Posts Tagged ‘Blue Hills Orchard’

Young Macoun apples at Honey Pot Hill Orchards in Stow, Massachusetts, in early July. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Young Macoun apples at Honey Pot Hill Orchards in Stow, Massachusetts, in early July. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Vista Bella apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Vista Bella apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

APPLE SEASON is upon us! Our eyes spied a roadside stand with the word “Apples” while driving through western Vermont July 27, and sure enough, there were tote bags mounded with red fruit among the vegetables of the season.

The apples, a relatively new variety called Vista Bella, came from Apple Hill Orchard in North Clarendon. Developed at Rutgers University in 1956, Vista Bella, so named because the apple grew well in the Guatemalan highlands, was released commercially in 1974. Its heritage includes Julyred, Melba, Sonora, Starr, and Williams.

Vista Bella is a medium to small-sized, round apple, red with a green blush. Its white flesh is moderately juicy, with a flavor that is mildly tart. Some have described it as having hints of raspberry flavor. Like most early season apples, Vista Bella is best eaten soon after being picked, and does not store well. But their relatively brief appearance is a good way to introduce the 2013 fresh apple harvest, a crispy, crunchy taste of things to come.

Barring a late summer weather incident, it is shaping up to be an outstanding New England apple crop. Most of the region’s orchards experienced good weather during spring bloom, and there were few reports of frost. While the possibility of hurricanes or hail is not yet past, so far damage has been scattered and light across the six-state region.

That means that there should be plenty of apples this fall, and now that Vista Bella have arrived, there will be a steady flow of early season varieties like Ginger Gold, Jersey Mac, and PaulaRed between now and September. Check out what local orchards have available at New England apples, and call ahead to see when farm stands open or pick-your-own begins.

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Opalescent apples ripening at Blue Hills Orchard in Wallingford, Connecticut, in early July. An heirloom dating back to the 1880s, it is beautiful to behold and has a mild, sweet flavor and dense yellow flesh. Opalescents turn red as they mature, ready to harvest in early September. (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Opalescent apples ripening at Blue Hills Orchard in Wallingford, Connecticut, in early July. An heirloom dating back to the 1880s, it is beautiful to behold and has a mild, sweet flavor and dense yellow flesh. Opalescents turn red as they mature, ready to harvest in early September. (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

THIS RECIPE for Green Tomato and Apple Pie was submitted to us last fall by Ruth Griggs of Northampton, Massachusetts, and we offer it now that both apples and green tomatoes are in season. Here is what Ruth wrote:

“I wrote down this recipe in the early 1970s as told to me by Louise Leu, the woman who looked over our family farm, Stone Farm, in Chesterfield, New Hampshire. Louise was of German heritage and moved next door in the early 1960s from Ozone Park, Queens, with her husband, an accomplished violinist named Lou Leu.

“Louise tended our huge vegetable garden and put up all the vegetables come harvest — both freezing and canning — plus she made jams, pickles, sauerkraut, and the like. She was also a very good cook. I suspect this is a very old recipe, as the pie is served with “rich cream” — perhaps before ice cream was invented?”

Green Tomato and Apple Pie

Brush bottom and sides of a pastry-lined pie with unbeaten egg white and cover with a layer of small green tomatoes, thinly sliced. Sprinkle with a little salt mixed with a little cinnamon and nutmeg and dot with 1 T butter creamed with 1 T brown sugar. Cover with a layer of thinly sliced, tart apples and repeat the seasoning and sugar. Add another layer of green tomatoes and two of apples, each layer seasoned and sugared. Round the filling in the center and pour in 1/3 cup apple cider.

Adjust the top crust, make a few slashes, and brush with milk. Bake in a moderate oven for 40 minutes, or until the crust is delicately browned. Serve warm or cold with rich cream.

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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


3 T butter

1/2 c packed brown sugar

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


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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