Out on a Limb Apple CSA Newsletter Wednesday, September 15th
Greetings from Palermo! Each week during the apple season we explore both familiar and uncharted territory in various orchards around Maine. This past Monday we traveled to several places - an old orchard in North Jay whose owners were interested in having John identify some of their mystery trees, The Apple Farm, in Fairfield, Cayford Orchards in Skowhegan, and lastly to Francis Fenton's wonderful Sandy River Orchard in Mercer to enjoy some pleasant conversation, pick some Wealthys, and gather more samples for the Common Ground Fair. We excitedly deliver to you week #2's apples and hope you find them as tasty as we do.
This week's apples:
Martha Crab Apple M. baccata seedling. Excelsior, MN, c. 1889. A large-fruited crab apple suitable for fresh eating as well as for jellies, jams and other cooking enterprises, Martha has extremely crisp yellowish flesh and a sweet and sour flavor that really packs a punch. Jason Davis of Cayford Orchards in Skowhegan introduced me to the old tree during a visit a few years ago. The crab had been part of his family’s orchard for generations. The tree is medium-sized, annually bearing, extremely long-lived and hardy. Grown conventionally.
Beacon Malinda x Wealthy) U of Minnesota, 1936. A dessert (fresh eating) variety also suited to sauce and other cooking, Beacon has a slightly thick skin and a firm crisp texture. The flavor is mild, subtly acidic and not overpowering. It would go well with cheese. It also might be good in a pie but we haven’t tried it here. Very heavy bearing and extremely hardy, Beacon is Mark Fulford’s most consistantly reliable tree at Teltane Farm. It was Mark who introduced me to the apple many years ago. Grown organically.
St. Lawrence Early fall. Thought to be a Fameuse seedling. Canada, 18th century or earlier. Recommended particularly for sauce, the very white flesh is dense, firm and mildly sub-acid. It’s not sweet. The medium-sized roundish fruit is easily recognized for its light green skin and very distinct dark red stripes. One of the classic northern New England varieties, it’s still found occasionally in old orchards. the extremely hardy tree bears good to heavy annual crops, ripening unevenly over several weeks. Like most other early season varieties, not a storage apple. From The Apple Farm, grown using IPM (integrated pest management). Red Gravenstein Late Summer. Uncertain Italian or German origin, 17th century or earlier. The most famous of all pie apples, Gravenstein is also good for dessert and sauce. There are numerous strains of the apple, this deep purple-red strain can be found in old orchards in southern Maine. Mary Jones used this Red Gravenstein from Sweetser’s Orchard in Cumberland to win the Maine State Pie Championship a few years ago. She told me it’s “sweet but very hard to describe…real nice…full-bodied…wonderful flavor.” Ripens earlier than most cooking apples, over the course of several weeks. It’s a minor miracle that Mary “somehow saved them until January for the State Championship.” The tree is large, vigorous, perfectly shaped and hardy to about central Maine. Grown conventionally. Wealthy Fall. Cherry crab seedling. Excelsior, MN, 1868. An absolutely excellent all-purpose variety, Wealthy is also considered to be one of the best of all pie apples. The flavor is more sweet than tart and the texture is soft without being mushy. The fruit ripens over a long period. It’s also a good acid source for fermented cider. Our old friend, long-time orchardist, 95-year-old Francis Fenton of Sandy River Orchards, believes Wealthy—not McIntosh—should be the favorite commercial apple of northern New England. The trees his father planted in Mercer 104 years ago are still going strong. The naturally small sized extremely hardy tree is productive moderately vigorous and long-lived. Grown conventionally.
Variety Spotlight: Peter Gideon & Wealthy, Martha, and Beacon
Peter Gideon was born in Ohio in 1818. When he was still young, his family moved to Illinois. In 1849, he married Wealthy Hull. Wealthy was a descendant of Joseph Hull, founder of Barnstable Mass, and the niece of Isaac Hull, commander of “Old Ironsides” during the War of 1812. Peter and Wealthy moved to Minnesota in 1853 where they farmed and raised seven children in Excelsior. Gideon was a man with a mission. Soon after arriving in Excelsior, he planted 350 apple trees from seed, and thus began his long search for an apple hardy enough to survive in Minnesota. Years earlier back in England, the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew had unknowingly assisted him in his effort when in 1784 they imported the Siberian crab (Malus baccata). Siberian was subsequently the first crab to be imported into the US, long before the days of small, pink flowering trees on suburban lawns. Siberian is a huge tree with small, variable fruit, suitable for jelly. It is exceedingly hardy and crosses easily with the domestic apple. Gideon was perhaps the first to take note that M. baccata imparted its hardiness to its seedlings. He determined that the future of apple breeding in northern areas would be to cross M. baccata with common apples.
In about 1860 he sent to Bangor, Maine for seeds of Cherry Crab, a variety of Siberian crab (or Siberian cross) of unknown origin with small yellow fruit and a red blush. Sending to Maine for seed was an expensive endeavor in those days, and Gideon was not a rich man. How he even knew about the seed source in Bangor is only a guess. But he did. The result was a seedling apple that he named ‘Wealthy’ after his wife. Wealthy became an instant hit in Excelsior, then throughout the state, and before long, in all northern fruit growing areas.
In 1875 Gideon became the first superintendent of the Minnesota State Experimental Fruit Farm in Excelsior. The farm later introduced many excellent apples, pears, plums and small fruits. Its most important introduction has been Honeycrisp, but HC is only the most recent in a long line than began during Peter Gideon's tenure as director. One of the many apples the farm has introduced along the way was Beacon, a Wealthy x Malinda cross. Gideon continued to cross crabs and apples. His most well known apple after Wealthy is called “Gideon”. There are still old Gideon trees in Maine, including an ancient one at Peacemeal Farm in Dixmont. He also introduced a number of edible crabs, including Martha and Florence, both named for his daughters. Gideon died in 1899.
This week's recipes:
Apple Honey Custard Pie, from the famed Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen. Featuring Flaky Butter Pastry from Apple of Your Pie, by Eileen Maher Kronauer. If you love custard AND apple pies, like we do, this is the right recipe to try as fall approaches. A warm, soothing custard really adds to the familiar apple pie flavor. Substitute maple syrup as the sweetener for a positively New England experience.
Crust: (makes two shells! either make two pies at once or freeze for later!) 2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour ½ tsp. salt 1 Tbsp. sugar 15 Tbsp. cold, unsalted butter cut into ½ in. pieces 1 large egg, slightly beaten 8-10 Tbsp. ice water
Filling: 2 cups peeled, cored, and sliced apples 4 large eggs ¾ cup honey 1 cup yogurt 1 tsp. vanilla ½ tsp. cinnamon ¼ tsp. salt Crust directions: Combine flour, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl. Using a pastry blender or your hands, cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse meal with pea-sized bits. Refrigerate 10 minutes to chill. Whisk together egg and water in a small bowl. Add three tablespoons of egg mixture to dry ingredients, stirring with a wooden spoon, then continue to add egg mixture one tablespoon at a time until dough begins to clump together. Form dough into two balls, then flatten into two 4-inch disks, wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Roll out the dough from the center, rotating with every roll to ensure an even circle. Transfer to pie plate, trimming and decorating the edges as desired.
Filling directions: Preheat oven to 375˚. Spread apple slices evenly over the unbaked pie shell. Combine remaining ingredients in the blender and run at high speed for several seconds. Pour custard over apples. Sprinkle on some nuts (walnuts or almonds recommended), if desired. Bake 45 minutes or until solid when jiggled. Cool to about room temperature before cutting.
Apple Cheddar Pizza, courtesy of Matt Warren, a friend who works for Clover, a popular food truck that cooks up local vegetarian food in downtown Boston. This pizza was a hit, and especially delicious with Red Gravensteins!
Pizza dough for 1 pizza 1 large red onion, sliced 2 small (or 1 medium) apples, sliced very thin 2-3 cloves garlic, minced very fine 2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded 2 Tbsp. neutral oil of your choice
Directions: Caramelize onions over low heat with a bit of oil and a pinch of salt until brown and sugary. (Be careful not to let it burn!) Roll out dough and transfer to greased baking pan, stretching dough to fit pan as much as possible without tearing. Coat pizza lightly with oil. Shape crust. Spread garlic evenly over pizza (but not the crust). Add caramelized onions to pizza in an even layer. Add apple slices, leaving 1/2 inch between each slice. (The slices must be very thin or they will not cook quickly enough.) Cover pizza with cheese, being careful not to cover apple slices too thickly. Bake at 500˚ until crust is brown, cheese is melted, and apples are cooked.
If you have any recipes or tips you'd like to share, please comment on our blog at http://outonalimbcsa.wordpress.com/
“Why not go out on a limb? That’s where the fruit is.” -Mark Twain
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