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Posts Tagged ‘Pine Hill Orchards’

Apple blossoms, Cold Spring Orchard, Belchertown, Massachusetts (Russell Steven Powell photo)

A little overnight moisture dampens the apple blossoms at Cold Spring Orchard, Belchertown, Massachusetts, May 12, 2015.

Apple blossoms, Atkins Farms, Amherst, Massachusetts (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Atkins Farms, Amherst, Massachusetts, May 12, 2015.

THE BLOSSOMS are peaking now at many New England orchards, and close up or from a distance, it is a spectacular sight.

After a slow start, the bloom has advanced quickly in the recent stretch of summer-like weather — at Pine Hill Orchards in Colrain, Massachusetts, for examples, the blossoms were at “match-tip” stage May 9, and many trees were in peak bloom just five days later on May 13. A little further north, McDougal Orchards in Springvale, Maine, reports that bloom is expected to peak there this weekend.

The orchard in bloom is a beautiful sight, but the time for viewing it is short, especially in southern New England locations. If you have a chance to get out to see bloom in person, now is the time.

To learn more about bloom and pollination, view the short video below, in which Frank Carlson of Carlson Orchards, Harvard, Massachusetts, explains why apple growers depend on honeybees during this critical stage.

Cortland apples, Green Mountain Orchards, Putney, Vermont (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Even as a new season begins, crisp New England apples like these Cortlands from Green Mountain Orchards, Putney, Vermont, are still available throughout the region.

While the blossoms on the trees now will eventually develop into the 2015 apple crop, the good news for consumers is that there are still plenty of New England apples available from the 2014 crop. Fresh from sealed rooms in controlled-atmosphere (“CA”) storage, the apples are nearly as crisp and just as flavorful as the day they were picked.

New England McIntosh, Cortland, and other varieties should be widely available for at least another month.

Photographs by Russell Steven Powell.

Apple blossoms, Green Mountain Orchards, Putney, Vermont (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Green Mountain Orchards, Putney, Vermont, May 13, 2015.

Apple blossoms, Green Mountain Orchards, Putney, Vermont (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Green Mountain Orchards, Putney, Vermont, May 13, 2015.

Apple blossoms, Alyson's Orchard, Walpole, New Hampshire (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Alyson’s Orchard, Walpole, New Hampshire, May 13, 2015.

Apple blossoms, Alyson's Orchard, Walpole, New Hampshire (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Alyson’s Orchard, Walpole, New Hampshire, May 13, 2015.

Homer Dunn, Alyson's Orchard, Walpole, New Hampshire. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Orchard Manager Homer Dunn takes a brief break from mowing at Alyson’s Orchard, Walpole, New Hampshire.

 

Apple blossoms, match-tip stage, Pine Hill Orchards, Colrain, Massachusetts (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Blossoms were till at the “match-tip” stage at Pine Hill Orchards, Colrain, Massachusetts, May 9, 2015.

Apple blossoms, Pine Hill Orchards, Colrain, Massachusetts (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Just five days later, the blossoms had rapidly unfurled at Pine Hill Orchards, May 13, 2015.

Apple blossoms, Pine Hill Orchards, Colrain, Massachusetts (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Bloom was already peaking on some trees at Pine Hill Orchards, May 13, 2015.

Apple blossoms, Cold Spring Orchard, Belchertown, Massachusetts (Russell Steven Powell photo)

A sea of apple blossoms at Cold Spring Orchard, Belchertown, Massachusetts, May 12, 2015.

Apple blossoms, Atkins Farms, Amherst, Massachusetts (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Atkins Farms, Amherst, Massachusetts, May 12, 2015.

Apple blossoms, Atkins Farms, Amherst, Massachusetts (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Atkins Farms, Amherst, Massachusetts, May 12, 2015

 

 

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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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The western view toward Mount Kearsarge from Gould Hill Orchards, Contoocook, New Hampshire (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

The western view toward Mount Kearsarge from Gould Hill Orchards, Contoocook, New Hampshire (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

A bin of Cox's Orange Pippins is a beautiful sight. (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

A bin of Cox’s Orange Pippins, from ‘Apples of New England.’ (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

IT HAS NOT PRODUCED a new apple for a century. Its apples are typically small — in one instance, no bigger than a golf ball.

Some are covered with russet, and one is famously misshapen. Several are notoriously difficult to grow. None of its varieties is grown in commercial quantities in New England.

Yet England’s apples have some of the best flavor of any fruit — not to mention some of the most colorful and evocative names. While you may have to hunt for some of them, all of these English apples made their way across the Atlantic long ago, and can still be found growing in New England orchards.

Bramley's Seedling apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Bramley’s Seedling apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Bramley’s Seedling is a late-season apple, round but flat, green with red streaks or patches and prominent lenticels. Its cream-colored flesh is coarse and moderately juicy. It is aromatic, and it has a nicely balanced sweet-tart flavor with hints of citrus. Bramley’s is excellent in cider, and it is England’s most popular cooking apple. Similar to apples such as Cortland, its skin can become naturally greasy in storage, and it keeps well.

Bramley’s Seedling was raised from seed in the cottage garden of Mary Ann Brailsford in Southwell, Nottinghamshire, between 1809 and 1813. Matthew Bramley brought the property in 1848, and the apple bearing his name was introduced commercially in 1876.

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

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

Cox’s Orange Pippin is as beautiful to behold as it is to eat. A mid-season apple, it is medium sized, round, and orange-red with red striping over a yellow skin. Its cream-colored flesh is crisp and juicy. Its flavor, more tart than sweet, is spicy, aromatic, and complex. It excels in cider as well as fresh eating.

The website orangepippin.com raves about Orange Cox’s Pippin as “a variety for the connoisseur, who can delight in the appreciation of the remarkable range of subtle flavors — pear, melon, freshly-squeezed Florida orange juice, and mango are all evident in a good example.”

Richard Cox, a retired brewer from London, raised the apple in 1825 in the village of Colnbrook Lawn, Berkshire, from seeds of a Ribston Pippin. Its other parent is unknown. Cox’s Orange Pippin was introduced in America about 1850.

Ribston Pippin apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Ribston Pippin apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Ribston Pippin, like its offspring Cox’s Orange Pippin, is both beautiful and delicious. Ready in mid-season, it is a small to medium in size, slightly conical in shape, with color that combines brown, gold, orange, and crimson. Its yellow flesh is crisp and juicy.

Highly aromatic, its complex flavor is more tart than sweet at harvest, and it becomes spicy and sweet in storage, with hints of pear. But it does not keep for long. It is outstanding eaten fresh, and also good for cooking.

Ribston Pippin was discovered in Yorkshire in the early 1700s, and became popular in New England, New York, and parts of Canada in the early 1800s.

Ashmead's Kernel apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Ashmead’s Kernel apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Ashmead’s Kernel may even exceed Cox’s Orange Pippin and Ribston Pippin in richness of flavor. It is a mid-season apple, medium to small, round, with heavy russet and an orange blush covering a copper-colored skin. Its cream-colored flesh is crisp and juicy, and its balanced, sweet-tart flavor has hints of vanilla, orange, pear, nutmeg, lemon, and tea. Its flavor improves in storage, and it stores well. It is especially good eaten fresh and in cider.

Among those lavishing praise on Ashmead Kernel was the late food writer Philip Morton Shand: “Its initial Madeira-like mellowness of flavor overlies a deeper honeyed nuttiness, crisply sweet not sugar sweet. Surely no apple of greater distinction or more perfect balance can ever have been raised anywhere on earth.”

William Ashmead discovered the chance seedling that bears his name in his garden in Goucester in the 1700s. The term “kernel” is synonymous with pippin, or seed.

D'Arcy Spice apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

D’Arcy Spice apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

D’Arcy Spice is a late-season apple, round, medium to small, with russet and red-orange color over a thick, yellow-green skin. Its cream-colored flesh is aromatic, and its texture can range from tender to crisp. Its balanced, sweet-tart flavor, while somewhat mild, has hints of spice and nutmeg, and it becomes sweeter and more complex in storage.

D’Arcy Spice was discovered growing in a garden in the village of Tolleshunt D’Arcy, Essex, in 1785. It was introduced by nurseryman John Harris in 1848, and was originally called Baddow Pippin.

Knobbed Russet apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Knobbed Russet apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Knobbed Russet, or Knobby Russet, may well lay claim to being the world’s ugliest apple. It is a small, misshapen apple, its skin gnarly and russeted. Its cream-colored flesh is dense, and not very juicy. That it has survived for two centuries is testimony to its outstanding flavor, more sweet than tart, complex and nutty. It is best eaten fresh or pressed in cider. It stores well.

Discovered in Sussex in 1819, Knobbed Russet was nearly extinct by the 1940s (in addition to its appearance, it can be difficult to grow), when it was rediscovered during England’s national fruit trials.

Pitmaston Pineapple apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Pitmaston Pineapple apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

If Knobbed Russet is the ugliest of apples, Pitmaston Pineapple may be the smallest. It, too, can credit its outstanding flavor for its survival. A small apple not much larger than a grape or golf ball, Pitmaston Pineapple is round or conical in shape with bronze skin covered in light russet. A mid-season apple, its crisp, cream-colored flesh lacks much juice, but it has a balanced sweet-tart, nutty flavor with hints of honey, and a distinctive pineapple taste. Its small size limits its utility for cooking, but it is outstanding for fresh eating and good in cider.

Pitmaston Pineapple was discovered by a Mr. White around 1785, possibly from the seed of a Golden Pippin. It was presented to the London Horticultural Society in 1845 by Mr. Williams, a nurseryman from Pitmaston.

Howgate Wonder apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Howgate Wonder apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

In stark contrast to Pitmaston Pineapple, the mid-season Howgate Wonder alone among English apples is exceptionally large in size. Brownish-red over a yellow-green skin, it has crisp, juicy cream-colored flesh. Its mild flavor is more sweet than tart. It holds its shape when cooked, and its flesh turns yellow. It is good for fresh-eating apple and in cider. It develops a harmless greasy skin in storage.

A Howgate Wonder held the unofficial title of world’s largest apple in 2012, weighing in at three pounds, 11 ounces, and seven inches in diameter, with a 21-inch circumference.

Howgate Wonder is relatively new among English varieties, discovered in 1915 by G. Wratton, a retired policeman of Howgate Lane, Bembridge, in the Isle of Wight. It was introduced in 1932. The original tree lived until the 1960s. Howgate Wonder has English parents; its size can be traced to Newton Wonder (1887), and its greasy skin from Blenheim Orange (1740).

Other English transplants to New England’s orchards include the yellow-green Claygate Pearmain, and Lamb Abbey Pearmain, a red-striped apple on yellow skin, both from the early 1800s.

To find 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.

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COME VISIT the New England Apples booth in the Massachusetts State Building at the Eastern States Exposition (“The Big E”) now through Sunday, September 28, from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. The booth features fresh apples, fresh cider, cider donuts, apple pies, and other baked goods.

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 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 in Belchertown.

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 will be available to visitors during the fair, the largest in New England. Last year’s fair attracted 1.4 million visitors.

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The view from Lyman Orchards, Middlefield, Connecticut (Russell Steven Powell photo)

The view from Lyman Orchards, Middlefield, Connecticut. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

IF McINTOSH were its sole contribution, Canada would occupy a special place among producers of New England apples. McIntosh has thrived in New England’s soil and climate ever since Dr. Thomas H. Hoskins of Newport, Vermont, planted the first McIntosh sapling in the United States, purchased from the John McIntosh family nursery in Dundela, Ontario, in 1868.

McIntosh apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

McIntosh apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Macs rapidly gained in popularity due to their unbeatable combination of outstanding flavor and hardiness. McIntosh has been New England’s leading apple variety since the 1940s, and still account for about two-thirds of the region’s crop.

A round, medium-sized apple with splashes of green and red on a thin skin, McIntosh is ready for picking in most locations soon after Labor Day. It has white, juicy flesh, is highly aromatic, and more tart than sweet in flavor. It is outstanding for both fresh eating and cooking. Its flavor is superb in pies and other baked goods, and it is often mixed with varieties with denser flesh for a firmer texture, as its tender flesh breaks down when cooked.

McIntosh needs New England’s cool nights of late summer and early fall to produce apples with the greatest color and flavor, accounting for its success here.

McIntosh’s influence can be tasted throughout the season, as a parent to such popular New England varieties as Cortland, Empire, and Macoun, and redder strains like Marshall McIntosh, Rogers Red McIntosh, and RubyMac.

While no other apple can come close to matching McIntosh’s far-reaching influence, Canada has produced a number of other varieties that have developed a niche in New England. These include the heirloom Melba (1898), and newer varieties like Chinook (2000) and Nova (1986).

Silken apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Silken apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Silken is an early season apple, medium-sized, conical in shape, pale yellow in color with an occasional pink blush or light russeting around the stem. Its tender, cream-colored flesh is aromatic and juicy, and it has mild, sweet flavor. Like many early season apples, it is best eaten fresh, as it has a short storage life.

Silken is a cross between another Canadian apple, Sunrise, and Honeygold, a variety from Minnesota. Both of Silken’s parent apples include Golden Delicious in their lineage, accounting for Silken’s sweetness and color (Sunrise’s other parent, incidentally, is McIntosh).

Silken was developed in 1982 by W.D. Lane and R.A. MacDonald at Canada’s Pacific Agri-Food Research Centre in Summerland, British Columbia, and released commercially in 1998.

Shamrock apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Shamrock apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Shamrock is another new apple developed at the Pacific Agri-Food Research Centre. It is a round, green apple, medium to large in size, mostly solid green in color with an occasional pink blush. A mid-season apple, its tender, cream-colored flesh is more tart than sweet when first picked, with a finish hinting of honey or butterscotch.

Like many apples, Shamrock’s flavor improves in storage, becoming progressively sweeter, spicier, and juicier for several weeks, but its storage life is relatively short. It is a 1992 cross of a Spur McIntosh and Spur Golden Delicious (a spur variety results when an apple branch develops outstanding characteristics that differ in some significant way from its parent tree).

Due to its green color and initial tartness, Shamrock has been promoted as an East Coast alternative to Granny Smith, which requires a longer growing season, or the heirloom Rhode Island Greening, which is difficult to grow. But it has yet to develop a strong following in New England.

Creston apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Creston apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Creston is even newer than Shamrock, released in 1998. It is a large, conical apple, yellow with a red blush or stripes. Its yellow flesh is crisp, juicy, and more sweet than tart. It is a late-season apple that has been compared to Jonagold in flavor, texture, and appearance. But while some say it stores better than Jonagold, others contend that it can become greasy or soft in storage.

A cross between Golden Delicious and an unnamed seedling, Creston was developed at the Pacific Agri-Food Research Centre.

In addition to these recent entries, Canada’s apple-breeding program has been developing varieties that have been grown in New England for nearly a century.

Spartan apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Spartan apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Spartan was discovered in 1926 and released a decade later. It has dark, plum-red color, and tender, aromatic white flesh beneath a somewhat tough skin. Its flavor is more sweet than tart, with hints of strawberry and spice. A late-season apple, it is moderately juicy. It is best as a fresh-eating apple, and it stores well.

Spartan was developed by R. C. Palmer at the Pacific Agri-food Research Centre, then known as the Federal Agriculture Research Station. For years it was described as a cross between McIntosh and the American heirloom Newtown Pippin, but as a result of recent genetic testing, the latter has been ruled out, leaving Spartan’s second parent a mystery.

Spencer apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Spencer apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Ripening in mid- to late September, Spencer is a conical apple, nearly solid red-pink in color, with green highlights. Its flesh is crisp, juicy, and more sweet than tart, though less sweet than its Golden Delicious parent (Spencer’s other parent — surprise! — is McIntosh). Spencer is an all-purpose apple, especially good in pies and sauce. It does not have a lengthy storage life.

Spencer was also discovered by R. C. Palmer in 1926 — the same year as Spartan — but it took considerably longer, until 1959, for it to reach the marketplace.

Before it had an apple-breeding program, Canada produced several heirloom varieties of note besides McIntosh — including one of McIntosh’s parents, Snow apple.

Snow apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Snow apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Snow, also known as Fameuse (French for famous or excellent), is small to medium sized, red with green and pink striping. Its name is derived from its white flesh, which is sometimes stained red just beneath the skin. A late-season apple, Snow is crisp, juicy, and aromatic, more tart than sweet, with a slight strawberry flavor. Snow is best for fresh eating and in cider, and it does not store well.

Snow contributes to McIntosh’s thin skin, white flesh, and sweet-tart flavor, and to the trees’ hardiness. Snow’s origins are unclear, but dates to at least 1730. Some accounts hint that it may be much older, and originated in France rather than Canada. An apple named Snow was reported growing in Vermont’s Champlain Valley as far back as the early 1600s.

Pomme Grise apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Pomme Grise apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Pomme Grise, or Gray Apple, is a small, round apple with chewy, yellow-green skin covered with coarse brown russet. Its pale yellow flesh is firm, crisp, and aromatic, more sweet than tart, with a distinctive nutty, spicy flavor. It is good for fresh eating, and especially valued for cider.

Pomme Grise was cited growing near Montreal in the early 1800s, eventually making its way south to New York’s St. Lawrence Valley, and from there to New England. It may be related or identical to a 16th-century French apple called Reinette Grise.

To find orchards that grow these apples, visit New England Apples and follow the link for “Find an Apple Orchard” to search by state or variety.

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NEW ENGLAND APPLES will have an expanded presence in the Massachusetts State Building during the 17-day Eastern States Exposition (“The Big E”), which opens this Friday, September 12, continuing daily from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. through Sunday, September 28. The Association is renovating a larger booth this summer to boost sales of fresh apples, fresh cider, cider donuts, apple pies, and other baked goods.

Fresh apples will be 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 in Belchertown, Nestrovich Fruit Farm in Granville, Pine Hill Orchards in Colrain, Red Apple Farm in Phillipston, and Tougas Family Farm in Northborough.

The booth will feature 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 in Belchertown.

Executive Director Bar Weeks and Senior Writer Russell Powell will be on hand every day to meet with people and answer questions about apples. Their new book, Apples of New England, will be 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 will be available to visitors during the fair, the largest in New England. Last year’s fair attracted 1.4 million visitors.

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McIntosh apple ripening at Pine Hill Orchard in Colrain, Massachusetts (photo by Russell Steven Powell)

The McIntosh are plentiful but still a few weeks away at Pine Hill Orchards in Colrain, Massachusetts, but PaulaRed and Ginger Gold are already being harvested (Russell Steven Powell photo)

WHEN IT COMES TO APPLES, New England truly is a melting pot. In addition to the dozens of varieties discovered in the region, apples from across the country and around the world have flourished in New England’s climate and soils. We’ll be looking at the origins of some of New England’s best-known apples over the next several weeks.

There are only a handful of active apple-breeding programs left in the United States, at Cornell University in New York, the University of Minnesota, Washington State University, and a joint program of the University of Illinois, Purdue University in Indiana, and Rutgers University in New Jersey, known by the acronym PRI.

The PRI consortium has produced a number of cultivars that are grown in New England: early season apples Vista Bella (discovered in 1956; released commercially in 1974), Mollie’s Delicious (1948; 1966), and Pristine (1975; 1994), the mid-season CrimsonCrisp (1971; 2005), and the late-season GoldRush (1973; 1993).

Two other early season apples developed by PRI are Jersey Mac and Williams’ Pride.

Jersey Mac apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Jersey Mac apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Jersey Mac is a medium-sized, round apple with green and light-red patches on a dark-red skin. Beneath an occasionally tough peel, its tender, white flesh has a mild flavor that is more sweet than tart, with hints of strawberry. It can be used for both cooking and fresh eating. Its season is relatively short, as it does not store well. One grower calls Jersey Mac “a good choice for McIntosh lovers who are getting impatient waiting for the Macs to ripen.”

Despite its name and resemblance, though, Jersey Mac’s complex parentage does not include McIntosh. It is a cross between Melba, Wealthy, Rome, and Starr, an obscure, yellow-green apple from the 1920s known for its tart, juicy flesh. Jersey Mac was developed in 1956 at the Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station in New Brunswick, and released commercially in 1971.

Williams' Pride apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Williams’ Pride apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Like Pristine, Williams’ Pride is an outstanding newer entry into the early season market, discovered in 1975 and released in 1988. It is a medium-to-large apple, slightly conical in shape with maroon-red color. Its crisp, juicy flesh is cream-colored, and it has a spicy, nicely balanced, sweet-tart flavor. It is an all-purpose apple especially good for fresh eating.

Like Jersey Mac, Williams’ Pride has complex parentage that includes Melba, Jonathan, Mollie’s Delicious, and Rome. It was named for Edwin B. Williams, long-time head of the disease-resistant apple-breeding program at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana.

Two late-season apples from PRI are Enterprise and Suncrisp.

Enterprise apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Enterprise apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Enterprise is a round, medium-to-large apple, deep-red in color with prominent white lenticels. Its spicy flavor is more tart than sweet, and it is considered best for cooking. Its flesh, crisp at harvest, softens some in storage, and its somewhat tough skin develops a waxy coating, but it keeps exceptionally well.

Discovered in 1978 and released in 1990, its parentage includes Golden Delicious, McIntosh, Rome Beauty. Another variety credited to Edwin B. Williams, Enterprise was developed for disease resistance at Purdue. It is immune to apple scab and highly resistant to fire blight and cedar apple rust.

Suncrisp apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Suncrisp apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Suncrisp is a late-season apple that continues to develop its flavor long after harvest. A large apple, it has orange-red striping over a yellow skin. Its cream-colored flesh is crisp and juicy. More tart than sweet when picked, it becomes sweeter and develops a complex, spicy flavor in storage, where it can keep for up to six months. It is especially good for cooking.

Suncrisp was developed in the 1990s by Dr. Frederick Hough at the Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station in New Brunswick from Gold Delicious, Cox’s Orange Pippin, and Cortland parents. The Suncrisp name is trademarked by Rutgers University.

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WITH THE FRESH HARVEST upon us, here is a simple, straightforward, and delicious way to get those apple juices flowing. Adapted from From A Monastery Kitchen by Brother Victor-Antoine d’Avila-Latourrette.

Apple Crumble

4 medium-sized New England apples, sliced

½ c flour

½ c whole wheat flour

⅓ c sugar

1 t baking powder

¼ t salt

½ t nutmeg

2 eggs

1 t cinnamon

3 T butter, melted

Preheat oven to 375°. Arrange apple slices in 9” round cake pan. Combine remaining ingredients except cinnamon and butter, and spread mixture loosely over apples. Stir cinnamon into butter and drizzle on top. Bake for 30-40 minutes until apples are done.

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'Apples of New England' by Russell Steven PowellApples of New England: A User’s Guide (The Countryman Press) is now out! A new book by Russell Steven Powell, it features color photographs and descriptions of more than 200 apple varieties grown, sold, or discovered in New England, plus a history of apple growing in the region spanning nearly four centuries. Photographs are by Bar Lois Weeks, executive director of the New England Apple Association.

In addition to extensive research, Powell interviewed senior and retired growers and leading industry figures from all six New England states, and obtained samples of many rare varieties at the preservation orchard maintained by the Tower Hill Botanic Garden in Boylston, Massachusetts.

A chapter on John Chapman (“Johnny Appleseed”), for the first time links him with another Massachusetts native, Henry David Thoreau, as the fathers of American wild apples, Chapman for planting them, Thoreau with his pen.

Apples of New England is intended for use by all apple lovers, whether they are visiting the orchard, farm stand, grocery store, an abandoned field or a back yard — or in the kitchen. The descriptions include detailed information on each apple’s flavor and texture, ripening season, and best uses, as well as age, parentage, place of origin, and unusual histories.

Powell has worked for the nonprofit New England Apple Association since 1996, and served 13 years as executive director from 1998 to 2011. He is now its senior writer. He is the author of America’s Apple (Brook Hollow Press, 2012), a book about apple growing in the United States.

America’s Apple is now available in paperback for $19.95. Visit Silver Street Media or Amazon.com to order online, or look for it at your favorite orchard or bookstore.

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Special fresh cider blends on display at Clarkdale Fruit Farm in Deerfield, Massachusetts, during 2011 CiderDays. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Special fresh cider blends on display at Clarkdale Fruit Farm in Deerfield, Massachusetts, during 2011 CiderDays. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

CROWDS AS DIVERSE and far-flung as the apples they came to admire swarmed on Franklin County in western Massachusetts last weekend like honeybees to nectar. The event was the weekend-long extravaganza known as CiderDays, now in its 19th year.

As always, there were a host of orchard tours, workshops on cider-making, apple growing, and baking with apples, at places like Clarkdale Fruit Farm in Deerfield, and Pine Hill Orchards and West County Cider, both in Colrain. There were tastings of cider, fresh and hard, produced by mainstream companies, counterculture entrepreneurs, and backyard enthusiasts. There was plenty of food, including an apple pancake breakfast in Greenfield and a harvest supper in Shelburne.

Cider-makers large and small debated the merits of Cortlands, Winter Bananas, and Tremlett’s Bitters as they sampled unfiltered, fresh and fermented apple juice at the orchards, in the Shelburne Buckland Community Center, or on the sidewalks where they met. They came from around the country, these localvores and gourmets, the apple militia; an agricultural army celebrating the harvest, but ready to do battle to preserve, protect, and promote the apple, bottling, sipping, and trading its juice like liquid gold.

Franklin County is wide and CiderDays inclusive. Getting to all of the events is challenging and provides a logistical challenge, as it takes more than one hour to drive the 40-plus miles from the easternmost venue in New Salem, home of New Salem Preserves, to the town of Hawley along the county’s western edge, where Headwater Cider is located.

Two participating orchards in Ashfield, Bear Swamp and Brook Farm, are nearby Headwater Cider. Sunday I made these three orchards my destination. The foothills of the Berkshires are beautiful but remote, and these out-of-the-way farms are much smaller than orchards like Clarkdale and Pine Hill, with niche products and modest aims.

The cider mill at Bear Swamp Orchard in Ashfield, Massachusetts, is solar-powered. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

The cider mill at Bear Swamp Orchard in Ashfield, Massachusetts, is solar-powered. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Bear Swamp Orchard, for example, grows apples organically on just a few acres. They make fresh and hard cider in a solar-powered mill, and an array of other apple products (including an outstanding cider donut).

They also make and sell maple syrup and firewood, grow grain and vegetables, and pasture sheep to supplement their apple income. They had sold out of fresh apples long before CiderDays. I drank a cup of fresh cider with my donut, and it was very good, but it was too early in the day for me to sample their hard cider.

Brook Farm Orchard, Ashfield, Massachusetts. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Brook Farm Orchard, Ashfield, Massachusetts. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Brook Farm Orchard is even smaller than Bear Swamp, with just 100 trees on a gentle hillside, including 30 varieties of apples, plus peaches, plums, Asian pears, and filberts. They sell their fruit at a local farmer’s market and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) shares from the farm.

Among the varieties they displayed Sunday were heirlooms like Baldwin and Winesap, and newer varieties like Keepsake and Fireside, both developed at the University of Minnesota, making them good choices for the cold winters and shorter growing season of this hill town.

Fireside (also known as Connell Red) was introduced in 1943. A pretty, round apple mostly red, it had a good, sweet flavor but a tough skin, and not much juice. Keepsake (1978), another mostly red apple, is crispy, juicy, and aromatic, with a nice tangy flavor. Its biggest claim to fame, though, is that it is a parent of Honeycrisp, the biggest apple to hit the market in the past 25 years. Like Fireside, Keepsake keeps well in storage, and its flavor is said to improve over time.

A windmill towers above the trees and barn at Headwater Cider in Hawley, Massachusetts. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

A windmill towers above the trees and barn at Headwater Cider in Hawley, Massachusetts. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Headwater Cider Company is the largest of the three orchards, with about 20 acres of apples, all cultivated for their properties in hard cider. Owner Peter Mitchell bought the orchard in 2005 from Apex Orchards, which decided it could no longer run the satellite farm profitably, nearly 20 miles from its main orchard in Shelburne Falls. Mitchell inherited Cortland, Empire, and McIntosh trees, to which he has been slowly adding (he is now up to 34 varieties).

Like many growers, Mitchell tried another career before he settled on apples. Mitchell earned his bachelor’s degree from nearby University of Massachusetts, where he rowed crew for all four years (he remains an avid boater). He went on to earn a master’s degree in English before switching to producing hard cider made from his own apples.

All three orchards welcomed good crowds during CiderDays, and visitors to Headwater Cider were treated to samples of their “New England Dry” and Ashton Bend” hard ciders, and refreshments like the apple cake below. The ciders were nice blends — not too sweet yet retaining plenty of complex apple flavor. The cake was so good we asked for the recipe.

“This is a very apple-y cake,” says Gerda Swedowsky, who baked it. “I use a mix of Cortland and Empire apples. The Cortlands are good because they hold their shape when cooked and the Empires add a nice sweet tangy taste.”

Gerda has had the recipe for “many, many years,” she says. “It is from a cookbook put together by a friend of my mother who was a wonderful cook and had lots of friends that were wonderful cooks as well. I am so pleased to share it.”

Several weeks ago we published the award-winning recipe for Mrs. Cheney’s Nobby Apple Cake. Joan Dybvig’s version is similar, but there are differences besides the silent “k” in “knobby.” For one, Joan spreads a solid layer of walnut pieces on top of the cake rather than mixing it in the batter.

Joan’s recipe does not specify an amount of walnuts, but Gerda’s version Sunday had more than the 1/4 cup used by Mrs. Cheney, and the nuts were excellent, contrasting nicely in flavor and texture with the cooked apples.

Joan Dybvig’s Knobby Apple Cake

1/2 c brown sugar

1/4 c white sugar

¼ c butter, softened

1 egg, beaten

1/2 c whole wheat flour

1/2 c white flour

1 t vanilla extract

1/2 t each: baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg

3 c diced apples  (coarse — 3/4” pieces)

Walnuts

Preheat oven to 350°.

Cream the butter and sugars. Add egg and stir.

Add dry ingredients and vanilla and mix to make a stiff batter.

Add apples, and pour in a well-greased 8×8 pan.

“I cover the top with walnuts that I lightly press into the batter,” says Gerda, “and then I finish with some cinnamon and sugar.”

Bake for 45 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

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