2009 CSA Newsletter #3

...we enter the heart of apple season.

Out on a Limb Apple CSA Newsletter

Wednesday, September 30th


Fall. Unknown parentage. Ukraine, c 1700. Originally known as Aporta. Redubbed Alexander in honor of the Czar Alexander I (1777-1825). First arrived in the U.S. in 1835, quickly spreading north. Very large—often huge—round-conic pale yellow fruit, faintly red-striped in the shade and brightly blushed orange-red in the sun. Distinctly more conic than its famous oblate child, Wolf River. Firm coarse tender slightly tart juicy flesh, best know for its cooking qualities, although also quite good for tart fresh eating. Long famous in Aroostook County and other northern areas where it can be picked over a several week period. The vigorous upright spreading tree bears young and is a good cropper. Comes fairly true to type from seed, so there may be many strains out there. Best grown in zones 3-4.

Cox’s Orange Pippin

Fall. Possibly a seedling of Ribston Pippin. Near Slough, Bucks, England, around 1825. Deservedly one of the most famous of all apples, and one of the best of all dessert apples.  (A dessert apple, by the way, simply means an apple you eat fresh, not cooked. We call this kind of eating, "eating out of hand," or  "fresh eating" or "dessert fruit.")  Cox is also the parent of many other great varieties. Revered in the U.K, its medium-sized all-purpose aromatic fruit is red-orange to red with russet striping and wash. (“All purpose” meaning it is also good for cooking.)  Perfectly balanced slightly tart flavor and crisp juicy tender flesh improve with storage. Moderately vigorous moderately productive tree bears young and annually. Best grown in zones 4-6.


Fall. (McIntosh x Jersey Black) NY Stn, 1923. Named after Canadian fruit grower W.T. Macoun, it was first introduced in 1923, and has been regarded as one of the finest eating apples in the Northeast. This is a dessert apple with a near cult following even though practically no one seems to know how to pronounce the name. (It rhymes with town, not tune!!)  Also makes a very good sauce.  Many people live for Macoun season.  Medium-sized ribbed lobed truncate fruit, a dark purplish-red blush mostly covers the green skin. The very white flesh is crisp but not really hard, and very juicy. The rich flavor is sweet and aromatic. Best grown in zones 4-6.


Fall.  (McIntosh x Newtown Pippin.)  R.C.Palmer / A.J.Mann intorduction, Canada Department of Agriculture Reserach Station, Summerland, British Columbia, 1936. Very good flavored dessert (fresh eating) fruit, somewhat similar to McIntosh. Firm, crisp, white, juicy flesh. Medium sized, dark red fruit that ripens about the time of McIntosh.  Occasionally grown commercially often with an enthusiastic following.  The McIntosh flavor is greatly enhanced by Newtown Pippin.  Newtown, which is also called Albemarle Pippin in Viginia, is one of the great classic American varieties.  Keeps until winter. The vigorous tree bears regularly and heavily though is scab susceptible. Best grown in zones 4-8.

Featured Variety Profile

Sweet Sixteen:

Early Fall. MN 1630 (MN447 x Northern Spy) U Minn, 1979.

Whenever anyone eats a Sweet 16 for the first time, you know they will be surprised. Fine-textured crisp flesh contains an astounding unusually complex combination of sweet nutty and spicy flavors with slight anise essence, sometimes described as cherry, vanilla or even bourbon. We always love Sweet 16 season. Truly excellent fresh eating, although it is too sweet for some palates.  Some people like to cook with it as well.  See what you think.  Round-conic bronze-red medium-sized fruit, striped and washed with rose-red. Annual bearer if thinned.

For the first 250 years of European immigration in North America, most apples originated as seedlings in farmers' orchards and pastures.  Every seedling is unique, and most farmers planted all apples from seed.  Every year new discoveries were made and the best were named and then propagated by grafting.  By the mid-nineteenth century, there were thousands of named American apples.  All the classic American varieties originated by this method, including McIntosh, Delicious, Golden Delicious, Baldwin, Northern Spy, Golden Russet and many many more.   Towards the end of the nineteenth century, farms became less diverse and more specialized.  The practice of propagation of apples from seed declined and the new land grant universities took over the plant breeding from American farmers.

These days, most of those "new" university programs themselves are gone and, especially in the north, very little plant breeding is being done any more.  One bright exception to that trend is the University of Minnesota.  They are recently famous as the place where "Honeycrisp" was bred.  But they are also responsible over the past hundred years for many other well-known apples, pears, cherries, plums, small fruits and vegetables.  "Chestnut", featured in CSA delivery #2 and "Sweet Sixteen" are two of our favorites of the Minnesota (MN) introductions. Minnesota’s most famous apple, Haralson, originated at the University. Sweet Sixteen’s parentage include Northern Spy and MN 447 (Both to be in future CSA deliveries). Sweet Sixteen’s intense unusual flavor comes from MN 447, now known as “Frostbite”.

Sweet Sixteen grows into a very hardy moderate-sized vigorous vase-shaped upright tree with willowy branches that get loaded with fruit but do not break. Grower-friendly. Reaches its best flavor and texture in northern districts. Some resistance to scab. Keeps till midwinter. Blooms midseason.  Best grown in zones 3-5.


A Note About Apple Surface Quality:

All of the apples we provide are grown by highly reputable Maine growers.  Some of the apples are grown organically while others are grown with "IPM," Integrated Pest Management.  Both methods seek to reduce treatments for insects and disease to the absolute minimum.  Some of the Out on A Limb apples are therefore more cosmetically flawless than others.  Don't be deceived, even the more blemished apples should taste great and even the cosmetically perfect ones will be good for you!

-Cassie & John

“German Apple Pancake,” “Apfel Pfannekuchen” or “Apple Dutch Baby:”

Growing up my mom often made us something she called “Dutch Baby”—a fluffy-on-top custardy-on-the bottom eggy pancake baked in a cast iron skillet in the oven, which we split open and smeared w/ plenty of butter, jam, cinnamon-sugar, or maple syrup.  This summer a friend took me to his favorite childhood breakfast spot, a branch of Portland OR’s “The Original Pancake House” on Chicago’s South Side.  The Apple Pancake I had there was a revelation.  Similar to my childhood Dutch Baby, but with a sweet, sticky, cinnamon-y mass of caramelized apples baked into it—so delicious I burned my mouth repeatedly, unable to wait for it to cool after its date with the piping hot skillet.  Back home we experimented with and tweaked my mom’s Dutch Baby recipe until we came up with our own version of what the Germans call “Apfel Pfannekuchen.”  A tremendous way to start a weekend morning, this could easily be re-envisioned as a dessert—just think of it as a variation on Tarte Tatin or Apple Upside Down Cake!

-Preheat the oven to 400°

-Core and slice about 4 apples (enough to cover the bottom of a 12 inch skillet.) Mix together 1/2 - 2/3 cup of sugar with about 2 tsps cinnamon and a bit of ground nutmeg and clove.  Toss the apple slices in this mixture to coat.

-Separate 3 eggs.  Combine the yolks with 1 1/4 cups milk, 1 whole egg, 1 tsp vanilla, 1 tsp lemon zest (optional), 1/2 tsp salt, 1 Tbsp sugar, and 1 cup flour in a blender or bowl and blend until smooth

-In a heavy ovenproof skillet (cast iron if you have it) melt about 5 Tbsp of butter, and add the sugared apples.  Cook over medium heat until the apples are tender and caramelized and the sugar and butter form a sticky sauce.

-While the apples are cooking, beat the egg whites until stiff and fold into milk/flour mixture.

-Dot another tablespoon or two of butter into the skillet, and rub a bit of butter around the pan’s edges (this will help ensure that the pancake releases from the skillet,) then pour the batter over the apples. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and a knife inserted comes out clean.

-Slide a knife around the pan to loosen the edges of the pancake.  Invert a large plate or platter over the skillet, and flip the skillet upside down onto the plate.  Eat with any and all of your favorite breakfast toppings.


Grower Profile:

Sandy River Orchard orchard was originally planted in about 1906.  Francis Fenton’s father planted primarily Wealthy trees at that time.  About twenty of those orginal Wealthy trees still stand, carefully pruned over the years and still bearing good crops annually.  Only a few other trees remain from the early orchard.  After living in San Diego for many years, Francis returned to Mercer in the early 1970's and began to renovate the orchard, grafting and planting many of the old heirloom varieties he found in the surrounding area.  His collection now includes over 100 varieties.  Some are fairly well known such as Golden Russet and Northern Spy, while others are very obscure such as Scott’s Winter, Fallawater, Black Gilliflower and Smokehouse. I have been to the orchard many many times. There I have been introduced to dozens of varieties over the years. Franics has been tremendously generous with his time, scionwood and fruit.  If you’ve ever seen the apple display at the Fedco Booth at Common Ground Fair, many of those apples came from his orchard.  Now at age 94 Francis can still be found out in the orchard almost every day all fall. These days he receives a great deal of help from his daughter Carol Gilbert.  The beautiful orchard is open every day and is easy to find. It’s just a couple of miles north of Rte 2 in Mercer.  Follow the signs to Sandy River Road.  Don’t bother calling - Carol and Francis are probably out among the trees.


“Why not go out on a limb? That’s where the fruit is.”

-mark twain