Posts Tagged ‘Brother Victor-Antoine d’Avila-Latourrette’


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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"Garden Man," by Bob Turan, at Art in the Orchard, Park Hill Orchard, Easthampton, Massachusetts. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

“Garden Man,” by Bob Turan, at Art in the Orchard, Park Hill Orchard, Easthampton, Massachusetts. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

THE APPLE’S unparalleled versatility as a food is well documented. Apples are good eaten fresh or cooked, can be served at any course of any meal, and pair well with most any food, sweet or savory. But apples are also cultural icons cherished for their beauty and history, the subject of a number of our most enduring stories and myths.

"Walking Man," by Lee Hutt, at Art in the Orchard, Park Hill Orchard, Easthampton, Massachusetts. (Russell Steven Powell Photo)

“Walking Man,” by Lee Hutt, at Art in the Orchard, Park Hill Orchard, Easthampton, Massachusetts. (Russell Steven Powell Photo)

A web search for “images of apples in art” reveals hundreds, if not thousands, of pictorial renditions of this worldly fruit, including several by such noted painters as Claude Monet (Apples and Grapes), and especially Paul Cézanne, for whom the apple held great fascination (Dish of Apples, Still Life with Apples and Pears, Still Life with Jar, Cup, and Apples, and Still Life with Apples and Oranges).

The orchard can be a beautiful setting for sculpture, too. Art in the Orchard is an installation of 20 sculptures nestled in among the apple trees and gardens at Park Hill Orchard in Easthampton, Massachusetts, with a gorgeous backdrop of the Holyoke Range. The artwork ranges from large to small, realist to abstract, serious to whimsical, reflecting materials as diverse as the artists’ interpretations. It is an innovative way to heighten the already powerful sensory experience of the orchard, combining food for the body with food for the soul.


BEFORE REFRIGERATION, most apple growers planted many varieties to extend the season, some that ripened early or late, others because they stored well over the winter. As people have become more interested in learning about and tasting unusual apples from the past, some of these long-forgotten varieties are experiencing a revival. Three examples are Red Astrachan, Melba, and Yellow Transparent.

Red Astrachan apples can be an almost solid red. (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Red Astrachan apples can be an almost solid red. (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Red Astrachan is one of the earliest varieties to ripen; in parts of New England its season has already passed. A medium-sized apple, it has a thin, yellow skin streaked with shades of red, covered with a bluish bloom.

Red Astrachan is moderately juicy, with a tart flavor that makes it more attractive for cooking than fresh eating. It is considered especially good for pies and applesauce. It does not store well, and its crisp flesh can become mealy soon after they are ripe (they are even known for breaking their skin when over-ripe).

A Russian apple, Red Astrachan migrated westward, first to Sweden, on to England in 1816, and arriving in America in 1835, one of four Russian apples (with Alexander, Duchess of Oldenburg, and Tetofsky) received by the Massachusetts Horticultural Society from the London Horticultural Society.

Red Astrachan’s popularity peaked around 1900, when it was widely grown around the world. It was especially popular in the American south. Its parentage is unknown.

Melba apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Melba apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Melba’s path to New England was southward; it was developed in 1898 by the Central Experiment Farm in Ottawa, Canada, and introduced commercially in 1909. Lightly sweet with a hint of tartness, Melba’s fine, white flesh and thin skin give it a pleasing crispness, and it is good for both fresh eating and cooking. Its skin is yellow to lime in color, with streaks and blushes of pink and red.

Melba’s parents are McIntosh and Liveland Raspberry. Also known as Lowland Raspberry or Red Cheek, Liveland Raspberry is an early season apple that originated in the Lithuanian province of Lievland. Now rare, it was introduced into the United States in 1883. While McIntosh contributes to Melba’s fragrant, sweet-tart flavor, Liveland Raspberry influences its early ripeness, and supplies its tender flesh and thin skin.

Yellow Transparent apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Yellow Transparent apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Yellow Transparent, like Red Astrachan, has Russian roots, imported to the United States in 1870. It made an early impression in New England; S. A. Beach in The Apples of New York, Volume II, writes that Yellow Transparent’s merits “were first brought to notice in this country by Dr. T. H. Hoskins, of Newport, Vermont.”

The reason for Yellow Transparent’s name is evident when sunlight strikes a ripe apple on the tree, seeming to illuminate the fruit as it passes through. But the variety has endured for more than this unusual quality. Beach describes Yellow Transparent as “one of the best of the extra early apples, being excellent for culinary use and acceptable for dessert.”

Yellow Transparent apple on the tree. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Yellow Transparent apple on the tree. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Moderately crisp and juicy, Yellow Transparent has white flesh and a light, sweet flavor with just a hint of tartness. Yellow Transparent should be used soon after they are harvested, as they do not store well. Their parentage is unknown.


THE RECIPE for this eggless Molasses Apple Cake was adapted from From A Monastery Kitchen (Ligouri/Triumph), a natural foods cookbook by Brother Victor-Antoine d’Avila-Latourrette, a resident monk at Our Lady of the Resurrection Monastery in upstate New York.

The cake has a rich, dense flavor and texture, and it goes nicely served with a little vanilla ice cream, Greek yogurt, or whipped cream.

I used one Red Astrachan and one Melba apple. For their nutritive value, I almost always leave the peels on.

Molasses Apple Cake

1-1/2 c to 2 c apples (about 2 medium to small apples), thinly sliced

3/4 c molasses

1/4 c butter

1/2 c hot water

1-1/2 c white flour

1 c whole wheat flour

1/2 c sugar (or 1/4 c sugar, 1/8 c stevia)

1 T baking powder

1 t cinnamon

1/2 t cloves

1/4 t nutmeg

1/4 t salt

Preheat oven to 350°. Grease 8×12 pan.

In saucepan, cook apples in molasses on medium heat until tender, stirring occasionally.

Melt butter in hot water in large mixing bowl. Sift dry ingredients and gradually stir in to liquid (the mixture will be fairly dry). Stir in molasses and apples until dry ingredients are blended.

Pour batter into prepared pan, and bake for about 30 minutes. Serve warm.

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