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Posts Tagged ‘Mo Tougas’

Scott's Yankee Farmer, East Lyme, Connecticut (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Scott’s Yankee Farmer, East Lyme, Connecticut (Russell Steven Powell photo)

I HAVE COOKED with apples for many years and written about them almost as long. Still, it felt a little audacious for me to bring apple squares to a professional chef, Luca Paris, to share live on his radio show on WKBK in Keene, New Hampshire, last Thursday. The recipe is an old favorite, but I had not made it for some time. What if the squares were just average, or worse?

Like many recipes, the ingredients list a range of apples (in this case, four to six). While this accounts for different-sized fruit, I always use the higher number; the low end of the range strikes me as the bare minimum, if you are low on apples. Andrea Darrow of Green Mountain Orchards in Putney, Vermont, in her three-part video series on how to make an apple pie, says she likes to “pile them high” with fruit, and I feel the same. I used good-sized apples, two each of Cortland, Empire, and McIntosh (nearly any variety can be used in making this recipe).

The Empires I used were an even deeper red than this one, almost burgundy. (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

The Empires I used were an even deeper red than this one, almost burgundy. (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

I kept the skins on, for reasons practical (the nutrients are concentrated on or just beneath the apple’s surface) and aesthetic (color). The two Empires were a deep, deep red, almost burgundy, and they gave the squares a rich hue.

To avoid stringy threads of peel I cut the apples in small, irregular chunks from the outside in until I reached the core, rather than coring and slicing them. Placing the chunks in a bowl, I chopped the skins into even smaller pieces with the aid of a biscuit cutter.

There is very little spice in these squares, just a little cinnamon. This allows the full range of naturally sweet apple flavors to come through. The different varieties impart subtly different tastes and textures to the squares; too much sugar or spice can overpower them.

The original recipe, which came to me from the late Margaret Richardson of Brookfield, Massachusetts, called for cornflakes in the middle. The crisp, light cereal flakes soak up excess moisture, add flavor, and help the squares hold together better. I substituted multigrain flakes to make them a little healthier.

The crust does not have to be perfect as long as you manage to seal most of the edges. The dash of almond extract in the glaze makes a nice contrast to the apple flavor.

I sampled a square before I left for the studio, and it tasted fine. Still, there were no guarantees that Luca or his co-host, Dan Mitchell, would like them. Luca complimented me after the first one while we were waiting to go on the air, but he might have just been being polite.

Then Dan tried a square. Then they both had another one. By show’s end, Luca had eaten two more squares — four in all — and taken some home with him. That evening, he wrote in an email, “those squares were amazing!!!!!!!!!!!!!” On the strength of this endorsement, I thought it time to share the recipe.

The recipe is included in my book America’s Apple, with photographs by Bar Lois Weeks. America’s Apple can be ordered online in hardcover or as an ebook at Amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com.

— Russell Steven Powell

Peg’s Apple Squares

1 egg yolk

milk

2-1/2 c flour (use white whole-wheat for better health)

1/2 t salt

1 c butter (use half coconut oil for better health)

1 c multigrain or corn flakes

4-6 New England apples, cored and chopped

3/4 c sugar (use raw cane sugar for better health)

1 t cinnamon

Preheat oven to 375°. Beat egg yolk in measuring cup and add enough milk to make 2/3 cup liquid.

Mix flour and salt, and cut in butter with a pastry blender.

Mix wet and dry ingredients together until it forms a dough. Divide in half.

Roll out half the dough to fit into a 15-1/2” cookie sheet, pressing it into bottom and sides. Sprinkle with corn flakes. Top with apples.

Combine sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle over apples.

Roll out remaining dough and place on top of apples. Seal edges. Cut holes in dough to let steam escape.

Bake for 50-60 minutes, until crust is brown and apples are soft.

Glaze (omit for better health):

1/2 c confectioners’ sugar

1-2 T milk

almond extract

Mix with a few drops of almond extract. Drizzle over warm squares.

***

FEBRUARY IS TIME for pruning in New England’s apple orchards. See how it is done in this two-part video series starring Mo Tougas of Tougas Family Farm in Northborough, Massachusetts:

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Ginger Gold apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Ginger Gold apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

IF YOU ARE HANKERING for an early season apple, your ship has come in. Two of the earliest varieties, Ginger Gold and Jersey Mac, can now be found at many orchards and farmstands. They are harbingers of the fall crop to come — and it looks like a good apple year for most of New England’s orchards — best eaten fresh, offering tantalizing flavors of things to come.

Ginger Gold apples are sweet, tangy, and juicy. Their shape ranges from round to conical, and they have a smooth, green-yellow skin, often with a light pink blush. Ginger Golds are a good apple for both cooking and fresh eating, and are especially enjoyed in salads, as their crisp, white flesh browns slowly when sliced.

Ginger Golds are a relatively new apple, discovered in a Virginia orchard in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the late 1960s. Their parentage is not certain, but Ginger Golds likely are a cross between Golden Delicious and Newtown (Albemarle) Pippin.

Jersey Mac apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Jersey Mac apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Jersey Macs have a tough, dark-red skin with green and red patches, and they are noted for their sweet, strawberry-like flavor and bright white flesh. They don’t store well, but this early season apple can be used for both cooking and fresh eating. As one grower puts it, “Jersey Mac is a good choice for McIntosh lovers who are getting impatient waiting for the Macs to ripen.”

Jersey Macs were developed at the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station of Rutgers University in 1956 (hence the name), and were introduced commercially in 1971.

* * *

BAKED APPLES are an easy and flavorful dessert to make, and their flavor can be altered and enhanced by experimenting with a number of optional ingredients. Baked apples can be served alone warm or topped with a dollop of whipped cream or ice cream.

Some say baked apples are even better eaten cold at breakfast the next day. Either way, they keep in the refrigerator for several days, and can be reheated if that’s your preference.

Here’s a good recipe for baking apples using either Ginger Gold, Jersey Mac, or the later varieties when they arrive.

Cranberry Baked Apples

6 Ginger Gold or Jersey Mac apples, or a mix

1 c dried cranberries

1/2 c golden raisins

1/2 c sugar

1/2 c apple cider (apple juice or water can be substituted in a pinch)

1 t lemon zest

Preheat oven to 375°. Wash and core apples, and place snugly in a glass baking dish. Toss cranberries, raisins, sugar, and zest together in a bowl and fill apple cores when fully mixed. Pour cider in bottom of baking dish, and cook for 25-30 minutes, until apples are soft. If there is any liquid left, drizzle over apples before serving.

Mo Tougas, Apple Grower of the Year

CONGRATULATIONS to Mo Tougas, named the 2011 Apple Grower of the Year by American/Western Fruit Grower Magazine, one of the nation’s leading agricultural publications. Mo, who operates Tougas Family Farm in Northborough, Massachusetts, with his wife, Phyllis, and son, Andre, has long been admired in the region for his business savvy and entrepreneurial style, but first and foremost, he grows a great apple. He never stops trying to innovate and improve his horticultural skills, and this national recognition is well deserved.

Read Mo’s story and learn about some of his innovations by following this link: Mo Tougas, 2011 Apple Grower of the Year

Mo, who serves as vice chair of the board of directors of the New England Apple Association, will be honored at the USApple Outlook Conference in Chicago this week. To learn more about New England apples (and to see video programs featuring Mo on methods for grafting and pruning apple trees), visit New England Apples.

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