding program has been developing varieties that have been grown in New England for nearly a century.

Spartan apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Spartan apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Spartan was discovered in 1926 and released a decade later. It has dark, plum-red color, and tender, aromatic white flesh beneath a somewhat tough skin. Its flavor is more sweet than tart, with hints of strawberry and spice. A late-season apple, it is moderately juicy. It is best as a fresh-eating apple, and it stores well.

Spartan was developed by R. C. Palmer at the Pacific Agri-food Research Centre, then known as the Federal Agriculture Research Station. For years it was described as a cross between McIntosh and the American heirloom Newtown Pippin, but as a result of recent genetic testing, the latter has been ruled out, leaving Spartan’s second parent a mystery.

Spencer apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Spencer apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Ripening in mid- to late September, Spencer is a conical apple, nearly solid red-pink in color, with green highlights. Its flesh is crisp, juicy, and more sweet than tart, though less sweet than its Golden Delicious parent (Spencer’s other parent — surprise! — is McIntosh). Spencer is an all-purpose apple, especially good in pies and sauce. It does not have a lengthy storage life.

Spencer was also discovered by R. C. Palmer in 1926 — the same year as Spartan — but it took considerably longer, until 1959, for it to reach the marketplace.

Before it had an apple-breeding program, Canada produced several heirloom varieties of note besides McIntosh — including one of McIntosh’s parents, Snow apple.

Snow apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Snow apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Snow, also known as Fameuse (French for famous or excellent), is small to medium sized, red with green and pink striping. Its name is derived from its white flesh, which is sometimes stained red just beneath the skin. A late-season apple, Snow is crisp, juicy, and aromatic, more tart than sweet, with a slight strawberry flavor. Snow is best for fresh eating and in cider, and it does not store well.

Snow contributes to McIntosh’s thin skin, white flesh, and sweet-tart flavor, and to the trees’ hardiness. Snow’s origins are unclear, but dates to at least 1730. Some accounts hint that it may be much older, and originated in France rather than Canada. An apple named Snow was reported growing in Vermont’s Champlain Valley as far back as the early 1600s.

Pomme Grise apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Pomme Grise apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Pomme Grise, or Gray Apple, is a small, round apple with chewy, yellow-green skin covered with coarse brown russet. Its pale yellow flesh is firm, crisp, and aromatic, more sweet than tart, with a distinctive nutty, spicy flavor. It is good for fresh eating, and especially valued for cider.

Pomme Grise was cited growing near Montreal in the early 1800s, eventually making its way south to New York’s St. Lawrence Valley, and from there to New England. It may be related or identical to a 16th-century French apple called Reinette Grise.

To find orchards that grow these apples, visit New England Apples and follow the link for “Find an Apple Orchard” to search by state or variety.

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NEW ENGLAND APPLES will have an expanded presence in the Massachusetts State Building during the 17-day Eastern States Exposition (“The Big E”), which opens this Friday, September 12, continuing daily from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. through Sunday, September 28. The Association is renovating a larger booth this summer to boost sales of fresh apples, fresh cider, cider donuts, apple pies, and other baked goods.

Fresh apples will be supplied by Massachusetts orchards: Atkins Farms in Amherst, The Big Apple in Wrentham, Brookfield Orchards in North Brookfield, Carlson Orchards in Harvard, Clarkdale Fruit Farms in Deerfield, Cold Spring Orchard in Belchertown, Nestrovich Fruit Farm in Granville, Pine Hill Orchards in Colrain, Red Apple Farm in Phillipston, and Tougas Family Farm in Northborough.

The booth will feature award-winning cider donuts made by Atkins Farms in Amherst, fresh, crisp apple cider from Carlson Orchards in Harvard; and fresh-baked apple pies and apple crisp made with apples supplied by Cold Spring Orchard in Belchertown.

Executive Director Bar Weeks and Senior Writer Russell Powell will be on hand every day to meet with people and answer questions about apples. Their new book, Apples of New England, will be available for sale and signing, along with their first book, America’s Apple.

The 2015 New England Apples full-color wall calendar, the revised New England Apples brochure/poster, and brochures from member Massachusetts orchards will be available to visitors during the fair, the largest in New England. Last year’s fair attracted 1.4 million visitors.

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The University of Massachusetts Cold Spring Orchard in Belchertown features more than 100 apple varieties, including many New England natives. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

The University of Massachusetts Cold Spring Orchard in Belchertown features more than 100 apple varieties, including many New England natives. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

IT SEEMS ONLY FITTING to celebrate native New England apples on New England Apple Day Wednesday, September 3. The New England state commissioners of agriculture will be visiting orchards today to mark the official launch of the 2014 fresh harvest. While some early season varieties are picked in August, most of the region’s apple crop ripens in September and October, with New England’s favorite apple, McIntosh, traditionally available soon after Labor Day.

Although less than 2 percent of the national apple crop is now grown here, New England continues to have a strong apple industry and an even richer apple-growing heritage. Dozens of apple varieties have been discovered or developed on New England soils, and many flourish today. A number of them have had illustrious histories and were once among the most widely planted in the Northeast.

Baldwin (Massachusetts, 1740), Northern Spy (Connecticut, 1800), and Rhode Island Greening (Rhode Island, 1600s) were the nation’s most popular and well-known apples a century ago. They eventually were surpassed by newer varieties that were more marketable and easier to grow, but they still can be found at many New England orchards.

In the 19th century, two varieties whose names combine superlatives with the Massachusetts towns in which they were discovered, Hubbardston Nonesuch (early 1800s) and Westfield Seek-No-Further (1700s), were popular well beyond the New England region.

Hubbardston Nonesuch apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Hubbardston Nonesuch apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Hubbardston Nonesuch, also known as American Blush, is a large, late-season apple with heavy red streaking on yellow-green skin, with occasional russeting. Its dense, yellow flesh is juicy, and it has an exceptionally small core. Its complex flavor, more sweet than tart, is ideal for cider and fresh eating, although its flavor tends to fade in storage.

References to Hubbardston begin in the early 1830s, and it was popular throughout the Northeast for much of the 19th century. As late as 1905, S. A. Beach in the classic work, Apples of New York, recommended Hubbardston for commercial orchards. But it is a difficult apple to grow, and only survives as a rare heirloom despite its rich flavor.

Porter apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Porter apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Porter is another Massachusetts native that once enjoyed widespread popularity. A medium, round, early season apple, apple, it has a yellow-green skin with a peach-colored blush. Its cream-colored flesh is tender, aromatic, and juicy. Its flavor is sweeter than tart, and it retains its shape and flavor when cooked.

It was discovered by the Rev. Samuel Porter in Sherburne around 1800, and was grown locally until about 1850, when its popularity spread to Boston and it began to be cultivated in other parts of the country. Despite its virtues as an eating and cooking apple, though, it, too, proved too difficult to grow for sustained success.

In his 1922 book Cyclopedia of Hardy Fruits, Ulysses P. Hedrick wrote, “A generation ago Porter took rank as one of the best of all yellow fall apples. If the fruits be judged by quality, the variety would still rank as one of the best of its season, but the apples are too tender in flesh to ship, the season of ripening is long and variable, and the crop drops badly.

“Porter must remain, then, an apple for the connoisseur, who will delight in its crisp, tender, juicy, perfumed flesh, richly flavored and sufficiently acidulous to make it one of the most refreshing of all apples.” It is also known as Summer Pearmain and Yellow Summer Pearmain.

Tolman Sweet apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Tolman Sweet apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Tolman Sweet is a late-season apple, medium-sized, pale-yellow in color with a red or green blush. It sometimes has patches of russet, or a line running from top to bottom. Its white flesh is crisp and moderately juicy, and its unusual flavor is sweet and pear-like, but with some tartness. It is considered especially good in cooking and in cider.

Tolman Sweet may be a cross of Sweet Greening and Old Russet discovered in Dorchester, Massachusetts, but its origin is unclear. It was first cited in 1822, and it remained popular well into the 20th century. Its trees are exceptionally hardy, making it a good choice in Northern climes, but Tolman Sweet bruise easily, limiting its commercial appeal.

Sheep's Nose apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Sheep’s Nose apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Another old New England favorite is Sheep’s Nose, from Connecticut. Also known as Black Gilliflower or Red Gilliflower, its names refer to its pronounced conical shape and deep ruby color, respectively. Often a striking solid red in color, it can have patches of green. Opinions about its mild, sweet-tart flavor are mixed. While aromatic, its dense flesh lacks much juice, and it becomes dryer in storage. It is good in cooking, though, especially in applesauce.

Whatever its flaws, Sheep’s Nose has had a small but steady following for more than two centuries, having been cited in New England as early as the Revolutionary War.

Granite Beauty apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Granite Beauty apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Granite Beauty is a large, late-season apple, round, ribbed, with red patches and stripes over a yellow skin. Its cream-colored flesh is crisp and juicy, and it has a rich flavor, more tart than sweet, with hints of coriander or cardamom.

Zephaniah Breed, who named Granite Beauty, wrote in the late 1850s, “no orchard is considered complete here unless it contains a good share of these trees. A good fruit grower here says he would sooner do without the Baldwin than the Granite Beauty.”

Breed published this account of the apple in the New Hampshire Journal of Agriculture:

“Years ago, soon after the first settlers located upon the farm we now occupy, they paid a visit to their friends in Kittery (now Elliott), Maine, on horseback, that being the only means of conveyance then in vogue.”

When ready to return home, Dorcas Dow “needing a riding whip, she was supplied by pulling from the earth, by the side of the road, a little apple tree. With this she hurried her patient and sure-footed horse toward her wild-woods home” in Weare, New Hampshire, then known as Halestown.

“An orchard being in ‘order’ about that time, the little tree was carefully set and tended, and when it produced its first fruit it was found to be excellent, and Dorcas claimed it as her tree. When nephews and nieces grew up around her, the apple was called the Aunt Dorcas apple.”

As Dorcas grew older, her grandchildren gave the apple the name of Grandmother. In another part of the town it was called the Clothesyard apple.

Maine’s contribution to the apple world includes the heirloom Black Oxford and a newer discovery, Brock.

Black Oxford apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Black Oxford apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Black Oxford is Maine’s most famous apple, but like Brock it is little known or grown outside the state. Black Oxford is named for its distinctive dark, purple-red skin, with occasional green highlights and prominent white lenticels.

It is medium-sized and round, and its dense, white flesh has a tinge of green, and is moderately juicy. An all-purpose, late-season apple, its flavor is balanced between sweet and tart, and it is considered especially good in pies and cider. Its keeps exceptionally well, and its flavor becomes sweeter and more complex in storage.

According to George Stilphen, author of The Apples of Maine (1993), Black Oxford “was found as a seedling by Nathaniel Haskell on the farm of one Valentine, a nail maker and farmer of Paris in Oxford County, about 1790 and the original tree was still standing in 1907, the farm being then owned by John Swett.”

Brock apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Brock apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Brock, like Black Oxford, is a late-season apple. It is large, round or with a boxy shape, mostly red in color with a green or yellow blush. Its crisp, juicy, cream-colored flesh is mostly sweet, with a little tartness.

Brock is a cross between Golden Delicious and McIntosh, developed in 1934 by Russell Bailey, a longtime plant breeder at the University of Maine, and introduced commercially in 1966. It was named for grower Henry Brock of Alfred, Maine, one of the apple’s trial growers. The only variety developed at the University of Maine Cooperative Extension at Highmoor Farm in Monmouth, Brock has the same parentage as the Canadian apple Spencer, with distinctly different results.

Two recent New England apples that have enjoyed greater commercial success are Hampshire and Marshall McIntosh.

Hampshire apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Hampshire apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Hampshire is a large, late-season apple, nearly solid red in color, with crisp, juicy, cream-colored flesh. Although its flavor is less intense, Hampshire resembles McIntosh: more tart than sweet, tender flesh and a thin skin, and a rich aroma. It is a good all-purpose apple, and it stores well.

Hampshire is a chance seedling discovered in 1978 by Erick Leadbeater, then owner of Gould Hill Farm in Contoocook, New Hampshire. Its parentage is unknown, but it was found in a block of trees containing several varieties, including Cortland, McIntosh, and Red Delicious. It was released commercially in 1990.

Marshall McIntosh apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Marshall McIntosh apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Marshall McIntosh is a medium, round, early season apple with red skin and green highlights. It, too, resembles its McIntosh parent (its other parent is unknown) for its tender flesh, juiciness, aroma, and sweet-tart flavor. It ripens before McIntosh, though, and it has more red color

Marshall McIntosh was discovered in 1967 at Marshall Farms in Fitchburg, Massachusetts, and originally propagated by Roaring Brook Nurseries of Wales, Maine.

Find orchards that grow these native apples – visit New England Apples and follow the link “Find an Apple Orchard” to search by state or variety.

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'Apples of New England' by Russell Steven PowellMORE INFORMATION about these and other apple varieties discovered in New England — such as America’s oldest named variety, Roxbury Russet (1635), and Davey (1928) from Massachusetts, and Vermont Gold (1980s) from Vermont — can be found in Apples of New England: A User’s Guide (The Countryman Press).

A new book by Russell Steven Powell, Apples of New England, includes photographs and descriptions of more than 200 apple varieties grown, sold, or discovered here, plus a history of apple growing in the region spanning nearly four centuries. Photographs are by Bar Lois Weeks, executive director of the New England Apple Association.

In addition to extensive research, Powell interviewed senior and retired growers and leading industry figures from all six New England states, and obtained samples of many rare varieties at the preservation orchard maintained by the Tower Hill Botanic Garden in Boylston, Massachusetts.

A chapter on John Chapman (“Johnny Appleseed”), for the first time links him with another Massachusetts native, Henry David Thoreau, as the fathers of American wild apples, Chapman for planting them, Thoreau with his pen.

Apples of New England is intended for use by all apple lovers, whether they are visiting the orchard, farm stand, grocery store, an abandoned field or a back yard — or in the kitchen. The descriptions include detailed information on each apple’s flavor and texture, ripening season, and best uses, as well as age, parentage, place of origin, and unusual histories.

America's Apple coverPowell has worked for the nonprofit New England Apple Association since 1996, and served 13 years as executive director from 1998 to 2011. He is now its senior writer. He is the author of America’s Apple (Brook Hollow Press, 2012), a book about apple growing in the United States.

America’s Apple is now available in paperback for $19.95 as well as hard cover ($45.95). Visit Silver Street Media or Amazon.com to order online, or look for it at your favorite orchard or bookstore.

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Powell will read from and sign copies of Apples of New England in a presentation at the Keep Homestead Museum, 110 Main St., Monson, Massachusetts, this Sunday, September 7, at 1:30 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.

 

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McIntosh apple ripening at Pine Hill Orchard in Colrain, Massachusetts (photo by Russell Steven Powell)

The McIntosh are plentiful but still a few weeks away at Pine Hill Orchards in Colrain, Massachusetts, but PaulaRed and Ginger Gold are already being harvested (Russell Steven Powell photo)

WHEN IT COMES TO APPLES, New England truly is a melting pot. In addition to the dozens of varieties discovered in the region, apples from across the country and around the world have flourished in New England’s climate and soils. We’ll be looking at the origins of some of New England’s best-known apples over the next several weeks.

There are only a handful of active apple-breeding programs left in the United States, at Cornell University in New York, the University of Minnesota, Washington State University, and a joint program of the University of Illinois, Purdue University in Indiana, and Rutgers University in New Jersey, known by the acronym PRI.

The PRI consortium has produced a number of cultivars that are grown in New England: early season apples Vista Bella (discovered in 1956; released commercially in 1974), Mollie’s Delicious (1948; 1966), and Pristine (1975; 1994), the mid-season CrimsonCrisp (1971; 2005), and the late-season GoldRush (1973; 1993).

Two other early season apples developed by PRI are Jersey Mac and Williams’ Pride.

Jersey Mac apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Jersey Mac apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Jersey Mac is a medium-sized, round apple with green and light-red patches on a dark-red skin. Beneath an occasionally tough peel, its tender, white flesh has a mild flavor that is more sweet than tart, with hints of strawberry. It can be used for both cooking and fresh eating. Its season is relatively short, as it does not store well. One grower calls Jersey Mac “a good choice for McIntosh lovers who are getting impatient waiting for the Macs to ripen.”

Despite its name and resemblance, though, Jersey Mac’s complex parentage does not include McIntosh. It is a cross between Melba, Wealthy, Rome, and Starr, an obscure, yellow-green apple from the 1920s known for its tart, juicy flesh. Jersey Mac was developed in 1956 at the Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station in New Brunswick, and released commercially in 1971.

Williams' Pride apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Williams’ Pride apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Like Pristine, Williams’ Pride is an outstanding newer entry into the early season market, discovered in 1975 and released in 1988. It is a medium-to-large apple, slightly conical in shape with maroon-red color. Its crisp, juicy flesh is cream-colored, and it has a spicy, nicely balanced, sweet-tart flavor. It is an all-purpose apple especially good for fresh eating.

Like Jersey Mac, Williams’ Pride has complex parentage that includes Melba, Jonathan, Mollie’s Delicious, and Rome. It was named for Edwin B. Williams, long-time head of the disease-resistant apple-breeding program at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana.

Two late-season apples from PRI are Enterprise and Suncrisp.

Enterprise apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Enterprise apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Enterprise is a round, medium-to-large apple, deep-red in color with prominent white lenticels. Its spicy flavor is more tart than sweet, and it is considered best for cooking. Its flesh, crisp at harvest, softens some in storage, and its somewhat tough skin develops a waxy coating, but it keeps exceptionally well.

Discovered in 1978 and released in 1990, its parentage includes Golden Delicious, McIntosh, Rome Beauty. Another variety credited to Edwin B. Williams, Enterprise was developed for disease resistance at Purdue. It is immune to apple scab and highly resistant to fire blight and cedar apple rust.

Suncrisp apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Suncrisp apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Suncrisp is a late-season apple that continues to develop its flavor long after harvest. A large apple, it has orange-red striping over a yellow skin. Its cream-colored flesh is crisp and juicy. More tart than sweet when picked, it becomes sweeter and develops a complex, spicy flavor in storage, where it can keep for up to six months. It is especially good for cooking.

Suncrisp was developed in the 1990s by Dr. Frederick Hough at the Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station in New Brunswick from Gold Delicious, Cox’s Orange Pippin, and Cortland parents. The Suncrisp name is trademarked by Rutgers University.

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WITH THE FRESH HARVEST upon us, here is a simple, straightforward, and delicious way to get those apple juices flowing. Adapted from From A Monastery Kitchen by Brother Victor-Antoine d’Avila-Latourrette.

Apple Crumble

4 medium-sized New England apples, sliced

½ c flour

½ c whole wheat flour

⅓ c sugar

1 t baking powder

¼ t salt

½ t nutmeg

2 eggs

1 t cinnamon

3 T butter, melted

Preheat oven to 375°. Arrange apple slices in 9” round cake pan. Combine remaining ingredients except cinnamon and butter, and spread mixture loosely over apples. Stir cinnamon into butter and drizzle on top. Bake for 30-40 minutes until apples are done.

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'Apples of New England' by Russell Steven PowellApples of New England: A User’s Guide (The Countryman Press) is now out! A new book by Russell Steven Powell, it features color photographs and descriptions of more than 200 apple varieties grown, sold, or discovered in New England, plus a history of apple growing in the region spanning nearly four centuries. Photographs are by Bar Lois Weeks, executive director of the New England Apple Association.

In addition to extensive research, Powell interviewed senior and retired growers and leading industry figures from all six New England states, and obtained samples of many rare varieties at the preservation orchard maintained by the Tower Hill Botanic Garden in Boylston, Massachusetts.

A chapter on John Chapman (“Johnny Appleseed”), for the first time links him with another Massachusetts native, Henry David Thoreau, as the fathers of American wild apples, Chapman for planting them, Thoreau with his pen.

Apples of New England is intended for use by all apple lovers, whether they are visiting the orchard, farm stand, grocery store, an abandoned field or a back yard — or in the kitchen. The descriptions include detailed information on each apple’s flavor and texture, ripening season, and best uses, as well as age, parentage, place of origin, and unusual histories.

Powell has worked for the nonprofit New England Apple Association since 1996, and served 13 years as executive director from 1998 to 2011. He is now its senior writer. He is the author of America’s Apple (Brook Hollow Press, 2012), a book about apple growing in the United States.

America’s Apple is now available in paperback for $19.95. Visit Silver Street Media or Amazon.com to order online, or look for it at your favorite orchard or bookstore.

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The view from Ricker Hill Orchards, Turner, Maine (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

The view from Ricker Hill Orchards, Turner, Maine (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

A GREAT USE for our fall bounty of New England apples is also among the easiest to make: applesauce. All it requires is a few minutes to wash and quarter some apples. You can use one variety or 20. If an apple is too tart or has lost a little of its firmness, toss it in: its flavor may blossom in applesauce.

Throw the apples in a big pot with 1-2 cups of liquid (water or fresh cider if you have it) to keep the apples from sticking to the bottom. On low to medium heat, cover and cook the apples until they are soft, stirring occasionally.

Either put the apples through a food mill or mash them with a fork. Add a little cinnamon or not. You are done.

It is that easy to make this naturally sweet treat. Applesauce can be enjoyed by itself or sprinkled with raisins, served over ice cream or pancakes, or stirred into oatmeal or yogurt. It freezes well and is a featured ingredient in many baked goods. Applesauce can be substituted for other liquids in recipes, from butter and shortening to water and eggs.

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THIS FALL I find myself tasting many more apples than usual — and I normally taste a lot of apples. The reason for the increase is that I am working on A Field Guide To New England Apples, which will be published by Countryman Press next year. I am tasting and re-tasting dozens of apples to better describe them, fresh off the tree and a month or so into storage, and cooked, when possible.

My 2012 book America’s Apple features photographs by Bar Lois Weeks of 120 apples, and her photographs will illustrate the Field Guide’s detailed descriptions of 150 varieties currently grown and sold in New England. Add to this more than 100 rare heirlooms (including about 60 varieties preserved in an orchard at Tower Hill Botanic Garden in Boylston, Massachusetts), and I will have eaten or sampled several hundred apples by the end of my research.

Applesauce-making (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Applesauce-making (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Recently I spent several nights making sauce with some of these rare apples, mixed in with  contemporary varieties in my refrigerator. I used classic standards like Cortland, contemporary varieties like Creston, Honeycrisp, Shamrock, and Spencer, heirlooms including Arkansas Black, Cox’s Orange Pippin, and Gravenstein, and such rare apples as Crow’s Egg, Deacon Jones, and Peck’s Pleasant. The results made these batches of applesauce as delicious as they were unusual.

For the liquid, I used a jug of mulled cider left over from our booth at The Big E, which gave each batch a hint of cinnamon and other spices. I froze half of each batch and have been enjoying the rest on maple walnut ice cream or mixed with chopped dried apricots. It adds great flavor to this recipe for Apple Gingerbread, adapted from Cynthia and Jerome Rubin’s Apple Cookbook (1974, Emporium Publications).

The recipe is unusual in that the sauce is separate rather than mixed in with the batter. The nicely spiced gingerbread bakes in a bed of applesauce, which makes a nice topping when the cake is served.

The gingerbread is especially good served warm. The original recipe calls for whipped cream sprinkled with orange zest. I did not have either ingredient on hand but did not miss them, though it sounds delicious.

Apple Gingerbread

1/2 c butter

1/2 c warm water

1 c molasses

1-1/4 c whole wheat flour

1-1/4 c white flour

1 t baking soda

1 t ginger

1/2 t cinnamon

1/2 t salt

1/4 t cloves

1/4 t nutmeg

2-1/2 c applesauce

Preheat oven to 350°. Melt butter in large saucepan. Remove from heat, and add water and molasses. Sift together dry ingredients and add to liquid, beating until well blended.

Pour applesauce into an 8″ x 8″ pan. Spoon gingerbread over applesauce. Bake for about 35 minutes.

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FOR MORE INFORMATION about New England apples, visit newenglandapples.org.

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Scott's Yankee Farmer, East Lyme, Connecticut (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Scott’s Yankee Farmer, East Lyme, Connecticut (Russell Steven Powell photo)

I HAVE COOKED with apples for many years and written about them almost as long. Still, it felt a little audacious for me to bring apple squares to a professional chef, Luca Paris, to share live on his radio show on WKBK in Keene, New Hampshire, last Thursday. The recipe is an old favorite, but I had not made it for some time. What if the squares were just average, or worse?

Like many recipes, the ingredients list a range of apples (in this case, four to six). While this accounts for different-sized fruit, I always use the higher number; the low end of the range strikes me as the bare minimum, if you are low on apples. Andrea Darrow of Green Mountain Orchards in Putney, Vermont, in her three-part video series on how to make an apple pie, says she likes to “pile them high” with fruit, and I feel the same. I used good-sized apples, two each of Cortland, Empire, and McIntosh (nearly any variety can be used in making this recipe).

The Empires I used were an even deeper red than this one, almost burgundy. (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

The Empires I used were an even deeper red than this one, almost burgundy. (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

I kept the skins on, for reasons practical (the nutrients are concentrated on or just beneath the apple’s surface) and aesthetic (color). The two Empires were a deep, deep red, almost burgundy, and they gave the squares a rich hue.

To avoid stringy threads of peel I cut the apples in small, irregular chunks from the outside in until I reached the core, rather than coring and slicing them. Placing the chunks in a bowl, I chopped the skins into even smaller pieces with the aid of a biscuit cutter.

There is very little spice in these squares, just a little cinnamon. This allows the full range of naturally sweet apple flavors to come through. The different varieties impart subtly different tastes and textures to the squares; too much sugar or spice can overpower them.

The original recipe, which came to me from the late Margaret Richardson of Brookfield, Massachusetts, called for cornflakes in the middle. The crisp, light cereal flakes soak up excess moisture, add flavor, and help the squares hold together better. I substituted multigrain flakes to make them a little healthier.

The crust does not have to be perfect as long as you manage to seal most of the edges. The dash of almond extract in the glaze makes a nice contrast to the apple flavor.

I sampled a square before I left for the studio, and it tasted fine. Still, there were no guarantees that Luca or his co-host, Dan Mitchell, would like them. Luca complimented me after the first one while we were waiting to go on the air, but he might have just been being polite.

Then Dan tried a square. Then they both had another one. By show’s end, Luca had eaten two more squares — four in all — and taken some home with him. That evening, he wrote in an email, “those squares were amazing!!!!!!!!!!!!!” On the strength of this endorsement, I thought it time to share the recipe.

The recipe is included in my book America’s Apple, with photographs by Bar Lois Weeks. America’s Apple can be ordered online in hardcover or as an ebook at Amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com.

— Russell Steven Powell

Peg’s Apple Squares

1 egg yolk

milk

2-1/2 c flour (use white whole-wheat for better health)

1/2 t salt

1 c butter (use half coconut oil for better health)

1 c multigrain or corn flakes

4-6 New England apples, cored and chopped

3/4 c sugar (use raw cane sugar for better health)

1 t cinnamon

Preheat oven to 375°. Beat egg yolk in measuring cup and add enough milk to make 2/3 cup liquid.

Mix flour and salt, and cut in butter with a pastry blender.

Mix wet and dry ingredients together until it forms a dough. Divide in half.

Roll out half the dough to fit into a 15-1/2” cookie sheet, pressing it into bottom and sides. Sprinkle with corn flakes. Top with apples.

Combine sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle over apples.

Roll out remaining dough and place on top of apples. Seal edges. Cut holes in dough to let steam escape.

Bake for 50-60 minutes, until crust is brown and apples are soft.

Glaze (omit for better health):

1/2 c confectioners’ sugar

1-2 T milk

almond extract

Mix with a few drops of almond extract. Drizzle over warm squares.

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FEBRUARY IS TIME for pruning in New England’s apple orchards. See how it is done in this two-part video series starring Mo Tougas of Tougas Family Farm in Northborough, Massachusetts:

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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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'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.

***

2015 New England Apples wall calendar

2015 New England Apples wall calendar

THE 2015 NEW ENGLAND APPLES WALL CALENDAR has more beautiful images from the region’s orchards by Russell Steven Powell and Bar Lois Weeks.  A different apple variety is pictured and described each month, and the calendar has listings for orchards throughout the six New England states.

$12.95 (price includes shipping)

To purchase a calendar, email quantity and mailing address to brookhollowpress2@verizon.net.

***

FRESH APPLES AND APPLE PRODUCTS  from New England’s orchards are a treat to receive at any time of year, and many of the region’s orchards have gift packs that can be shipped anywhere. Visit New England orchards for detailed listings and links to the best New England has to offer!

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Pink Lady apple (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Pink Lady apple (Russell Steven Powell photo)

PINK LADY has it all: a highly distinctive color; rich flavor; a glamorous name evoking the grenadine-laced cocktail of the same name; and legal intrigue worthy of Perry Mason, Erle Stanley Gardner’s famous fictional attorney. Pink Lady is a firm, crisp, sweet-tart apple with beautiful pink coloring over a yellow-green peel. The level of its pink color symbolizes the controversy over this variety, as its intensity separates the premium from the pedestrian — even the name.

If you are confused, you are not alone. The variety’s original name is Cripps Pink. The marketing brand available only to licensed growers and sellers is Pink Lady. Either way, it is the same apple. Yet Pink Lady commands a premium in the marketplace, primarily because of its distinctive solid pink color, one of the main criteria for licensing (along with sugar content and acidity).

Pink Lady was one of the first varieties to be trademarked and then “managed” by being licensed to a limited number of growers, or “clubs.” The trend has accelerated and been refined since Pink Lady was introduced, further limiting the availability of new varieties to only growers who are admitted to the club. Seen as a way to maintain quality, control production, and return more money to the university-based breeding programs that develop the apples, managed or club varieties shut out many growers.

Pink Lady apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Pink Lady apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Pink Lady was developed in the 1970s by John Cripps at the Western Australia Department of Agriculture and introduced commercially in 1989. It is a cross of Golden Delicious and Lady Williams. Lady Williams is not well-known in North America, but this chance seedling from the 1930s is widely grown in its native Australia.

It is probably from Lady Williams that Pink Lady gets its characteristic pink blush, layered over a yellow base supplied by Golden Delicious. Pink Lady also owes its conical shape to Golden Delicious.

But if the apple has too much of the Golden’s base coloring, Pink Lady reverts to Cripps Pink (the apple must be two-thirds pink to qualify for the premium label). To heighten the pink color, some growers remove leaves from the tops of the trees to admit more light, or they place reflective strips on the ground beneath the rows of trees to increase sunlight to fruit on the lower branches.

Pink Lady is an outstanding all-purpose apple, good for fresh eating, cooking, and in sauce. A firm apple, Pink Lady holds its shape during cooking, making it a good apple to pair with softer varieties like McIntosh or Cortland. Pink Lady is a late-season apple, not ready for picking until mid- to late October, and it stores well in refrigeration.

If you’re out shopping for a Christmas tree in the Belltown Hill Orchards, South Glastonbury, Connecticut area, they are running a special through December 24: buy a Fraser fir Christmas tree and receive free Pink Ladies! Visit belltownhillorchards.com/farm-market/specials-of-the-week. Call 860-633-2789 for details.

Here is a delicious salad in which Pink Ladies excel. Feel free to substitute with other New England apple varieties, as long as they are on the firm side.

Pink Lady Stir-Fry Salad 

2 T sesame or olive oil

1 T tamari sauce (or soy sauce)

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 onion, chopped fine

1/2 c vegetable or chicken broth

2 c broccoli florets

1 red bell pepper, chopped

1/2 t dried thyme

2 New England Pink Lady apples, unpeeled, cored, and chopped

1/2 c fresh basil or parsley, chopped

5-oz box arugula, arranged on serving platter

2 oz bleu cheese, crumbled

In large skillet, heat oil on medium, being careful to keep it from smoking. Add tamari, garlic, and onion. Stir-fry two minutes. Stir in broth, broccoli, red pepper, and thyme; cover and continue cooking five minutes. Remove from heat; stir in apples and basil/parsley. Place on platter over chilled arugula. Top with crumbled bleu cheese.

Option: Serve with Fakin’ Bacon tempeh or strips of chicken from two broiled chicken breasts.

***

NOW THAT THE FRESH APPLES are picked, see what happens when they enter the packinghouse:

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'America's Apple' coverLOOKING FOR AN APPLE GIFT for the holidays for the apple-lovers in your life? Here are two suggestions: the 2015 New England Apples wall calendar, and America’s Apple, the new book about apple-growing by Russell Steven Powell. Both the calendar and book feature photography by Powell and Bar Lois Weeks.

2015 New England Apples wall calendar

2015 New England Apples wall calendar

For information on how to order book or calendar, visit Brook Hollow Press.

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3rd Annual Great New England Apple Pie Contest, 2012 Mount Wachusett AppleFest (Russell Steven Powell photo)

3rd Annual Great New England Apple Pie Contest, 2012 Mount Wachusett AppleFest (Russell Steven Powell photo)

3rd Annual Great New England Apple Pie Contest, 2012 Mount Wachusett AppleFest (Russell Steven Powell photo)

A sampling of pies at the 3rd Great New England Apple Pie Contest. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

3rd Annual Great New England Apple Pie Contest, 2012 Mount Wachusett AppleFest (Russell Steven Powell photo)

3rd Annual Great New England Apple Pie Contest, 2012 Mount Wachusett AppleFest (Russell Steven Powell photo)

3rd Annual Great New England Apple Pie Contest, 2012 Mount Wachusett AppleFest (Russell Steven Powell photo)

3rd Annual Great New England Apple Pie Contest, 2012 Mount Wachusett AppleFest (Russell Steven Powell photo)

3rd Annual Great New England Apple Pie Contest, 2012 Mount Wachusett AppleFest (Russell Steven Powell photo)

3rd Annual Great New England Apple Pie Contest, 2012 Mount Wachusett AppleFest (Russell Steven Powell photo)

3rd Annual Great New England Apple Pie Contest, 2012 Mount Wachusett AppleFest (Russell Steven Powell photo)

3rd Annual Great New England Apple Pie Contest, 2012 Mount Wachusett AppleFest (Russell Steven Powell photo)

MORE THAN 60 pies from around New England graced the tables at the 3rd Annual Great New England Pie Contest on Saturday, October 20, at the 29th Annual AppleFest at Mount Wachusett in Princeton, Massachusetts. Both winners, Patricia Kuhn Bonita of Winthrop, Massachusetts, in the “Apple Only” category, and Denise Gokey of Fitchburg, Massachusetts, in the “Apple and Other” category, featured multiple varieties of apples in their pies, but both included Cortland and Honeycrisp.

Judges were “Wachusett Pie Taster” Burt Gendron; Rick Leblanc, director of marketing for Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources; Rick Patrick, assistant director of Wachusett Mountain Ski School; Russell Steven Powell, author of America’s Apple; chef Juan Sebastian of Puerta Vallarta, Mexico, and Red Apple Farm; and Bar Lois Weeks, executive director of New England Apple Association.

Pies were rated on the basis of flavor, texture, crust, appearance, and presentation. It was the second straight year that Cortlands were used in both winning pies.

Here are the winning pie recipes:

Patricia Kuhn Bonita’s Apple Pie

Crust

1 c flour

1/4 t salt

5 T butter

2/3 c shortening

6-8 T water

1 T sugar

Filling

7 New England apples — McIntosh, Cortland, Honeycrisp, Granny Smith

3 T butter

1/2 c brown sugar

1/2 c sugar

3-1/2 T flour

1/2 t cinnamon

1/4 t nutmeg

1 T lemon

Denise’s Crunchy Caramel Apple Pie

Pastry crust for a 10-inch pie

Filling

1/2 c sugar

3 T cinnamon

dash nutmeg

1/8 t salt

6 c sliced New England apples (3 Honeycrisp, 2 Cortland, and 2 Golden Delicious)

In large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients. Add apples and toss to coat. Transfer apples to pie crust. Set aside.

Crumb topping

1 c packed brown sugar

1/2 c flour

1/2 c quick cooking oats

1/2 c butter

1/2 c chopped pecans

1/4 c caramel topping

Stir together brown sugar, flour, and oats. Cut in butter with pastry knife until mixture resembles coarse crumbs (sometimes I have to mix with my hands a bit). Sprinkle crumb topping over apples.

Place pie on a cookie sheet to keep your oven clean. Cover crust edges with foil. Bake 25 minutes. Remove foil and continue baking 25-30 minutes, or until apples are soft when pricked with a fork.

Remove from oven. Sprinkle with pecans and caramel topping. Cool on a wire rack, serve warm or at room temperature. Either way is delicious!

I have been making this pie for years, and it is always requested by my family during apple harvest!

***

'America's Apple' cover

THERE’S A WHOLE SECTION on apple pies and pie-making in America’s Apple, the new book by Russell Steven Powell, including an account of the 2011 Great New England Apple Pie Contest and a winning recipe.

Powell includes favorite apple recipes in his chapter on food. America’s Apple has chapters on apple drinks and heirloom varieties, plus an illustrated index of 120 varieties by Bar Lois Weeks.

For ordering information, visit americasapple.com.

***

LEARN HOW a pro does it!

See New England Apple Association’s three-part apple-pie making video featuring Andrea Darrow, Green Mountain Orchards, Putney, Vermont:

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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.

*         *         *

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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