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Posts Tagged ‘Cortland apple’

The McIntosh are plentiful and showing good color this fall at New England's apple orchards, including Green Mountain Orchards in Putney, Vermont, where this photo was taken last week. The dull finish on the apples, incidentally, is a naturally occurring bloom that helps the apple retain moisture. They shine right up when you rub them. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

McIntosh apples are plentiful and showing good color this fall at New England’s apple orchards, including Green Mountain Orchards in Putney, Vermont, where this photo was taken last week. The dull finish on the apples, incidentally, is a naturally occurring bloom that helps the apple retain moisture. They shine right up when you rub them. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

McIntosh apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

McIntosh apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

MANY PEOPLE, and some orchards and supermarkets we have visited, want to stick an “a” between the capital “M” and small “c” of McIntosh. It does not exist.

A macintosh (or more commonly, mackintosh) is a raincoat, or the brand name of a personal computer.

A McIntosh is an apple.

Outside of the region, a Mac might evoke images of a computer or a hamburger.

In New England, a Mac is an iconic fruit.

The apple named for its founder, Canadian farmer John McIntosh, has flourished in New England for the past century. McIntosh is the region’s leading apple, accounting for about two-thirds of the New England crop.

McIntosh is particularly well-suited to New England’s rocky soils and cool summer nights. It cannot be grown successfully in the South or West, requiring not just the right soil but the cool nights that help the apple develop its distinctive flavor and color.

The round, red-and-green apple with a heady aroma, plenty of juice, and outstanding sweet-tart taste, has other qualities that limit its spread beyond New England. McIntosh does not travel as well as many of the hard apples imported here from other parts of the country, due to its thin skin.

More problematic for some is McIntosh’s color. While most New Englanders admire the apple’s random splashes of red and green, the marketplace demands purer color. Apple breeders are continually trying to develop redder and redder strains of McIntosh.

Among the many newer versions of the apple featuring greater red color are Marshall McIntosh, discovered on a farm in Fitchburg, Massachusetts; Pioneer McIntosh, and RubyMac. Apart from these redder versions of the original, McIntosh’s influence can be felt throughout the apple world, as a parent of such varieties as Cortland, Empire, and Macoun.

Although John McIntosh discovered the apple in 1801 as a chance seedling, its parents are generally accepted to be Fameuse, or Snow apple, and the heirloom Detroit Red. It took nearly 70 years for McIntosh’s son to introduce the apple commercially. Vermonter Dr. Thomas H. Hopkins is credited with planting the first Mac in the United States, in 1868.

McIntosh’s popularity grew steadily over the next half century, and it was being planted extensively in New England by 1910. Its ascendancy as the region’s leading apple was hastened by the extreme winter of 1933-34, which wiped out most of New England’s Baldwin trees, plus many Gravensteins, among others. The hardy apple from Canada not only survived, it thrived in New England.

The hardiness of its trees, though, fails to account for McIntosh’s enduring popularity. It has become an iconic symbol of the New England fall, a way to usher in the season with a ritual first bite. As a fresh eating apple, McIntosh has a distinctive crunch to go with its rich perfume and strong flavor, and it is excellent in cider and for baking.

McIntosh tend to break down when cooked, making it an outstanding choice in applesauce. Most bakers are willing to sacrifice a little firmness in their apple pies in order to include some of McIntosh’s flavor and aroma, mixing them with firmer varieties like Cortland or Mutsu. Many people are so in love with McIntosh’s flavor that they are willing to risk a softer pie.

But the days of the soft fresh McIntosh are long gone, or should be. The advent of controlled atmosphere (CA) storage, a method of arresting apples’ respiration by placing them in a sealed room with most of the oxygen removed and carbon dioxide added, keeps McIntosh crisp months after they are harvested.

All apples should be kept cold to retain their crispness, and this is particularly true of Macs, which can soften if left at room temperatures for too long. If you get a soft McIntosh these days, chances are that it was not kept cold somewhere along the chain from orchard to consumer.

It is high season for McIntosh. Most of the region’s orchards will be picking, packing, and selling them this weekend.

If you haven’t had your first one yet, it is time to get started. If you are one of those rare individuals who has yet to try McIntosh, be prepared for a richly complex experience.

Just don’t spell it with an “a.”

*          *          *

BROOKFIELD ORCHARD’S Annual Harvest Craft Fair will be Saturday, September 12, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., rain or shine. The orchard will have pick-your-own apples, apple dumplings, cider donuts, and a snack bar.

There will be handmade items by artisans and crafters in many media, wagon rides, and a playground. The fair will have music by Bad Tickers and craft beer by Rapscallion Brewery.

The orchard is located at 12 Lincoln Road, North Brookfield, Massachusetts. For details, call 508-867-6858 or email brookfieldo@aol.com.

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Introducing the new logo of the New England Apple Association.

Introducing the new logo of the New England Apple Association.

TODAY MARKS the official kickoff of the 2015 New England apple harvest.

New Hampshire Governor Maggie Hassan will bite into an apple at Mack’s Orchard in Londonderry Wednesday, September 2, at 3 p.m. Among those attending will be New Hampshire Commissioner of Agriculture Lorraine Merrill, Jim Bair, president of USApple, and Bar Lois Weeks, executive director of the New England Apple Association.

Thursday morning at 9, Massachusetts Commissioner of Agriculture John Lebeaux will join Bair, Weeks, and other officials at J. P. Sullivan Co. in Ayer for a tour of the company’s new packing line, followed by a visit to nearby Fairview Orchards. J. P. Sullivan is the largest packer and shipper of apples in the region.

Events celebrating the new season will be held in the other New England states throughout the month. While a number of early season apple varieties were picked in August, September is when many of New England’s leading varieties ripen.

McIntosh, New England’s most popular apple, is already being picked in some orchards, and should be widely available over the next seven to 10 days. Cortland, Gala, Honeycrisp, and others will soon follow, with late-season apples available for picking through much of October.

As always, call ahead to make sure that the variety you are looking for is available.

*          *          *

TODAY ALSO BEGINS the nonprofit New England Apple Association’s 80th year. Founded by a group of growers from New England and New York in 1935, the organization became known as the Northeast McIntosh Growers Association in 1993. The name eventually was shortened to New England Apple Association.

The Association promotes the New England apple industry through educational and promotional events and projects. Its website introduces visitors to the wide variety of New England apples and orchards, the nutritional value of apples, and how apples are grown and prepared.

In recognition of its anniversary year, the Association today introduces a new logo, designed by Christopher Rob Weeks.

Tomorrow we will post photos from today’s events and launch the association’s new website!

*          *          *

TWO RECENT BOOKS by Russell Steven Powell, senior writer, and Bar Lois Weeks, executive director of the New England Apple Association, explore the history of apple growing in the region and look at the nation’s apple industry.

'Apples of New England' by Russell Steven PowellApples of New England (Countryman Press) is an indispensable resource for anyone searching for apples in New England orchards, farm stands, or grocery stores — or trying to identify an apple tree in their own backyard.

The book contains color photographs by Weeks and descriptions of more than 200 apples discovered, grown, or sold in New England, accompanied by notes about flavor and texture, history, ripening time, storage quality, and best use. Apples of New England offers practical advice about rare heirlooms and newly discovered apples.

Apples of New England includes chapters on the rich tradition of apple growing in New England, and on the “fathers” of American apples, Massachusetts natives John Chapman (“Johnny Appleseed”) and Henry David Thoreau. Apples of New England presents the apple in all its splendor: as a biological wonder, as a super food, as a work of art, and as a cultural icon.

America's AppleAmerica’s Apple (Brook Hollow Press) tells a rich and detailed story about apple growing in America, from horticulture to history to culinary uses. Powell writes about the best ways to eat, drink, and cook with apples. He describes the orchard’s beauty and introduces readers to some of the family farms where apples are grown today, many of them spanning generations.

America’s Apple looks at how America’s orchards are changing as a result of the trend toward intensive planting and the trademarking of new varieties, and what that means to consumers. Powell also writes about the fragile underpinnings of modern agriculture: the honeybees needed to pollinate the crop and the labor required to pick it, plus new and exotic pests and increasingly volatile weather.

Apples of New England and America’s Apple are available in hardcover at fine bookstores and orchards and online. America’s Apple is also available in paperback.

For more information, write to newenglandapples@verizon.net.

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Golden Delicious, from Lanni Orchards in Lunenburg, Massachusetts, is an outstanding all-purpose apple. (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Golden Delicious, from Lanni Orchards in Lunenburg, Massachusetts, is an outstanding all-purpose apple. (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

NEXT TO “What is the best pie apple?” the question I am asked the most — and which I frequently ask others — is “What is your favorite apple?” It’s not an easy question to answer. It’s not something you can even ask about a strawberry or a banana, and there are many ways to slice it.

These are things I consider:

  • Flavor – sweet to tart
  • Juiciness
  • Texture – tender, crisp, or dense
  • Physical beauty – striking color, distinctive shape
  • Storage quality
  • Character – some apples gain complexity and sweetness over time
  • Early, mid-, or late-season
  • Availability – some apples for only a few weeks
  • Quality – according to season and region
  • Heirlooms or new apples

No other fruit locates us in place and time as apples do, or has the power to remind us of important people in our lives. On a macro scale, apple myths and stories serve as historical milestones across cultures and centuries. From this fruit we glean attitudes toward commerce, cooking, diet, and landscape, as well as religion and science, from Adam and Eve to the Golden Apple, from Sir Isaac Newton to Johnny Appleseed, each with its particular context and meaning.

Apples continue to leave cultural footprints today, in New York City, otherwise known as “The Big Apple” since the 1920s, and in commerce: the Beatles’ Apple Record label in 1968, and the Apple computer company in 1976. Apple Computer carries its apple imagery one step further, naming its iconic personal computer after New England’s iconic apple: McIntosh, or simply Mac.

On a micro level, many people have strong personal and emotional ties to apples, a grandfather or uncle who owned an orchard, perhaps, or a youthful job sorting, picking, or selling apples at a neighbor’s. Apples are uniquely tangible legacies of our mothers and grandmothers through the knowledge of a favorite pie apple and hand-scrawled recipes on ancient index cards stained with egg white threads and traces of cinnamon.

Cortland apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Cortland apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Apples have many associations for us, culturally and as individuals, and my personal experience influences my favorites. I grew up with McIntosh and Cortland, and Northern Spy is my mother’s favorite pie apple. My friend uses nothing but Cortland in his pies for 25 years. I’m sure his daughter has taken notice.

These associations help explain why every apple has its fans: an apple may evoke warm memories of places as well as people, adding depth to its eating appeal.

Black Oxford apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Black Oxford apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Jonathan, a beautiful red heirloom from New York, is a favorite of a friend from the Midwest, where it has long been popular, and much to his chagrin it is not widely grown in New England. Black Oxford, despite its distinctive color and good eating qualities, is rarely found outside of its native Maine.

It may be that a variety has superior flavor only when grown in certain soils and climates. Wolf River is a favorite of many Wisconsin natives, where the apple is also native; in New England it is typically valued more for its exceptionally large size than its mild flavor.

Propagated through grafting, apples are direct descendants of the original tree of the variety, sometimes centuries old; eating one is like ingesting a bit of history, a living reminder of the rural, agrarian roots of now-urban settings like Roxbury, Dedham, and Wilmington, Massachusetts, or Hartford, Connecticut.

With names like Tinmouth, Bethel, and Boxford, apples continue to celebrate small towns in New England’s rural countryside, too, or else perpetuate the memory of a farmer, landowner, or statesman, such as the Massachusetts apple Baldwin, named for a distinguished war veteran, public servant, and civil engineer, Col. Loammi Baldwin.

An apple’s history, no matter how illustrious, does not make it taste any better. Still, knowing its unusual or local story can influence my choice. 

THIS LONG PREAMBLE to my list of favorites is necessary to explain why I can only narrow it down to eight apples.

I could happily survive on dozens of other varieties:

Akane apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Akane apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Akane and Sansa are two of the best of the early season apples. I’ve rarely met a russeted apple I didn’t like, such as Roxbury Russet, America’s oldest named variety (1635).

It is hard to imagine a better all-purpose apple than Cortland or the sweeter Golden Delicious, or a more interesting apple than the orange russet, Ashmead’s Kernel.

Some apples have vintage years, like fine wines. Two years ago, Ginger Gold from Tougas Family Farm in Northborough, Massachusetts, were the best I ever had; last year it was Shamrock from the University of Massachusetts Cold Spring Orchard in Belchertown.

Gravenstein apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Gravenstein apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

This year, two relatively hard-to-find apples were particularly noteworthy: Gravenstein, from Atkins Farms in Amherst, Massachusetts, and Suncrisp, from Ricker Hill Orchards in Turner, Maine.

Suncrisp apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Suncrisp apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Both were exceptionally crisp and juicy with a tantalizing, lemony tart flavor and looks to match. Gravenstein’s red and green blend like a watercolor, Suncrisp’s rich yellow has beautiful pink cheeks or stripes.

But none of these fine apples make my list.

Cox's Orange Pippin apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Cox’s Orange Pippin apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

MY THREE FAVORITE heirlooms are Cox’s Orange Pippin (England, 1825), Baldwin (Massachusetts, 1740), and Northern Spy (Connecticut, 1840).

Cox’s Orange Pippin’s complex flavor is the best of any apple I have tasted. Cox’s Orange Pippin is hard to find, and orchards sell out by December.

Northern Spy apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Northern Spy apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

After dominating apple production in the Northeast for more than a century, Baldwin and Northern Spy were surpassed in the 1930s by McIntosh and Cortland, which are easier to grow. Fortunately, you can still find these heirlooms at many orchards, and because they store so well, supplies often last through December.

Baldwin apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Baldwin apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

From an eating standpoint, both Baldwin and Northern Spy are superior apples, and they are especially good in baking: large, firm, and they hold their shape. Northern Spy in particular has been a favorite pie apple for generations of bakers. Baldwin and Northern Spy are good eaten fresh, too, lively, spicy, with some tartness.

In general I like my apple to have a little bite, some tang, a degree of tartness. It goes with being a New Englander, the complex flavors analogous to living with the four seasons. An apple with some spiciness or tartness broadens my experience of flavor.

I like a sweet apple now and then, though, and there are some good choices, like the russeted, pear-flavored Hudson’s Golden Gem (Oregon, 1931). But I put Honeycrisp (Minnesota, 1991) at the top of my sweet apple list, followed by Gala (New Zealand, 1934).

Honeycrisp apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Honeycrisp apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Honeycrisp has a distinctive, light-crisp texture that explodes with more juice than any other apple. It is the biggest new variety to hit the apple industry in the past 50 years, and its success has apple breeders around the globe scrambling to develop the next pomological superstar.

Gala apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Gala apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Gala is the Golden Retriever of apples, ubiquitous, not the most complex creature but irresistibly sweet, and beautiful to behold. With its pear-like taste, Gala is a more flavorful alternative to the sweet, bland Red Delicious. Both apples have a distinctive conical shape, but Gala’s color is more complex than the monochromatic Red Delicious, turning gradually deeper shades of yellow, red, and orange in storage.

Macoun apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Macoun apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Two fresh-eating apples on my favorites list are Macoun (New York, 1923), and Jonagold (New York, 1968). Macoun has some of the pleasing tartness of its McIntosh parent but a crisper texture, and a complex, spicy flavor with hints of strawberry. I love its wine-red color and boxy shape.

Jonagold apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Jonagold apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Jonagold has a light-crisp, juicy flesh similar to Honeycrisp but not as sweet, with just enough tartness to give it depth. Jonagold happens to be beautiful as well, a fiery blend of gold and red from its Golden Delicious and Jonathan parents. Popular at orchards and at farm stands — and especially in Europe — Jonagold curiously has not yet caught on in most of New England’s supermarkets.

McIntosh apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

McIntosh apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

I must include McIntosh (Canada, 1801), available throughout the year. McIntosh is the standard, the staple, so consistently good and widely available that I sometimes take it for granted. But there are good reasons that this durable heirloom, is New England’s most popular apple.

McIntosh has great flavor and aroma, refreshingly crisp and tart when first picked and mellowing over time, a little sweeter and juicier in storage. It’s great for fresh eating.

McIntosh adds exceptional flavor to almost any baked good. Some people don’t like the fact that its tender flesh tends to break down when baked, but this is not always the case, and it can be ameliorated by mixing in a few firmer varieties. The ingredients for Peg’s New England Apple Squares include cornflakes in the filling, which soak up excess juice and contributes to the pastry’s firmness.

Those are my choices, a favorite apple for all purposes, and for all seasons.

And you? What is your favorite apple?

***

'Apples of New England' by Russell Steven Powell

APPLES 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.

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.

Available in bookstores everywhere.

'America's Apple' cover

AMERICA’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.

 

 

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The apple pie evaluators took their job seriously at White Memorial Conservation Center, Litchfield, Connecticut. (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

The apple pie evaluators took their job seriously at White Memorial Conservation Center, Litchfield, Connecticut. (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

AFTER TWO MONTHS of intensive research, we are forced to admit failure — once again — in our perennial quest to definitively answer a question that has plagued civilization since the discovery of the cooking fire: what is the best pie apple?

Our failure was not due to a lack of effort, and we had the help of prodigious pie-makers from across the region. We began by baking, inhaling, and serving more than 2,000 five-inch, single-serving apple pies at the Eastern States Exposition (“The Big E”) for 17 days in September, and tasted not a few of them.

We talked pies with Kim Harrison, one of a team of volunteers that made the pies to raise funds for The Preservation Society in Granby, Massachusetts. We spoke with dozens of customers about the merits of one variety over another.

The Big E pies have a flaky top crust covering a filling of several varieties lightly spiced. Many people topped off their pie with vanilla ice cream, a few with thin slices of cheddar. The apples were supplied by five Massachusetts orchards: Cold Spring Orchard in Belchertown, Clarkdale Fruit Farms in Deerfield, Nestrovich Fruit Farm in Granville, Pine Hill Orchards in Colrain, and Red Apple Farm in Phillipston.

The apple pies at the Big E featured a mix of varieties. (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

The apple pies at the Big E featured a mix of varieties. (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Most of the pies included McIntosh, a perennial contender for the gold standard since its discovery on an Ontario farm more than two centuries ago. (McIntosh was introduced  to New England in 1868 by Vermont’s Dr. Thomas H. Hoskins.)

Its flavor and aroma are so good that most people forgive McIntosh’s tendency to break down when baked, and add at least some to any varietal mix.

Akane, an early season apple developed in Japan in 1937 and introduced in the United States in 1970, was also noteworthy in this year’s pies for its lightly tangy flavor and texture.

In our informal survey of visitors, opinions about the best pie apple ran the gamut, from heirlooms like Baldwin (Wilmington, Massachusetts, 1740) to recent entries such as Pink Lady (Australia, 1989). Northern Spy (East Bloomfield, New York, in 1840, from seeds from Salisbury, Connecticut) has a particularly loyal fan base.

The closest we came to discovery, though, was the radiance of a woman purchasing 14 Gravenstein apples, an early season heirloom from Europe that dates back to at least the 1600s. The now hard-to-find Gravs were popular in New England until the bitterly cold winter of 1933-34, when many of the trees perished (along with more than one million Baldwin trees). It has never recovered as a commercial apple, but can still be found at some orchards.

Pie preferences are often passed down from generation to generation. The woman purchasing 14 Gravensteins put six in her bag at first, and as we talked she kept adding to her total until she got to 14. She planned to make two pies with them, just the way her mother did.

It was not the first time during our years at The Big E that the sight of Gravensteins has inspired such passion, and we suspect it will not be the last. I have not made a pie using just Gravenstein, but if it is as good baked as it is eaten fresh, the woman may be on to something. The apples were special, bursting with juice, with a lightly crisp, lemony tart flavor.

The flavor of nearly all of the varieties cited at The Big E, we noted, is more tart than sweet. That’s not to say that you can’t make a great pie using sweet apples, but a hint of tartness lends a pie complexity and zest.

Bakers pose with their entries prior to judging at the 2014 Great New England Apple Pie Contest. (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Bakers pose with their entries prior to judging at the 2014 Great New England Apple Pie Contest. (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

NEXT WE TRIED immersion, serving as judges in the 5th Annual Great New England Apple Pie Contest October 18 at Wachusett Mountain’s annual AppleFest in Princeton, Massachusetts. We dutifully sampled 30 pies in less than two hours, using the two-bite method: an introduction to the pie, and a second impression. It is the only way to do justice to this many pies.

There were some incredible-looking pies — entries are judged on appearance and presentation as well as flavor and texture — in two categories, Apple Only and Apple And Other. Several had latticed or elaborately sculpted crusts, including the winner of Apple Only, Theresa Matthews of Gardner, Massachusetts.

Theresa Matthews' winning 2014 Great New England Apple Pie Contest pie is in the foreground. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Theresa Matthews’ winning 2014 Great New England Apple Pie Contest pie is in the foreground. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

The judges, in addition to me, were Bar Lois Weeks, executive director of the New England Apple Association, for the third year; local businessman Burt Gendron, a veteran pie taster; Julia Grimaldi, representing the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources; and radio personalities Chris Zito of WSRS and Ginny Sears of WTAG, both in Worcester.

We did not know the varieties used in any pie, although we were able to identify McIntosh flavor and texture in some, and make good guesses about Cortland, an 1898 cross of McIntosh with Ben David, similar in flavor to McIntosh but larger and firmer.

Most of the entries were good to very good, with several reaching exalted status. The few low-scoring pies suffered more from lackluster crusts than poor apple flavor.

One pie pairing pears with apples tasted mostly of apples — finding a balance that allows the milder pear flavor to come through can be tricky. But apples and pears is a proven combination, well worth the effort to get it right.

Green grapes and apples, on the other hand, may go well together fresh in a fruit salad, but made an undistinguished pie filling. While there are many flavorful ways to serve apples with bacon or peanut butter, the pies that combined them did justice to neither apple nor “other.”

Other ingredients in Apple and Other were caramel, cranberries, cream cheese, raisins, walnuts, and Jack Daniels. They all worked well with this versatile fruit.

Apples in a number of pies had been sliced by a mandolin slicer, and generally this did not improve the pie’s texture. The thin, uniform slices often stick together in a stack, which can lead to uneven cooking and consistency.

Theresa Matthews used only Cortland apples in her winning Apple Only pie. Both contest winners in 2012 also used just Cortland. Could this make Cortland the undisputed champ?

Chef Gerri Griswold, rear right, looks on as people sample her pies at White Memorial Conservation Center, Litchfield, Connecticut. (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Chef Gerri Griswold, rear right, looks on as people sample her pies at White Memorial Conservation Center, Litchfield, Connecticut. (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

FROM THERE we conducted another experiment, at the White Memorial Conservation Center in Litchfield, Connecticut. Chef Gerri Griswold baked a dozen pies for our October 25 apple talk and tasting event, two each using single varieties: Cortland; Empire, a 1945 offspring of McIntosh, crossed with Red Delicious, released in 1966; Gala (New Zealand, 1934, 1970), Honeycrisp (Minnesota, 1961, released in 1991), Macoun, a 1909 cross of McIntosh with Jersey Black in New York, released in 1923); and McIntosh.

Gerri scrupulously followed the Joy of Cooking apple pie recipe for all 12 of her creations, using the same prepared Pillsbury crust. We sampled each pie several times, as did the 20 or so people of all ages in attendance. A sheet of paper nearby for our scores and comments went mostly untouched, as most people were content to savor the experience.

There was plenty of excellent pie, but no clear-cut winner. Cortland had the most support in an informal poll, but the Empire, Macoun, and McIntosh pies all had champions. The McIntosh pie had surprisingly firm texture, soft but not mushy, and holding together.

Gerri had tried a similar experiment during our first appearance at White Memorial two years ago, baking four pies using single varieties. On that day, Mutsu, a large yellow apple discovered in Japan in 1930 (also known as Crispin), was the favorite pie apple.

The pies made with the sweet Gala and Honeycrisp apples did not fare as well as the others. For most of us, they were a little too sweet and their flavor lacked character. Gerri acknowledged that were it not for the taste test she would have reduced the sugar in the pies made with these varieties.

WE CONTINUED our study this past Sunday, November 2, during Franklin County CiderDays. Sue Chadwick, who grows a wide range of rare heirloom apples at her Second Chance Farm in Greenfield, Massachusetts, kindly donated a pie for our research, one of just three left from the 20 she baked to sell at the event the day before.

Sue uses a mix of apples in her pies, and the varieties could be different every time. Even if she could tell exactly what went into each pie, it would be hard for most people to find the apples to replicate it. The pie she gave us had rich apple flavor, as good or better than any made with a single variety.

Having made such little progress, we are going back to view Andrea Darrow’s three-part video series about apple pie-making, below. Andrea, of Green Mountain Orchards in Putney, Vermont, bakes hundreds of apple pies every fall, peeling every apple by hand. She uses several varieties, including Cortland and McIntosh, and piles them high.

Theresa Matthews with all that was left of her winning 2014 Great New England Apple Pie Contest pie after the judging. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Theresa Matthews with all that was left of her winning 2014 Great New England Apple Pie Contest pie after the judging. The Apple Rose Tarts on top were long gone. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

THERESA MATTHEWS has been working on her apple pies since she was a teenager. “My Mum was the reason behind that. She never measured for her pie crusts and I could never, ever get it right.”

Theresa’s preference for Cortland goes back at least a generation. “I’ve tried other apples, but I always go back to Cortland. I got that from my Mum as well.”

She did get it right. Here is the recipe for Theresa Matthews’ first-place pie.

Mum’s Apple Pie

Crust

3 c all purpose flour

1 t sea salt

1 T granulated sugar

1-½ sticks unsalted butter (cold)

⅓ c shortening (cold)

½ c ice cold water

one egg white

In a food processor bowl place flour, salt, sugar, butter, and shortening. Cover and pulse until blended about the size of peas. While running the processor, pour cold water in a steady stream until pastry ball forms. Divide into two balls, chilling for at least 30 minutes.

Roll out one crust on lightly floured parchment paper 1” larger than pie tin. Carefully transfer pastry to pie tin, and try not to stretch to avoid shrinking. Take egg white and brush onto entire bottom crust and refrigerate for 15 minutes or until filling is set.

Filling

6 thinly sliced Cortland apples

½ c unsalted butter

3 T all purpose flour

¼ c water

½ c granulated sugar

½ c packed light brown sugar

1½ t cinnamon

½ t nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350°.

Melt butter in a saucepan. Stir in flour to form a smooth paste. Add in water, sugars, and spices and bring to a boil. Reduce temperature to a simmer. In a large mixing bowl place sliced apples. Pour sauce over apple slices and mix carefully to keep apple slices whole.

Carefully spoon coated apple slices into bottom crust, mounding slightly. Take care not to pour too much liquid to run out, reserving 2 T sauce. Brush bottom crust edge with egg whites and cover mounded apples with top crust, trim and press to seal. Cut slits for steam to release during cooking and brush glaze onto top of pie.

Cut pie dough scraps into the shapes of leaves and arrange them on the pie where the rose tarts will be placed. Brush glaze over leaves. Save remaining pie dough for Apple Rose Tarts (recipe below).

Place in preheated oven and lay a sheet of aluminum foil over pie to prevent burning. Bake 60-75 minutes or until deep golden brown. Cool. Serve as is or with ice cream. Makes one 9” pie.

Apple Rose Tarts

Preheat oven to 350°.

Inspiration from diy-enthusiasts.com/food-fun/easy-apple-desserts-apple-roses/

2 Cortland apples sliced thinly

3 c water with 1 c sugar dissolved to make a simple syrup

1 T lemon juice (to help prevent browning)

Cinnamon sugar

Pie crust dough (left over from Mum’s Apple Pie, above)

Add apple slices to a pan of sweet syrup, making sure to cover all apples. Cook over medium-low heat until apples are pliable.

Roll out remaining pie dough in a rectangle about 8 to 10 inches wide and 10-12 inches long. Cut 8-10 one-inch wide strips along dough’s length.

Dry off 6 apple slices on a paper towel before arranging on a strip of pie dough. Lay out Overlap slices on strips so when rolled they will form the apple rose petals. Take care to leave about 1/2” of dough to seal the tart once rolled. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar before rolling up tart into a rose. (Photo references available on aforementioned website)

Place tarts on parchment paper about 2 inches apart and bake for 25 minutes or until brown and bubbly. Once tarts are cool, remove from parchment and using toothpicks insert into place on baked and cooled apple pie.

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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.

Available in bookstores everywhere.

'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.

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Jonagold apples are labeled "Better than Honeycrisp" at Tougas Family Farm, Northborough, Massachusetts (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Jonagold apples are labeled “Better than Honeycrisp” at Tougas Family Farm, Northborough, Massachusetts (Russell Steven Powell photo)

THE 2014 NEW ENGLAND APPLE crop is decidedly uneven. Some orchards have plenty of fruit, some just miles away have been forced to close early after running out of fresh apples.

The region avoided major outbreaks of frost damage in the spring, hail in summer, or a fall hurricane, any of which can shrink the crop. But the 2014 New England harvest is smaller than usual for several reasons, including last year’s harsh winter, which damaged or killed trees in some orchards; spotty pollination during spring bloom, impacting whole orchards or certain varieties; and a larger-than-usual outbreak of the bacterial infection fire blight in all of the New England states except Maine.

Some orchards are down as much as 60 percent to 70 percent from a normal year. But many New England orchards have outstanding crops. Region-wide, there are plenty of beautiful, delicious apples of all varieties and sizes, a few of which are shown here.

So if you don’t find your favorite apple at your favorite orchard, don’t despair. Simply branch out to another New England orchard, or check your supermarket for local apples. Chances are you will not have to look far.

The Massachusetts photographs were taken Sunday, October 5, the Rhode Island orchards Monday, October 6.

Visit our website, New England Apples, for a list of the region’s orchards and to learn about New England apple varieties and where they are grown.

Topaz apples, Tougas Family Farm, Northborough, Massachusetts (Russell Steven Powell photo)

A heavy crop of late-season Topaz apples is among the varieties available at Tougas Family Farm, Northborough, Massachusetts (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Tougas Family Farm, Northborough, Massachusetts (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Tougas Family Farm, Northborough, Massachusetts (Russell Steven Powell photo)

TOPAZ is a disease-resistant variety from the Czech Republic that made its commercial debut in 1990. The small but active Czech Republic apple industry has been in the forefront of developing new disease-resistant varieties, including the scab-resistant Topaz and its parents, Rubin and Vanda.

Topaz is a medium to large apple with a red blush over a yellow skin. Its cream-colored flesh is crisp, and its flavor, initially more tart than sweet, mellows some in storage. There is a redder strain known as Crimson Topaz or Red Topaz.

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

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

PEOPLE SWARMED to New England’s orchards Sunday like bees to nectar after Saturday’s rain. Massachusetts orchards Red Apple Farm in Phillipston and Tougas Family Farm in Northborough are among the many orchards that have outstanding crops this fall.

Owner James Steere, Steere Orchard, Greenville, Rhode Island (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Owner James Steere, Steere Orchard, Greenville, Rhode Island (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Macoun apples are just coming in at Steere Orchard, Greenville, Rhode Island (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Macoun apples are just coming in at Steere Orchard, Greenville, Rhode Island (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Macoun apples, Steere Orchard, Greenville, Rhode Island (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Macoun apples, Steere Orchard, Greenville, Rhode Island (Russell Steven Powell photo)

STEERE ORCHARD in Greenville, Rhode Island, is just now harvesting Macouns, more than a week later than usual.

Steere Orchard will celebrate its 10th annual “Applefest” this weekend, Sunday, October 12, and Columbus Day, Monday, October 13, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. In addition to sampling and picking apples, there will be hayrides, a farmers market, live music, and baked goods.

Macoun apples, Hill Orchards, Johnston, Rhode Island (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Macoun apples, Hill Orchards, Johnston, Rhode Island (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Asian pears, Hill Orchards, Johnston, Rhode Island (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Asian pears, Hill Orchards, Johnston, Rhode Island (Russell Steven Powell photo)

THERE ARE MORE apples remaining on the trees at Hill Orchards than neighboring Dame Farm and Orchard, both of Johnston, Rhode Island. The Macouns are nearly gone at Dame Farm and Orchard, which expects to be all picked out of all varieties by this weekend (there are plenty of fresh apples and other produce for sale in their farm store).

Macoun apple, Dame Farm and Orchard, Johnston, Rhode Island (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Macoun apple, Dame Farm and Orchard, Johnston, Rhode Island (Russell Steven Powell photo)

McIntosh apples, Dame Farm and Orchard, Johnston, Rhode Island (Russell Steven Powell photo)

McIntosh apples, Dame Farm and Orchard, Johnston, Rhode Island (Russell Steven Powell photo)

 

Cortland apples, Dame Farm and Orchard, Johnston, Rhode Island (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Cortland apples, Dame Farm and Orchard, Johnston, Rhode Island (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Gala apples, Dame Farm and Orchard, Johnston, Rhode Island (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Gala apples, Dame Farm and Orchard, Johnston, Rhode Island (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Mutsu apples, Pippin Orchard, Cranston, Rhode Island (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Mutsu apples, Pippin Orchard, Cranston, Rhode Island (Russell Steven Powell photo)

PIPPIN ORCHARD in Cranston, Rhode Island, still has some pick-your-own as well as fresh apples in its roadside store, but it is close to being picked out. Its cold storage room, usually full by now, is half full; even the orchard floor is unusually clean.

Phantom Farms apple tree, Cumberland, Rhode Island (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Phantom Farms apple tree, Cumberland, Rhode Island (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Pick-your-own apples are already gone at Phantom Farms in Cumberland, Rhode Island, but there are fresh apples and other goods for sale in their farm store and bakery.

Stripped of fruit, the orchard is still beautiful, fragrant, and peaceful, as Phantom Farms gradually transitions from standard-sized to dwarf and semi-dwarf trees.

Apple tree, Phantom Farms, Cumberland, Rhode Island (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Apple tree, Phantom Farms, Cumberland, Rhode Island (Russell Steven Powell photo)

A standard-sized apple tree towers over amid dwarf saplings at Phantom Farms, Cumberland, Rhode Island (Russell Steven Powell photo)

A standard-sized apple tree towers over dwarf saplings at Phantom Farms, Cumberland, Rhode Island (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Apple tree, Phantom Farms, Cumberland, Rhode Island (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Apple tree, Phantom Farms, Cumberland, Rhode Island (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Apple tree, Phantom Farms, Cumberland, Rhode Island (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Apple tree, Phantom Farms, Cumberland, Rhode Island (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Buell’s Orchard

Eastford, Connecticut

Moon rising over Buell's Orchard, Eastford, Connecticut (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Moon rising over Buell’s Orchard, Eastford, Connecticut (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Buell’s Orchard in Eastford, Connecticut, has a good supply of apples.

'Apples of New England' by Russell Steven PowellRUSSELL STEVEN POWELL will discuss apples and read from his new book, Apples of New England (Countryman Press), at several sites over the Columbus Day Weekend.

Photographer Bar Lois Weeks will make a joint appearance with him at Boothby’s Orchard and Farm Monday, October 13:

Saturday, October 11, 2 p.m.

Historic Deerfield

80 Old Main St., Deerfield, Massachusetts

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Monday, October 13, 11 a.m.

Boothby’s Orchard and Farm

366 Boothby Rd., Livermore, Maine

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Tuesday, October 14, 7:30 p.m.

Williamsburg Historical Society

4 North Main St., Williamsburg, Massachusetts

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Jonamac apples at Clearview Farm in Sterling, Massachusetts. (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Jonamac apples at Clearview Farm in Sterling, Massachusetts. (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

ALTHOUGH THEY SOMETIMES COMPETE in the marketplace, New England and New York apple growers have a long tradition of cooperation and collaboration. For nearly six decades after it started in 1935, the nonprofit New England Apple Association was known by its original name, the New York and New England Apple Institute.

Cornell University’s New York Agricultural Experiment Station, in Geneva, New York, arguably the most successful apple breeding program in the world, has produce several varieties that have become New England staples, including Cortland, Empire, and Macoun, and one of our personal favorites that has not yet achieved the same prominence: Jonagold.

Here are some of the other, more-than-60 varieties developed in New York since the late 1890s, of them grown at some New England orchards. To find local orchards that grow these unusual apples, visit New England Apples and follow the link for “Find an Apple Orchard” to search by state or variety.

Burgundy apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Burgundy apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Burgundy is a medium-large, dark red apple, the color of Burgundy wine, with occasional light streaking. Round and oblate, its cream-colored flesh is crisp and juicy. Its flavor is more sweet than tart. An early season apple, it does not store very well.

Burgundy was developed by Robert Lamb and Roger D. Way in 1953, and released in 1974. Its parentage includes two other New York apples, Macoun and Monroe, and a Russian heirloom, Antonovka, known primarily for its cold hardiness.

Early McIntosh apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Early McIntosh apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Early McIntosh, as its name implies, is an early season apple with McIntosh as a parent. It is mostly red, with yellow or green highlights and prominent white lenticels. Its white flesh is tender and juicy, and its sweet-tart flavor has hints of strawberry. It is best for fresh eating, and like many early season apples it does not store well.

Developed in 1909 by Richard Wellington and released in 1923, it is the result of a cross of McIntosh and Yellow Transparent, a Russian apple introduced in the United States by Dr. T. H. Hoskins of Newport, Vermont, in 1870. It is also known as Milton, for a small village in Ulster County, New York.

Jonamac apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Jonamac apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Jonamac is another early season apple with a McIntosh parent. It is a medium, round, mostly deep red in color over pale yellow-green skin. Its skin is thin but chewy, and its white flesh is aromatic and tender. Its flavor is similar to McIntosh, but a little sweeter, with a hint of strawberry. It ripens before McIntosh, and it does not store well.

Jonamac was developed by Roger D. Way in 1944 from a cross of McIntosh with the New York heirloom Jonathan, and released in 1972.

A contest was held to name the apple, and more than 500 entries were submitted. Two of the seven people suggesting the name “Jonamac” were from New England: William Darrow Sr. of Green Mountain Orchards in Putney, Vermont, and Rockwood Berry, then executive director of the New York-New England Apple Institute, now the New England Apple Association.

Fortune apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Fortune apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Fortune is a large apple, red with green striping. Its crisp, cream-colored flesh is more tart than sweet, and it has a lively, spicy flavor. It is good for both fresh eating and cooking, and it keeps well in storage.

A 1995 cross between Empire and Schoharie Spy, a red sport of Northern Spy, Fortune is a late season apple.

Monroe apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Monroe apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Monroe is another late-season apple, medium, round, with red color over a yellow skin. Its tender, cream-colored flesh is more sweet than tart, and moderately juicy. It is a good fresh-eating apple, and it is an especially good cider apple. It stores well.

A cross of Jonathan and Rome Beauty, it was developed by Richard Wellington in 1910, and released in 1949. It grows well in parts of New England, especially Vermont, but its popularity peaked in the 1960s. It is named for Monroe County, New York.

Liberty apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Liberty apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Liberty is a medium-sized, slightly conical, mostly red apple on a yellow skin. Its crisp flesh is moderately juicy and cream-colored, often with a tinge of pink. Its flavor is nicely balanced between sweet and tart.

Liberty was developed in 1978 by Robert Lamb for resistance to such common diseases as apple scab, cedar apple rust, fire blight, and mildew. Its parents are Macoun and Purdue, a variety from Indiana developed for disease resistance. 

Freedom apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Freedom apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Freedom is a late-season apple, large, oblate and round, with red striping over yellow skin. Its cream-colored flesh is crisp and juicy, with flavor that is more sweet than tart. It is a good all-purpose apple, and it stores well.

Developed in 1958 for disease resistance and released in 1983, its parentage includes Golden Delicious, Macoun, Rome, and the Russian heirloom, Antonovka. Its name refers to its “freedom” from apple scab.

New York produced several noteworthy apple varieties before the New York Agricultural Experiment Station opened in 1882, including:

Chenango apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Chenango apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Chenango, or Chenango Strawberry, a mid-season apple, medium-sized, conical, mostly red over pale yellow skin. Its tender, white flesh is aromatic, its flavor mild, more sweet than tart, with hints of strawberry. It is a good all-purpose apple, but it does not store well.

Its history is unknown. It may have originated in New York’s Madison County, or it may have come to Chenango County from Connecticut. According to S. A. Beach in Apples of New York (1905), it dates back to at least 1850.

Esopus Spitzenburg apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Esopus Spitzenburg apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Esopus Spitzenburg is a tall, conical, late-season apple, mostly red with light yellow lenticels. Its crisp, juicy flesh is pale yellow. Its distinctive spicy flavor, more sweet than tart, becomes more complex in storage. It is a good all-purpose apple. It stores well.

Its origins are also unclear, but it dates to at least 1790, and it was widely planted in the 19th century. Thomas Jefferson grew many varieties of apples on his Monticello plantation in Charlottesville, Virginia (an outstanding preservation orchard is maintained there today), and Esopus Spitzenburg was one of his favorites. Writer Washington Irving was also known for liking the apple.

Green Newtown Pippin and Yellow Newtown Pippin so closely resemble each other that they are often identified as the same apple.

Green Newtown Pippin apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Green Newtown Pippin apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Green Newtown Pippin is a late-season apple, medium, round, oblate, green in color with an occasional pink blush or russeting around the stem. Its crisp, juicy flesh is pale yellow, and it is aromatic, with a balanced flavor between sweet and tart. It is an all-purpose apple especially good in cider. It stores well.

Yellow Newtown Pippin apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Yellow Newtown Pippin apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Yellow Newtown Pippin is medium to large, mostly green with a yellow blush and red streaks. Its skin is thick, its flesh crisp and moderately juicy. It has a pleasant, mildly citrus flavor, balanced between sweet and tart. A late-season apple, it stores exceptionally well.

Green Newtown Pippin and Yellow Newtown Pippin trees are so similar that it is likely that one is a sport variety of the other, though it is impossible to say which came first. Many early references dropped the color from the name altogether, referring to either apple as simply “Newtown Pippin.”

The separate strains were first recorded in 1817, but by then the varieties already had made history as the first American apple to attract significant attention in Europe. Benjamin Franklin brought grafts to England in the mid- to late-1700s, where the apple was known as Newton Pippin of New York; it could have been either Green Newton Pippin or Yellow Newton Pippin.

Yellow Newtown Pippin has had greater name recognition and commercial success as Albemarle Pippin. It was introduced in Virginia by Dr. Thomas Walker, an officer under General Edward Braddock during the French-Indian War. After Braddock’s forces were defeated trying to capture Fort Duquesne in 1755, Walker returned to his Castle Hill plantation in Albemarle County carrying scions from a Yellow Newtown tree.

When the trees bore fruit the apple was renamed Albemarle Pippin. Thomas Jefferson wrote that he had grafts of Albemarle Pippin in 1773, and they were planted at his Monticello plantation in 1778. Albemarle Pippin was a major export to England for nearly a century beginning in the mid-1700s.

The original tree grew in Newtown (now Elmhurst), Long Island, New York, in the early 1700s near a swamp on the farm of Gershom Moore.

Jonathan apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Jonathan apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Jonathan is a late-season, conical apple, medium-sized, bright red over a pale yellow skin. Its white flesh is aromatic, crisp, and juicy, and it has a spicy, tangy flavor balanced between sweet and tart. Applesauce made with Jonathan turns pink from its red skin color, and it is especially good in cooking. It has a relatively short storage life.

It was first cited in 1826, originating on the farm of Philip Rick, in Woodstock, New York. Its name commemorates Jonathan Hasbrouck, who spotted the apple growing in brush on Rick’s farm. While not widely grown in New England, Jonathan is parent to such apples as Jonagold and Jonamac, and it remains popular in the Midwest.

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THIS IS THE FINAL WEEKEND of the Eastern States Exposition (“The Big E”). New England Apples has a booth in the Massachusetts State Building daily through Sunday, September 28, from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily, featuring fresh apples, fresh cider, cider donuts, apple pies, and other baked goods.

More than one dozen varieties of fresh apples are being 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, University of Massachusetts in Belchertown, Pine Hill Orchards in Colrain, Red Apple Farm in Phillipston, and Tougas Family Farm in Northborough.

The booth features 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, Pine Hill Orchard, Red Apple Farm, and Nestrovich Fruit Farm in Granville.

Executive Director Bar Weeks and Senior Writer Russell Powell are on hand every day to meet with people and answer questions about apples. Their new book, Apples of New England, is 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 are expected during the final weekend. The Big E is the largest fair  in New England. Last year’s fair attracted 1.4 million visitors.

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Champlain Orchards in Shoreham, Vermont, is one of many New England orchards with outstanding Cortland apple crops this fall. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Champlain Orchards in Shoreham, Vermont, is one of many New England orchards with outstanding Cortland apple crops this fall. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

THE INFLUENCE of McIntosh on the world’s apple supply extends well beyond the McIntosh itself. Its exceptional flavor, juiciness, and aroma have made McIntosh a favorite of apple breeding programs for more than 100 years, and Macs are parents of some of New England’s most celebrated varieties, especially Cortland, Empire, and Macoun.

Cortland apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Cortland apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Like McIntosh, Cortland has been a New England favorite for more than a century, and it excels in every use. A large, juicy apple with a sweet-tart flavor that is a little sweeter than a Mac, Cortlands are excellent for fresh eating. They are outstanding in pies for their flavor, size, and because they hold their shape well when baked. Their white flesh browns slowly after slicing, so Cortlands are excellent in salads, too.

Cortland is the product of a cross between McIntosh and Ben Davis, an heirloom apple from Virginia dating back to the early 1800s. Much of Cortland’s distinctive flavor comes from McIntosh, while its crisp texture, red skin with green striping, and large size are characteristic of Ben Davis. Cortlands can develop a slightly greasy look and feel in storage, another quality of Ben Davis. Cortlands were developed in 1898 at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, New York.

Empire apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Empire apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Empire is a cross between two of America’s most popular varieties: McIntosh and Red Delicious. Red Delicious, a chance seedling discovered in Iowa in 1880, provides Empire’s predominantly deep red color and sweetness, but McIntosh gives it a complexity and measure of tartness, as well as a green or yellow blush.

Empire’s juicy white flesh resembles a Mac, but it is firmer and does not bruise easily, like Red Delicious. Empire is great for fresh eating, but is a good cooking apple as well. Developed by R.D. Way at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in 1945, Empire was introduced commercially in 1966.

Macoun apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Macoun apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Macoun was also developed at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station, by crossing McIntosh with Jersey Black, a variety from New Jersey also known as Black Apple, dating back to the early 1800s. The resulting apple is named for Canadian horticulturalist W.T. Macoun, and it was released in 1923.

Many consider Macoun to be the finest fresh-eating apple available, in large part due to its sweet-tart, McIntosh-like flavor and powerful fragrance. But Macoun has a firmer, crisper flesh than McIntosh, and a distinctive, spicy taste, with a hint of strawberry.

Macoun is red and green like McIntosh, and its darker, wine-red tones and irregular, boxy shape are attributes of Jersey Black. Macoun is good for cooking, too, but rarely gets that far, coveted as it is for fresh eating. Macoun is pronounced as if spelled “MacCowan,” although some people say “MacCoon.”

Other varieties that owe their existence to McIntosh include Brock (crossed with Golden Delicious, developed in Maine in 1933), Jonamac (crossed with Jonathan, New York, 1972), Milton (crossed with Yellow Transparent, New York, 1923), Spartan (crossed with Newtown Pippin, British Columbia, 1936), and Spencer (crossed with Red Delicious, British Columbia, 1959).

RubyMac is one of several newer strains of McIntosh, and it is distinguished by its deep red color and firm, light-green flesh.

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FOR INFORMATION about where to find McIntosh and other New England apples, click here.

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