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Posts Tagged ‘America’s Apple’

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.

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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.

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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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McIntosh apples, Red Apple Farm, Phillipston, Massachusetts (Russell Steven Powell photo)

McIntosh apples, Red Apple Farm, Phillipston, Massachusetts (Russell Steven Powell photo)

BEAUTIFUL WEATHER, A HOLIDAY WEEKEND, and an early crop make this a perfect time for apple picking. McIntosh, the region’s most popular apple (accounting for about two-thirds of the New England crop), are ready for picking at many orchards, more than a week ahead of schedule.

Ginger Gold, Honeycrisp, and Wealthy are some of the other varieties now being harvested at orchards along Massachusetts’ Route 2 corridor, among them Sholan Farms in Leominster, Red Apple Farm in Phillipston, and Pine Hill Orchards in Colrain. Visit New England apples to find the orchard nearest you, and call ahead to see what they are picking.

Al Rose of Red Apple Farm (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Al Rose of Red Apple Farm (Russell Steven Powell photo)

RED APPLE FARM celebrated its 100th anniversary yesterday, August 30. A large crowd gathered beneath the orchard’s century-old McIntosh tree to recognize the Rose family, including Commissioner of Agriculture Greg Watson, State Senator Stephen Brewer (D-Barre) and State Representative Ann Gobi (D-Spencer). Al and Nancy Rose, the third-generation owners of Red Apple Farm, served up apple cake, turnovers, cider donuts, and fresh cider to their guests, accompanied by Al’s father Bill and the next generation: children Aaron, John, Madeline, and Thomas.

Massachusetts Commissioner of Agriculture Greg Watson recognizes Red Apple Farm (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Massachusetts Commissioner of Agriculture Greg Watson recognizes Red Apple Farm (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Red Apple Farm has evolved from a strictly wholesale orchard to a thriving retail operation, and like a number of New England orchards (among them Carlson Orchards in Harvard, Massachusetts, and Green Mountain Orchards in Putney, Vermont), Red Apple is going green. A 15-kilowatt windmill towers over the orchard; installed last year, Al Rose expects it to pay for itself within two years. Much of the funding for the wind generator came from the USDA’s Rural Development Program, the Massachusetts Agricultural Environmental Enhancement Program, and the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative.

A crowd gathers before Red Apple Farm's century-old McIntosh tree. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

A crowd gathers before Red Apple Farm’s century-old McIntosh tree. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

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America's Apple

America’s Apple

DID YOU KNOW that you can’t grow a McIntosh from a McIntosh seed (or a Honeycrisp from a Honeycrisp seed)? Or that most orchards practice integrated pest management (IPM), a series of low-impact measures to manage pests and disease? Or that John Chapman, aka Johnny Appleseed, never wore the tin-pot hat that appears in many popular depictions of him?

These are just some of the apple facts you can learn in America’s Apple, a new book by Russell Steven Powell. The 250-page book features chapters on food and drink, horticulture, heirlooms, and food safety, including favorite apple recipes and photographs of apples, orchards, and growers from across the country by Bar Lois Weeks. Included is a photographic index of 120 apple varieties grown in the United States. For more information, visit America’s Apple.

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Galas in late summer sun, Blue Hills Orchard, Wallingford, Connecticut (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Galas in late summer sun, Blue Hills Orchard, Wallingford, Connecticut (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

THERE WILL BE PLENTY of apples in New England’s orchards this fall, despite a smaller-than-normal crop. The region as a whole experienced scattered frost and hail damage, but avoided the devastating crop losses from an early freeze in Michigan and New York state. The New England apple crop is early, though, by as much as one or two weeks in some areas, so consumers should begin to look for fresh apples now.

Some early varieties are already being picked, and the 2012 fresh harvest will be officially launched with New England Apple Day Wednesday, September 5. The commissioners of agriculture of all six New England states will be visiting orchards that day to sample the new crop and meet with growers.

A March heat wave produced early blossoms in much of the Northeast, and several cold nights followed in April with temperatures in the low 20s. Apple blossoms can withstand temperatures in the upper 20s, but anything lower will kill the flowers before they can bear fruit. The result of the freeze was a historic loss in Michigan, which expects just 15 percent of a normal crop, and in New York state, which will have only about half of its usual fresh harvest.

In New England, some orchards were affected, but the damage was nowhere near as widespread. Scattered hail damage further reduced the New England crop in July. Still, many orchards are reporting outstanding crops, and it is shaping up as a good season for fresh-picked despite the lower numbers over all.

The main impact for consumers is expected to be in the price of fresh cider, since there will be far fewer apples available for processing.

The 2012 New England apple crop is estimated at 2.76 million 42-pound boxes, a decrease of about 25 percent over 2011. Here is the state-by-state forecast:

(in units of 42-lb boxes)
2012 crop estimate % down from 2011 2011 crop 5-year average % down from 5-year average
CT 429 K 18% 524 K 510 K     16%
ME 571 K 17% 690 K 571 K      —
MA 738 K 19% 917 K 945 K     22%
NH 335 K 22% 429 K 667 K     50%
RI   57 K   5%   60 K   60 K       5%
VT 638 K 20% 798 K 919 K     30%

The 2012 United States apple crop is expected to be about 10 percent smaller than the 2011 harvest, according to USApple’s annual forecast. The 202,114,000 boxes forecast for 2012 is about 10 percent below the five-year U. S. average of 224,284,000 boxes.

New York’s predicted crop of 14,000,000 boxes in 2012 is down 52 percent from a year ago and 54 percent below the state’s five-year average. Michigan, at 3,500,000 boxes, will be down 85 percent from 2011’s crop, and 82 percent below its five-year average. Washington, the nation’s largest apple-growing state, estimates a record 2012 crop of 145,000,000 boxes, 13 percent above its five-year average.

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Gravenstein apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Gravenstein apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

GRAVENSTEIN IS AN HEIRLOOM apple with a thin skin and a juicy, sweet-tart flavor. It is prized for its culinary use, especially in pies, sauces, and ciders. Harvest is early, beginning in August, and like many early varieties, they should be eaten soon as they do not store well.

Gravenstein’s origin is not certain, but it dates back to 1797, and is strongly identified with Denmark (it was declared Denmark’s national apple in 2005). Gravenstein may be one of four European apples imported to the United States by the Massachusetts Horticultural Society in the 1800s. Despite its outstanding flavor, Gravenstein has never achieved great popularity, probably because it can be difficult to grow. It prefers a mild climate and is prone to several diseases.

Red Gravenstein apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Red Gravenstein apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Red Gravenstein, an offshoot of Gravenstein, is redder in color than Gravenstein, with pink and orange hues. Red Gravenstein is highly acclaimed for its distinct sweet-sharp flavor, similar to Gravenstein but less tart. Red Gravensteins are picked in September.

Red Gravenstein may also have its origin in Denmark. In the 1820s the London Horticultural Society distributed it to Massachusetts.

This recipe, adapted from one that appeared in 2000, in Gourmet Magazine, features Gravensteins, and it has all the makings of a classic: easy to make with great apple flavor.

Apple Upside-Down Biscuit Cake

Topping

3 T butter

1/2 c packed brown sugar

1 lb Gravenstein or other New England apples, cored and cut into thin slices

Cake

1/2 c all-purpose flour

1/2 c whole wheat flour

1/4 c sugar

1 t baking powder

1/2 t baking soda

1/2 t salt

1/2 t cinnamon

5 T cold butter, cut into pieces

1/2 c buttermilk (or substitute with 1/2 c milk + 1-1/2 t lemon juice or white vinegar)

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Topping: In a cast iron or other ovenproof 10-inch skillet, heat butter over moderate heat until foam subsides. Stir in brown sugar and remove from heat. Spread mixture evenly in skillet and arrange apples, overlapping, in a single layer.

Cake: Combine all dry ingredients in a large bowl. Cut in butter with a pastry knife until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add buttermilk, stirring just until mixture is moistened.

Spread batter over apples, leaving a one-inch border to allow cake to expand. Bake in middle of oven 25 to 30 minutes, or until cake is golden brown and firm to the touch. Cool cake in skillet on a rack for three minutes, then invert onto cake platter.

Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.

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America's AppleALMOST ANYTHING you want to know about apples can be found in America’s Apple, a new book by Russell Steven Powell. The book has chapters on such topics as how apples are grown and the people who grow them, Johnny Appleseed, culinary uses and apple drinks, food safety, and more.

America’s Apple features nearly 50 full-color photographs by Powell and Bar Lois Weeks, plus a photographic index of 120 apple varieties grown in the United States.

To learn more, visit America’s Apple.

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