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Posts Tagged ‘Phyllis Tougas’

Phyllis Tougas of Tougas Family Farm in Northborough, Massachusetts, with a fresh tray of cider donuts. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Phyllis Tougas of Tougas Family Farm in Northborough, Massachusetts, with a fresh tray of cider donuts. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

THE QUESTION of who makes the best cider donut inspires considerable debate and some controversy. These humble, cake-like orbs are nearly as high in demand as the freshly picked apples filling the bins or hanging from the trees at many orchards. Why do these apple-infused donuts provoke such fierce devotion, and what is the secret of their success?

We have sampled cider donuts from dozens of orchards around New England and can vouch for their nearly universal appeal, although no two are alike. They are all made with cider and very little shortening and come in two varieties: plain and sugar-coated. The latter are often mixed with cinnamon, as is the batter, giving the donuts their distinctive, lightly spiced flavor. That flavor is equally influenced by other spices added to the batter, notably nutmeg, but we can offer no further insight, as orchards guard their ingredients and proportions like state secrets.

Their texture is what further separates the very good from the truly exalted cider donut. Some are heavier, some a little lighter, but beauty, in this case, is in the taste buds of the consumer. Cider donuts inspire great loyalty: the best ones invariably are those made at one’s local orchard. For many, it is love at first bite.

Cider donuts are known primarily in the Northeast, and their popularity is staggering. Many orchards have trouble keeping up with demand, especially on fall weekends, and people will endure long lines to satisfy their appetite for this subtly sweet treat. The cider donuts made by Atkins Farms in Amherst, Massachusetts, were once named one of the top ten donuts in America by a national food magazine, and on fall weekends they make upwards of 10,000 per day.

We will have Atkins Farms cider donuts at our booth in the Massachusetts Building at the Eastern States Exposition (“The Big E”) daily starting this Friday, September 14, through Sunday, September 30, but you can find great cider donuts at your local orchard as well. After all, that’s where they’re the best.

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THIS RECIPE comes from Stephanie Waite of Westward Orchards, Harvard, Massachusetts. We’ve tried their cider donuts — it’s in our job description — and they’re outstanding, too.

Cider Donut Pudding

12-14 cider donuts, dried and broken apart

4 eggs beaten

2 T butter, melted

1/4 c sugar

1/4 c brown sugar

2 c milk

1 c apple cider

1 t vanilla

1 t cinnamon

1 t nutmeg

1 large Cortland or other New England apple

Preheat oven to 350°F. In a large mixing bowl, place donut pieces. In a separate bowl combine remaining ingredients except apple. Pour mixture over donuts and let sit 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, core and chop the apple and add to donut mixture. After 20 minutes, pour this into 9″ x 13″ baking dish and bake for one hour or until set.

Serve with whipped cream or ice cream.

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 America's AppleIN ADDITION to cider donuts, we will have fresh apples from a number of Massachusetts orchards at our booth at the Big E, plus apple crisp and pies made by Marge Cook of Cook’s Farm Orchard in Brimfield, fresh cider from Carlson Orchards of Harvard, apple butter and preserves from Bear Meadow Farm in Colrain, and the book America’s Apple, by Russell Steven Powell, with photographs by Bar Lois Weeks. Both Powell and Weeks will be staffing the booth and available to sign books and talk about apples.

We will also have recipe cards and brochures about New England orchards and apples. Stop by and say hello, grab a bite, and learn more about America’s most famous fruit.

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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.

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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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