Posts Tagged ‘Spencer apple’

Spencer apples, Brookfield Orchards, North Brookfield, Massachusetts (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Spencer apples, Brookfield Orchards, North Brookfield, Massachusetts. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

HERE IS a link to our special winter edition of McIntosh News, the quarterly newsletter of the New England Apple Association:

winter 2015 McIntosh News

The issue features a photo essay of the New England apples booth in the Massachusetts Building at the Eastern States Exposition (“The Big E”) by Executive Director Bar Lois Weeks. The 17-day fair attracted more than 1.5 million visitors this year in the middle of the fresh harvest, from September 12 through September 28.

Check it out — you might recognize yourself or someone you know. In addition to people, the photographs show stellar examples of the fall apple crop, and serve as a reminder to ask for New England grown apples in your supermarket. They should be available in most places until late spring, at least.

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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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Spencer apples on this tree at The Big Apple in Wrentham, Massachusetts, were good sized but had not yet developed their full color when this photograph was taken in early September. (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Spencer apples on this tree at The Big Apple in Wrentham, Massachusetts, were good sized but had not yet developed their full color when this photograph was taken in early September. (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Spencer apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Spencer apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

ONE OF THE NEWER and less heralded of the offspring of McIntosh is Spencer. Spencer is a cross of McIntosh and Golden Delicious, and it combines the Mac’s tartness, juiciness, and green skin with a rich overlay of red, with the conical shape and some of the sweetness of Golden Delicious. Spencer is crisp and juicy, with greenish-white flesh. Its sweet-tart flavor is excellent for fresh eating, and it is good for pie and sauce as well.

Perhaps Spencer is not better known because it does not store as well as some varieties. The flavor of some apples improves in storage; others are best eaten fresh. Spencer is an example of the latter. It will be good now through Thanksgiving, but does not retain its characteristic flavor over the winter.

Developed in 1926 at the British Columbia Experimental Station, Spencer was released commercially in 1959.

We used Spencers in this famous apple recipe from Maureen Cheney of Cheney Orchards in Brimfield, Massachusetts. The recipe won first prize in a National Apple Growers Association (now USApple) contest in the 1950s. The flavor and texture are outstanding.

After 90 years, Cheney Orchards closed in 2001, but Maureen’s son, David L. Cheney, has now reopened part of the orchard, working with the Grafton, Massachusetts-based Community Harvest Project. Under the program, volunteers plant and harvest apples to donate to the Worcester County Food Bank.

With a few minor modifications, here is Mrs. Cheney’s award-winning recipe.

Mrs. Cheney’s Nobby Apple Cake

1/4 c butter, softened

1 c sugar (raw cane sugar, if possible)

1 egg

½ c white whole wheat flour

½ c whole wheat flour

½ t baking powder

½ t baking soda

1 t cinnamon

½ t nutmeg

½ t salt

1 t vanilla

1/4 c chopped walnuts or pecans

3 medium-sized Spencer or other New England apples (about 3 cups)

Preheat oven to 350°. Grease 8×8 baking pan.

Cut apples into 1/2-inch chunks.

In large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar, then beat in egg.

Sift together dry ingredients, and add to egg mixture with apples, nuts, and vanilla.

Baked for 45 minutes.


Looking for a good place to go apple-picking this weekend? Click here for a list of the region’s best orchards.

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Champlain Orchards in Shoreham, Vermont, is one of many New England orchards with outstanding Cortland apple crops this fall. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Champlain Orchards in Shoreham, Vermont, is one of many New England orchards with outstanding Cortland apple crops this fall. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

THE INFLUENCE of McIntosh on the world’s apple supply extends well beyond the McIntosh itself. Its exceptional flavor, juiciness, and aroma have made McIntosh a favorite of apple breeding programs for more than 100 years, and Macs are parents of some of New England’s most celebrated varieties, especially Cortland, Empire, and Macoun.

Cortland apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Cortland apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Like McIntosh, Cortland has been a New England favorite for more than a century, and it excels in every use. A large, juicy apple with a sweet-tart flavor that is a little sweeter than a Mac, Cortlands are excellent for fresh eating. They are outstanding in pies for their flavor, size, and because they hold their shape well when baked. Their white flesh browns slowly after slicing, so Cortlands are excellent in salads, too.

Cortland is the product of a cross between McIntosh and Ben Davis, an heirloom apple from Virginia dating back to the early 1800s. Much of Cortland’s distinctive flavor comes from McIntosh, while its crisp texture, red skin with green striping, and large size are characteristic of Ben Davis. Cortlands can develop a slightly greasy look and feel in storage, another quality of Ben Davis. Cortlands were developed in 1898 at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, New York.

Empire apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Empire apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Empire is a cross between two of America’s most popular varieties: McIntosh and Red Delicious. Red Delicious, a chance seedling discovered in Iowa in 1880, provides Empire’s predominantly deep red color and sweetness, but McIntosh gives it a complexity and measure of tartness, as well as a green or yellow blush.

Empire’s juicy white flesh resembles a Mac, but it is firmer and does not bruise easily, like Red Delicious. Empire is great for fresh eating, but is a good cooking apple as well. Developed by R.D. Way at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in 1945, Empire was introduced commercially in 1966.

Macoun apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Macoun apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Macoun was also developed at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station, by crossing McIntosh with Jersey Black, a variety from New Jersey also known as Black Apple, dating back to the early 1800s. The resulting apple is named for Canadian horticulturalist W.T. Macoun, and it was released in 1923.

Many consider Macoun to be the finest fresh-eating apple available, in large part due to its sweet-tart, McIntosh-like flavor and powerful fragrance. But Macoun has a firmer, crisper flesh than McIntosh, and a distinctive, spicy taste, with a hint of strawberry.

Macoun is red and green like McIntosh, and its darker, wine-red tones and irregular, boxy shape are attributes of Jersey Black. Macoun is good for cooking, too, but rarely gets that far, coveted as it is for fresh eating. Macoun is pronounced as if spelled “MacCowan,” although some people say “MacCoon.”

Other varieties that owe their existence to McIntosh include Brock (crossed with Golden Delicious, developed in Maine in 1933), Jonamac (crossed with Jonathan, New York, 1972), Milton (crossed with Yellow Transparent, New York, 1923), Spartan (crossed with Newtown Pippin, British Columbia, 1936), and Spencer (crossed with Red Delicious, British Columbia, 1959).

RubyMac is one of several newer strains of McIntosh, and it is distinguished by its deep red color and firm, light-green flesh.


FOR INFORMATION about where to find McIntosh and other New England apples, click here.

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ONE OF THE BEST THINGS about apples is their versatility. They can be served at any meal, in any course, cooked or uncooked, in combination with countless other foods. Apples are the perfect snack, too: sweet but healthy, easy to eat and carry in a pocket or hold in your hand.

Apples can be both sweet and tart, and their flavor and texture change when cooked. As a result, they can be combined to great effect with foods as disparate as cheddar cheese and raisins, eggs and pork, sugar and mayonnaise.

There’s no bad time, or way, to eat an apple. One place to test out this assertion is with sandwiches. There are all kinds of variations that include the crunch and flavor of apple with a favorite ingredient of choice. One simple sandwich is to replace the jelly in a PBJ with slices of fresh apple, such as McIntosh or Empire. Add a handful of dried cranberries or a drizzle of honey or maple syrup for a twist.

The other day Chris Weeks of Hatfield, Massachusetts, opened a can of tuna fish, and when he went to the fridge looking for mayo, he couldn’t find any. Instead he found a jar of applesauce, and stirred it into the tuna, adding a few fresh Cortland chunks. The result was decidedly different, but pleasing.

A day later he found a Fuji and tuna sandwich in the deli at a local grocery. It included lettuce, mayo, and tomato, but otherwise seemed identical to his ad lib.

Chris keeps experimenting, and has developed a great new variation on grilled cheese. We include it here with another favorite of ours, an open-faced broiled sandwich that is easy to make. It admirably demonstrates how apples can combine with unusual ingredients to take the ordinary to new culinary heights.

Apple Pie Grilled Cheese

THIS UNIQUE SPIN on a pair of classic comfort foods combines the warmth of a New England apple pie — complete with Cheddar cheese! — with the youthful exuberance of French toast. The result is a sweet and savory grilled cheese bursting with warm, gooey New England apples and sharp Cheddar cheese. There is no shame in using a fork and knife on this one!


1 New England pie apple, such as Cortland or McIntosh

1 T cinnamon-sugar

1 T butter


4 slices whole wheat bread

1 egg

1 T milk

1 T cinnamon-sugar

Extra-sharp Cheddar cheese, sliced

Core and thinly slice apple. In skillet, sauté apples in butter over medium heat until medium-soft, about 2 minutes. Remove from skillet, sprinkle with 1 T cinnamon-sugar, and set aside.

In shallow bowl or pie plate, whip egg, milk, and 1 T cinnamon-sugar. Dunk bread into egg mixture and add to skillet, browning both sides over medium heat. Arrange cheese on all four pieces of the toast.

Allow cheese to melt slightly before placing apple filling on two pieces of the toast. Top with remaining pieces of toast, slice in half, and serve hot.

Yield: 2 sandwiches

Apple-Cheddar Sandwich

1 New England apple, sliced thinly

2 slices sourdough or other whole-grain bread

2 oz Cheddar cheese

2 thin onion slices

Whole-grain mustard

Spread mustard on bread; top with apples, onion, and cheese. Briefly broil until cheese is bubbly.

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Spencer apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Spencer apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

A GREAT LATE-SEASON sandwich apple is Spencer. It’s a relatively new (1959) cross between McIntosh and Red Delicious. Spencers are crisp, juicy, and sweet, but less so than a Delicious. Nearly solid red in color, they are an outstanding apple for both fresh eating and culinary use. You won’t find them everywhere, but they are worth the search.

A more readily available choice for sandwiches is Fuji. Popularized in Japan and Washington state, it is grown in New England, so look for your local variety.

Fuji apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Fuji apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Fuji is a medium to large apple, with orange-red skin. Its flesh is firm, crisp, and juicy. Fujis are excellent eating apples, and good dried in slices. They also keep well, maintaining their quality for up to a year refrigerated or several weeks left in a fruit bowl. Fujis ripen in late October.

Fuji was developed in Japan in 1939, but it was given its name in 1962. Named for Japan’s tallest and most sacred mountain, Fuji is a cross between a Ralls Janet, an heirloom variety from Virginia, and Red Delicious.

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