Posts Tagged ‘Jonathan apple’

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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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.

*          *          *

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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The trees are brimming with apples across New England at orchards like The Big Apple in Wrentham, Massachusetts. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

The trees are brimming with apples across New England at orchards like The Big Apple in Wrentham, Massachusetts. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

NEW ENGLAND’S APPLE ORCHARDS expect a good crop this fall with an estimated 3.5 million 42-pound boxes, just under the region’s five-year, 3.6 million-box average. The crop will be significantly larger than in 2012, when the region harvested just 75 percent of a normal crop due to widespread frost and hail damage.

The New England apple harvest is on schedule, with McIntosh, which accounts for about two-thirds of the crop, expected soon after Labor Day in most areas.

Early varieties like PaulaRed and Ginger Gold are already being picked, and the 2013 fresh harvest will be officially launched with New England Apple Day Wednesday, September 4. The commissioners of agriculture of the New England states will be visiting orchards that day to sample the new crop and meet with growers. (In Rhode Island, Apple Harvest Day will be Friday, September 6, at Phantom Farm in Cumberland, launching the Rhode Island Fruit Growers Association’s 100th anniversary celebration.)

Growing conditions in New England have been good throughout the spring and summer, and there should be plenty of apples of all varieties and sizes at most orchards.

Here is the state-by-state forecast for 2013:

(in units of 42-lb boxes)

2013 crop estimate

% change

from 2012

2012 crop

5-year average % change from5-year average


462 K


393 K

479 K



747 K


714 K

774 K



864 K


667 K

895 K


New Hampshire

556 K


369 K

576 K


Rhode Island

53 K


40 K

55 K



818 K


607 K

848 K


The 2013 United States apple crop is expected to be about 13 percent larger than the 2012 harvest, according to USApple’s annual forecast, in large part due to a return to good-sized crops in New York and Michigan. The second- and third-largest apple growing states suffered extensive losses due to frost damage a year ago. Nationally, the 243,311,000 boxes forecast for 2013 is about 9 percent above the five-year United States average of 224,163,000 boxes.

New York’s predicted crop of 32,000,000 boxes in 2013 is up 87 percent from a year ago and 15 percent above the state’s five-year average. Michigan, at 30,000,000 boxes, will be up a staggering 996 percent from 2012’s record-low crop, and 85 percent above its five-year average. These gains will offset by a slightly smaller crop from Washington, the nation’s largest apple-growing state, which estimates a 2013 crop of 140,000,000 boxes, 10 percent below 2012’s record harvest but 4 percent above its five-year average.


Akane apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Akane apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Akane (pronounced “ah kah neh”) apples are also known as Tokyo Rose and Prime Red in their native Japan, and Primrouge in France for their striking red color. But they are more than pretty to look at. Akane have good sweet-tart flavor, crisp flesh, and lots of juice. One of the best early season apples, they are good for baking as well as fresh eating, as they hold their shape and their tartness translates well to cooking.

Akane has a cosmopolitan pedigree. Developed in Japan in 1937, its parents are the English apple Worcester Pearmain, an early season heirloom introduced in 1874, known for its strawberry flavor, and Jonathan, an even older American heirloom with a distinctive red color, discovered in New York in the 1820s. Released commercially in 1970, Akane is ready for harvest in late August.

Sansa apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Sansa apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Sansa is a sweet, juicy apple with crisp, light-green flesh. Typically red in color, it can also appear with a deep pink blush on a yellow skin. It is considered best for fresh eating. Sansa begin to ripen in late August.

Sansa was developed in the 1970s, the result of a collaboration between researchers in Japan and New Zealand. Its parents originated in the two countries that developed Sansa: Japan’s early season Akane, and New Zealand’s Gala, which gives Sansa its characteristic sweetness. It was released commercially in 1989.


2015 New England Apples wall calendar

2015 New England Apples wall calendar

THE 2015 NEW ENGLAND APPLES wall calendar is now available for order. The 12”x12”, four-color calendar features photographs by Russell Steven Powell and Bar Lois Weeks from orchards throughout the six-state region, plus photos and descriptions of a dozen apple varieties.

The calendar price of $12.95 includes shipping. To order, send a check to New England Apples, PO Box 41, Hatfield, MA 01038, or email info@newenglandapples.org.


PLANNING ON VISITING a pick-your-own orchard? Here are some helpful suggestions on how to get the most out of your visit:

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

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

AN EASY-TO-MAKE, satisfying-to-eat late-winter dessert is apple pandowdy. It’s really a deep-dish apple pie, with a thick apple filling and no bottom crust, but it is distinguished by its choice of sweetener — molasses, rather than sugar — and subtle blend of spices.

The origin of the word “pandowdy” is unknown, but it dates back to the early 1800s, according to Merriam-Webster. Some speculate that the name refers to the dish’s humble, plain origins (“pan” plus “dowdy”). It’s true that it doesn’t take long to make, especially if you keep the nutritious apple peels on, as we do. But that’s good, since apple pandowdy doesn’t last long, either. You can easily double this recipe and use a 9″ x 13″ baking dish.

Idared apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Idared apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

A good apple for this time of year is Idared, because its flavor develops greater sweetness and complexity after a few months in cold storage. Idareds are featured in many cider blends at this time of year and are outstanding in pies and in cooking.

A late-season apple, Idared was developed by Leif Verner at the Idaho Agricultural Experiment Station in Moscow, Idaho, in 1942. It is a cross between Jonathan and Wagener apples.

We paired two Idareds with two Mutsus from Rogers Orchards in Southington, Connecticut, for this recipe adapted from Joy of Cooking. It was delicious!

Apple Pandowdy


1 c  flour

1/4 c whole wheat flour

1/2 t salt

1-1/2 T butter

3 T water


4 large Idared, Mutsu or other New England apples

1/2 c molasses (or substitute boiled cider or maple syrup)

2 T cornstarch

1/2 t cinnamon

1/4 t nutmeg

1/4 t salt

dash allspice

1 T butter

Preheat oven to 400°. Make crust by mixing flours and salt, and then cutting in butter with a fork or pastry blender. Gradually add water and mix until dough forms. Roll out to about the thickness of pie dough, in the shape of an 8” baking dish. Refrigerate until ready to use.

In large bowl, mix together molasses, cornstarch, and spices. Core and cut apples into 1/4” slices. Add to bowl and stir with a wooden spoon until apples are coated.

Place apples in 8” baking dish. Dot with butter. Place dough over top, folding in edges. Bake for 30 minutes.

Reduce heat to 350°. Remove pandowdy and cut crust into squares. Allow any juice to coat the crust by tipping the baking dish or pushing down on the crust with a spoon. (Depending on the type of apple you use, there may not be much juice at this point.)

Return baking dish to oven and bake for another 30 minutes, or until apples are soft. Press top with spoon to allow juices to cover crust. Let cool slightly before serving.

Serve with vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt.

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WITH THIS FALL’S EARLY HARVEST, mid-season apples like Empire and Jonathan are already available at farm stands and stores. There will be plenty of apples throughout the fall, but if you want to pick your own, you should plan to go this weekend or next, at the latest, except for parts of northern New England (call the orchard to see what is being picked).

Empire apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Empire apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

The Empire apple is a cross between McIntosh and Eastern Red Delicious. The result is a variety whose flavor is sweeter and less tart than a McIntosh. Empires have juicy, firm white flesh that does not easily bruise. They are high-quality dessert apples and good for all culinary uses. They have a deep red skin brushed with gold and green.

Empire is a newer variety, raised by R.D. Way in 1945, and introduced commercially in 1966 by the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, New York.

Jonathan apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Jonathan apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Jonathans are a popular cooking apple, with a spicy, tangy flavor. Their flesh is crisp and juicy, and they have a deep red skin. Applesauce made with Jonathans turns a rich pink from the brilliant red skin color.

Two cautionary notes about Jonathans are that they have a relatively short storage life, and they are not considered especially good for baked apples.

From Ulster County, New York, the Jonathan dates back to the mid-1800s, from an Esopus Spitzenburg seedling.

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THIS RECIPE for “Juniper and Apple Soup” comes from Massachusetts native Bea Ruggles Dobyan, now living in Missouri, via Michigan (she found it at a Spice Merchants shop in Ann Arbor).

“It sounded different,” Bea writes, “and that’s the kind of cooking I like.” She will serve it as the first course at a dinner party this weekend, and says it is a great opener for a fall day.

“You can take the girl out of New England, but you can’t take New England out of the girl,” says Bea, who grew up in the central Massachusetts town of Brookfield. “I’m crazy about using herbs and spices in my cooking. That is what I’m known for here in the Midwest.”

Juniper and Apple Soup

1 T juniper berries (cracked)

4 cardamom pods

3 whole allspice

1 cinnamon stick

1 bunch fresh parsley

2 T olive oil

3 New England apples, peeled, cored and diced, such as McIntosh, Empire, and Jonathan

2 celery stalks, finely chopped

2 shallots, chopped

1 inch piece of fresh ginger root, finely chopped

4 c chicken or vegetable stock

1 c apple cider

1 c cream

3 T Armagnac or apricot brandy (optional)

salt and pepper to taste

chopped fresh parsley to garnish

Put juniper berries, cardamom pods, allspice, and cinnamon stick in a piece of cheesecloth and tie together with string. Tie the parsley together with a string.

Heat oil in a pan, add apples, celery, shallots, and ginger. Season with salt and pepper. Cover the pan, and cook gently for 10 minutes.

Add the stock and apple cider and stir well. Add the spices and parsley. Bring slowly to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 40 minutes. Remove the spices and parsley.

Pour the soup into a blender and purée. Then pass it through a sieve (strainer) into a clean pan. Bring to a boil and add the cream and the Armagnac/brandy. Add salt and pepper if necessary. Serve hot, garnish with fresh parsley.

Optionally, you can add cooked ham and crispy bacon, as well.

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