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Posts Tagged ‘Nestrovich Fruit Farm’

A bin of fresh-picked Gala apples at Fairview Orchards in Groton, Massachusetts. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

A bin of fresh-picked Gala apples at Fairview Orchards in Groton, Massachusetts. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Gala apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Gala apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

NO MATTER how you pronounce it, Gala is among the very best sweet apples. It has more character and nuance than most sweet varieties, with outstanding apple and pear flavor. Gala is juicy, and it is good for both fresh eating and cooking.

Gala’s skin changes color from harvest to storage, often beginning with streaks of yellow on a red background, gradually intensifying to a deeper red, with hints of orange, as the season wears on.

Gala has complex parentage. It conical shape and some of its sweetness comes from Red Delicious and Golden Delicious. Golden Delicious also supplies some of its early season color. Two other Gala parents have orange in their name: the English heirloom Cox’s Orange Pippin, and Kidd’s Orange Red, an apple from New Zealand.

Even the name fits the apple, compact, short and sweet. Biting into a Gala is, as Merriam-Webster defines the word, a festive celebration. Both pronunciations, incidentally, with either a long or short first “a,” are considered correct.

Gala was discovered in New Zealand in 1934, and introduced commercially in 1970. It was one of seven major commercial apple varieties released in the United States between 1962 and 1970, the others with similarly succinct names: Fuji (1962) and Akane (1970) from Japan, Empire (1966) and Jonagold (1968) from New York, PaulaRed from Michigan (1968), and Ginger Gold from West Virginia (1969).

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THIS FRIDAY, September 18, marks the opening of the 2015 Eastern States Exposition (“The Big E”), the region’s largest fair, which draws about 1.5 million people during its 17-day run. The New England Apple Association booth, in the rear of the Massachusetts Building, will once again feature a variety of fresh apples, baked goods, fresh cider, and literature about the region’s orchards.

The fair runs daily through Sunday, October 4. Hours are 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.

We will have fresh cider from Carlson Orchards in Harvard, cider donuts from Atkins Farm in Amherst, and fresh apples this weekend from Carlson Orchards, Clarkdale Fruit Farms in Deerfield, and Nestrovich Fruit Farm, 561 Main Rd., Granville. We will also have apple crisp and apple pie!

If you are not out visiting an orchard, please stop by!

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THIS SHORT VIDEO has tips about how to prepare for your visit to a pick-your-own orchard:

 

 

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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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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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Windy Hill Farm, Great Barrington, Massachusetts (Russell Steven Powell photo)

There are plenty of apples and a scenic backdrop at Windy Hill Farm, Great Barrington, Massachusetts (Russell Steven Powell photo)

NEW ENGLAND expects a high-quality apple crop this fall with outstanding color as a result of the summer’s cool days and nights. The size of the 2014 New England apple crop is forecast by the U. S. Apple Association at 3.73 million 42-pound boxes, just over the region’s five-year, 3.52 million-box average. The crop is expected to be slightly smaller than 2013’s fresh harvest of 3.8 million boxes.

The timing of the New England apple harvest so far is on schedule, with early varieties like Ginger Gold, Jersey Mac, PaulaRed, Sansa, and Zestar! already being picked. McIntosh, which accounts for about two-thirds of the crop, is expected to be ripe for picking soon after Labor Day in most areas.

To find detailed listings of area orchards, visit the home page of the New England Apples website, and click on “Find an Apple Orchard.” Be sure to call ahead to see what is ready for picking.

The 2014 fresh harvest officially will be launched with New England Apple Day Wednesday, September 3. The commissioners of agriculture of the New England states will visit orchards that day to sample the new season’s apples and meet with growers.

Nestrovich Fruit Farm, Granville, Massachusetts (Russell Steven Powell photo)

The view at Nestrovich Fruit Farm, Granville, Massachusetts (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Growing conditions in New England have been good throughout the spring and summer, with only scattered damage from frost or hail. Some apple varieties produce large crops biennially and have a low volume of fruit if 2014 is their off-bearing year.

Some orchards reported losses due to the bacterial infection fire blight in every state but Maine, which expects a significantly larger crop in 2014 than in 2013, despite hail damage reported in the central part of the state (based on our informal survey, the increase in Maine may not be as great as the national report suggests). Elsewhere in New England, Vermont should harvest about as many apples in 2014 as a year ago, while the other states anticipate crops between 10 percent and 20 percent smaller than in 2013.

Most of the region’s orchards expect to have plenty of apples of all varieties in a range of sizes.

Here is USApple’s state-by-state forecast for 2014 (in units of 42-pound boxes):

2014 crop estimate 2013 harvest % change from 2013 5-year average % change from 5-year average
Connecticut 547 K 643K -15% 514 K +6%
Maine 952 K 643K +48% 719 K +32%
Massachusetts 881 K 1,036K -15% 907 K -3%
New Hampshire 486 K 607K -20% 524 K -7%
Rhode Island 54 K 60K -9% 56 K -4%
Vermont 810 K 810K 0% 800 K -1%

The 2014 United States apple crop is predicted at 263,804 million boxes, about 10 percent larger than in 2013, according to USApple’s annual forecast. Leading the way is Washington state, with a record crop predicted of 162 million boxes. New York expects to harvest 30 million boxes, a 24 percent increase over 2013, and Michigan will be slightly down from a year ago, at 28,740 million boxes.

The 2014 national apple crop forecast is nearly 17 percent above the five-year average of 225,925 million boxes.

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WITH A NORTHERN CLIMATE similar to New England’s, Minnesota has produced several apple varieties that flourish in our region. One of these, the mid-season heirloom Wealthy, has a direct New England connection, developed by Peter Gideon from cherry crab apple seeds purchased from Albert Emerson of Bangor, Maine, in 1861. The apple that eventually resulted was named by Gideon for his wife, Wealthy Hull Gideon, and released in 1868.

In recent years, the apple-breeding program at the University of Minnesota has developed several important cultivars, including Honeycrisp, the most sensational apple to be introduced in the past 30 years. Ready for picking in September, Honeycrisp has a unique texture and flavor that growers across the country are trying to replicate. It is a challenging apple to grow and its color varies widely, but New England’s growers produce some of the most outstanding Honeycrisp found anywhere.

Two other recent varieties from the University of Minnesota are Zestar! and Sweet Sixteen.

 

Zestar! apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Zestar! apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Zestar!, also known as simply Zestar or Zesta, is a medium-sized, early season apple, round in shape, mostly red in color over a yellow base. Its white flesh is crisp and juicy, and more sweet than tart. A good all-purpose apple, its flavor and texture make Zestar! one of the best of the new, early season varieties, though it browns easily, and it stores well for just a few weeks.

Zestar! is the trademarked name for the variety, a cross between State Fair, one of the University of Minnesota’s lesser-known apples, introduced in 1979, and an unnamed seedling. Zestar! was released in 1999.

 

Sweet Sixteen apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Sweet Sixteen apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Sweet Sixteen ripens later than Zestar!, in mid-season. It is a large, boxy apple, mostly red on a yellow-green skin, with prominent white lenticels (the dots on an apple’s surface, through which it respires). Sweet Sixteen’s yellow flesh is crisp and juicy. It has a sweet, spicy flavor with hints of citrus and vanilla.

Sweet Sixteen was developed in 1973 by the University of Minnesota from Northern Spy and Frostbite parents. Introduced in 1977, Sweet Sixteen has the same parentage as another Minnesota apple, Keepsake (1978), a late-season apple that is Honeycrisp’s only known parent.

To further complicate matters, both Keepsake and Sweet Sixteen were released decades before their Frostbite parent, which has only been available commercially since 2008. Frostbite’s flavor has been compared to molasses or sugar cane, accounting for some of Sweet Sixteen’s distinctive sweet flavor.

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McIntosh apples waiting to be plucked at Douglas Orchards in West Shoreham, Vermont. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

McIntosh apples waiting to be plucked at Douglas Orchards in West Shoreham, Vermont. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

APPLES COME and apples go, but McIntosh is that rare variety whose popularity never fades. It took nearly 70 years after its discovery on a Canadian farm more than 200 years ago for McIntosh to make its commercial debut. But since 1870 the Mac has enjoyed a sustained run as one of our nation’s favorite apples, firmly entrenched in America’s top ten (the sixth most popular variety grown in the United States), and accounting for about two-thirds of the New England crop, where Macs grow exceptionally well.

A century ago McIntosh was competing with varieties like Baldwin, Northern Spy, and Rhode Island Greening for marketplace supremacy. Yet, while those varieties are still grown in a number of the region’s orchards, their popularity crested long ago, and they are now treasured as heirlooms rather than grown widely on a national scale.

Many varieties that were popular one hundred years ago were not so lucky, and are now rare or extinct. Three Massachusetts apples, for example, were not only regional favorites but cultivated across the country. Benoni (an early season apple from Dedham in the early 1800s, with crisp, juicy yellow flesh and red, or orange-yellow, striped red skin), Danvers Sweet (a variety from the 1700s included in the American Pomological Society’s first list of recommended varieties for its sweet flavor and storage qualities), and Mother (discovered in Worcester in 1848 and prized for its appearance and flavor), are now found in just a few places, or preserved in heritage orchards like the Tower Hill Botanic Garden in Boylston, Massachusetts.

The reasons an apple variety can fade from view are many. It may be difficult to grow or susceptible to disease. Its fruit may be small or misshapen, or the trees may bear crops only every other year. The apple’s core may be too big, the skin too tough, or the flesh too dry. The apple may bruise easily, fall prematurely off the tree, or store and ship poorly — critical factors for commercial success. A variety may simply become unfashionable, its desirability influenced by such superficial factors as color or name.

In some instances, the qualities that made an apple variety exceptional where it was discovered simply do not translate well to other climates or soils. A great apple in southeastern Vermont may be bland when grown in northern Connecticut. Even the flavor of successful commercial varieties like McIntosh and Honeycrisp can vary slightly according to where it is grown, the time of year, and the particular weather conditions of a season.

McIntosh apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

McIntosh apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

YET McINTOSH is remarkably consistent in flavor and texture, and its attributes well known. In addition to its distinctive, sweet-tart flavor, McIntosh is one of the most aromatic apples. Its juicy flesh is crisp but not dense. Few apples bring as much pleasure as the distinctive crunch of a fresh McIntosh straight from the tree — and they are now ripe for picking in New England orchards, and available at farm stands and grocery stores.

But McIntosh are also great for cooking, and apple crisp is one of the many desserts in which McIntosh excel. We recently made apple crisp using the last of the early season varieties, plus a couple of Granny Smiths that were given to us at the beginning of the summer and that had languished in the refrigerator.

The crisp had good flavor, but it was dry, as the early season apples and Grannies were past their prime, lacking in juice. When this happens, the crisp can be salvaged by adding half a cup or more of liquid, ideally fresh cider, and cooked for 15 more minutes. Water will work if you do not have any cider, or in our case, an eight-ounce bottle of apple juice we had on hand. The result was very good.

Had we used McIntosh, though, there would have been no such problem. Its natural juiciness ensures that apple crisp made with McIntosh will never be dry or lacking in texture, and its rich flavor and fragrance are simply sublime.

We will feature apple crisp made with Macs (and maybe a few Cortlands) at the New England Apple Association booth in the Massachusetts Building at the Eastern States Exposition (“The Big E”) in West Springfield, Massachusetts, for 17 consecutive days beginning this Friday, September 13. Customers will have the option of topping off their warm crisp (or apple pie) with vanilla ice cream.

A brief shower Sunday left traces of rain on McIntosh apples at Pine Hill Orchards in Colrain, Massachusetts. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

A brief shower Sunday left traces of rain on McIntosh apples at Pine Hill Orchards in Colrain, Massachusetts. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

We will also be selling fresh apples at The Big E from a number of orchards, including Brookfield Orchards, Clarkdale Fruit Farms, Cold Spring Orchard, Nestrovich Fruit Farm, Pine Hill Orchard, Red Apple Farm, and Tougas Family Farm, plus single-serving apple pies, cider donuts from Atkins Farm, and fresh cider from Carlson Orchards, and have informational items like recipe cards and our 2014 New England Apples wall calendar.

The fair is a great place to sample and learn about apples, including many of the varieties that populate New England orchards today. We cannot guarantee that all of them will be flourishing a century from now, but it is a good bet that McIntosh is here to stay.

The apple crisp recipe we use comes from Lois Castell Browns, grandmother of Executive Director Bar Lois Weeks.

Apple Crisp

6 McIntosh or other New England apples

1 T lemon juice

1 t cinnamon

1/4 t nutmeg

1/2 t salt

Topping

3/4 c whole wheat flour

1/4 c old-fashioned oats

1/4 c brown sugar or maple syrup

5 T butter

Preheat oven to 350˚. Core and slice apples into a buttered 8” square pan. Sprinkle lemon juice and spices over the apples. Combine topping ingredients to cover the apples. Bake for 45 minutes or until apples have softened.

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For more information about New England orchards, what they grow, and where to find them, click here.

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Dowse Orchards

A hawk surveys the apple crop at Dowse Orchards in Sherborn, Massachusetts (Russell Steven Powell photo)

FEW APPLES ARE AS EAGERLY ANTICIPATED every fall as Macoun, and apple lovers will be happy to know that they are now available at most New England orchards.

Macoun apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Macoun apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

While they are good for most culinary uses, Macouns are highly sought-after as a fresh-eating apple. Their sweet-tart flavor evokes McIntosh (which is one of Macoun’s parents). But Macoun has a harder, crisper flesh than the Mac, and its complex flavor hints of strawberry and spices. Macouns have a striated green and red color similar to a Cortland, and a sometimes angular, almost boxy shape, further distinguishing it from McIntosh.

Macouns do not keep as well as some varieties, another reason they are coveted in the fall. Macouns flourish in New England; on a recent day we received queries from Florida, Maryland, and Pennsylvania inquiring where Macouns could be found, and in our booth in the Massachusetts Building at the Eastern States Exposition (the “Big E”), the Macouns supplied by Nestrovich Fruit Farm in Granville, Massachusetts, were snapped up quickly. We hope to replenish them before the end of the fair.

McIntosh supplies much of Macoun’s flavor and bouquet. Jersey Black, Macoun’s other parent, is an American heirloom once known as Black Apple due to its dark color, contributing to Macoun’s wine-red tones and irregular shape.

Macoun was developed in 1909 by Richard Wellington at Cornell University’s New York Agricultural Experiment Station, and released commercially in 1923. It was named for Canadian pomologist W. T. Macoun. Macoun, by the way, is pronounced as if spelled “MacCowan,” although some people insist on saying “MacCoon.” Any way you say or slice it, Macoun is a delicious apple, and this is the peak season to bite into one.

If you bring home too many to eat fresh, or simply want to explore Macouns’ flavors in cooking, here’s a recipe we’ve adapted from Tougas Family Farm in Northborough, Massachusetts, originally attributed to Kitty Patterson.

We have visited a number of New England orchards this fall, and many have exceptional crops. But none are more lush than the one at Tougas Family Farm (if you get to the Big E this weekend, we may still have some of Tougas Family Farm’s Galas on hand). But wherever you go to pick or purchase your apples, this is the ideal time to visit your local orchard to sample the season’s bounty.

Apple Crisp Pie

1 9-inch pie crust

4-5 Macoun or other New England apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced

3/4 c plus 2-3 T sugar

¾ c flour

1/2 t cinnamon

1/4 t salt

3 T brown sugar

1/2 c butter at room temperature

Toss apples with the 2-3 T sugar. Place into uncooked pie shell, rounding up on center. Combine remaining ingredients in bowl, mixing until mixture resembles moist crumbs. Sprinkle over top of apples. Bake 15 minutes at 425°F. Reduce heat to 350° for 30 minutes more until crunchy and brown.

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FOR MORE INFORMATION about New England’s apple varieties and orchards, visit our website at  www.newenglandapples.org.

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