Newsletter #4

Out on a Limb Apple CSA Newsletter

Wednesday, October 13th

Don't forget about these upcoming events!

Great Maine Apple Day - at MOFGA, in Unity, on Saturday, October 23rd, from 12-4 pm. Admission $4 / $2 for MOFGA members. The annual event features educational displays, workshops, cider pressing, information tables, apple-tastings, and Maine apples/apple-related products for sale. Check out www.mofga.org for more details.

Out on a Limb Cider Pressing - Please join us on Sunday, October 24th, rain or shine, from 1-5 pm at our farm in Palermo. Meet the CSA crew, see the gardens and orchard, press cider and take home a gallon. We'll have a fire going outdoors. Bring something to share for a potluck. We’ll have the grill cooking so bring something to grill if you'd like. Come early and stay late!

IMPORTANT - PLEASE NOTE: If you intend to come, PLEASE RSVP no later than October 17th. Please tell us how many of you are planning to come.

This week's apples:

Gray Pearmain

Late Fall. Unknown origin. If you had your eyes closed, you'd think you were eating a crisp, delicious pear. Reminiscent of a Bosc. The best of both worlds, it is a juicy and mildly tart dessert apple. Dense sweetness. Firm white flesh. Also produces good juice. We eat a lot of them every year. The skin is a soft opaque greenish-yellow with a rosy pink blush, a bit of a russet veil, and a grayish bloom. Will store reasonably well although it may shrivel like a Golden Russet. One of the most popular of the many unusual varieties Steve and Marilyn Meyerhans grow at the Apple Farm in Fairfield, Maine. There were five or six of the trees in the orchard when they purchased it over thirty years ago from Royal Wentworth. Those trees were already very old. Unfortunately they never thought to ask the soft-spoken Wentworth about the origin of the apple. Recently we found a brief mention of it in a 19th century Maine Ag report growing in Skowhegan (very near the Meyerhans) but with no further details. Its origin may forever remain a mystery. Grown using IPM (integrated pest management), from The Apple Farm.

Priscilla

Fall-Winter. Co-op 4. PRI 1659-1= (Starking Delicious x PRI 610-2) PRI Co-op, 1972. (PRI 610-2 is a complex cross including Rome, M. floribunda 821, Golden Delicious and McIntosh.) Dark red conical, scab-immune fruit with a crisp sweet flavor. The second variety released in the PRI (Purdue-Rutgers-Illinois) disease-resistance breeding program and still one of their best. Rarely found in catalogs anymore, perhaps because the patent ran out. This is as close as you’ll get to the dreaded Red Delicious in this CSA. But no apologies, we think it’s a very good dessert apple. Richard Fahey, long time orchardist and tester of hundreds of apple varieties, wrote to me, “Priscilla is my top recommendation for a close-to-disease-free apple that bears every year. Priscilla should be on your list—great cider!” Firm, juicy, mild in flavor. Dense texture would be well-suited for baking. Will keep into mid-winter. Certified organically grown, from Sewell's Orchard.

Macoun

Fall. (McIntosh x Jersey Black) New York Station, 1923. This is an 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!) Especially good choice for those who like McIntosh and live south of the Maine border where Macs do not reach their prime. The very white flesh is crisp and firm but light. The well-balanced flavor is sweet and aromatic. Very juicy. Highly recommended for fresh eating. This week's favorite of the CSA crew. Grown conventionally, from Hope Orchard.

Fameuse

Early Fall. Unknown parentage. Canada, before 1700. Also called “Snow” because of its “snow white” flesh. Recommended for fresh eating, sauce, and cider. The 1865 Department of Agriculture yearbook sums it up: “Flesh-remarkably white, tender, juicy…deliciously pleasant, with a slight perfume…No orchard in the north can be counted as complete without this variety;…it is just so good that everybody likes to eat of it; and when cooked, it is white, puffy, and delicious.” Sweet and soft, fluffy like snow, it melts in your mouth. May have originated in France or possibly in French Canada 300 years ago or more. “Fameuse” has been “famoous” in Maine for over 150 years. Still found in Maine dooryards and orchards. Keeps until late December. Thought to be a parent of McIntosh. Grown conventionally, from Cayford Orchards.

Spartan

Fall. McIntosh x Newtown Pippin. RC Palmer / AJ Mann introduction, Canada Department of Agriculture Research Station, Summerland, British Columbia, 1936. Dessert (fresh eating) fruit, somewhat similar to McIntosh. Firm, crisp, white, juicy flesh. Sugary like candy, with hints of Red Delicious. Will satisfy a sweet tooth. Medium-sized, dark red fruit that ripens about the time of McIntosh, and is occasionally grown commercially. The McIntosh flavor is greatly enhanced by Newtown Pippin. Newtown (which is also called Albemarle Pippin in Virginia) is one of the great classic American varieties. Keeps until winter. Grown conventionally, from Hope Orchard.

What is a Pearmain?

There are many apples partly named “Pearmain”. The most famous of them is Blue Pearmain, a variety that may have originated in New England but may also have been brought over from England in the very early colonial period. Blue Pearmain was commonly grown in Maine and ancient trees can still be found. (One particularly old specimen was introduced to me years ago as “Blue Paramay.” Another was referred to me as,“Blue Pearamell” as in caramel I suppose, and yet another as “Maine Blue Pear.” Aren’t names wonderful?) But Blue Pearmain was only one of many. A quick count of various old fruit books suggests that three dozen apples or more include “Pearmain” in their name. Orange Pearmain, Red Pearmain, Summer Pearmain, Autumn Pearmain, and Winter Pearmain are just a few. Some Pearmains originated in Maine such as Sebasticook Pearmain introduced by Barnum Hodges of Winslow in 1847 and Winthrop Pearmain introduced by Col. John Fairbanks of Winthrop about the same time.

Some suggest that there is some sort of commonality between all the various Pearmains. Could it be that Pearmains taste like pears? In his 1817 “Cultivation of Fruit Trees,” William Coxe describes Early Summer Pearmain as being “frequently preferred to a fine pear.” Although we at Super Chilly Farm think that Gray Pearmain, one of this week’s selections, tastes a lot like a pear, I have not yet found any other Pearmains with a pear-like flavor. Concerning flavor, Coxe does contribute this interesting comment in his description of Long-Island Pearmain: “the flesh is tender, coarse and pleasant, partaking of that dryness characteristick [sic] of all varieties of the Pearmain.” I never thought of pears as being “dry”.

SA Beach in “The Apples of New York” says, “The term Pearmain, like the term Pippin, has been applied to very many different varieties of apples. In this country it is used now [1906] much less than it was formerly. Hogg states that it ‘signifies the Great Pear Apple. In olden times it was variously written Pearemaine or Pear-maine, being the Anglicized equivalent of Pyrus Magnus, just as Charlemagne is of Carolus Magnus. A Pearmain, therefore, ought to be a long or pear-shaped apple.’” Unfortunately, none of the Pearmains I’ve seen “in person” or in graphics look remotely pear-shaped, although that could be because now-a-days we equate pear-shaped with Bartlett, and not all pears look like that. Some Pearmains are oblong like Early Summer Pearmain, Winter Pearmain and Long-Island Pearmain, some are roundish like Blue Pearmain and others are flattened (oblate) like Royal Pearmain and Gray Pearmain.

The great and usually definitive OED has a bit to add. It says the word comes from the French, “parmaine” and calls it, “An old variety of baking pear” and “Any of several varieties of apples with firm white flesh.” (Blue Pearmain is yellowish-fleshed.) It may be that the word does come from the French. AJ Downing in his “Fruits and Fruit Trees of America” calls Winter Pearmain, “one of the oldest Apples on record.” He also lists “Pepin Parmain d’Hiver”, and “Parmain d’Hiver” as synonyms. An internet search suggests that the root might be the french, parmaindre, meaning to remain, suggesting a storage apple. Other internet sites say an apple with red skin. That one I don’t believe for a second. So, we may never know what the various namers had in mind when they called an apple Adam’s Pearmain, Orne Royal Pearmain, or Hanging Pearmain, but we do hope you enjoyed Blue Pearmain two weeks ago and we have a hunch you’ll enjoy Gray Pearmain today.


This week's recipes:

Easy Pastry Shop Apple Tart, a recipe from chef Laura Calder and her show “French Food at Home” on The Cooking Channel. Rich and decadent like cheesecake but doesn't need to be chilled. With the simple topping, the apples can really stand out on their own. We found this to be excellent with Macouns. It would also be fun to make this with Gray Pearmains and serve it to unknowing guests.

Crust: ½ cup butter 1/3 cup sugar

½ tsp vanilla 1 cup flour

Filling: 8 oz cream cheese 1 egg

¼ cup sugar ½ tsp vanilla

Topping: 3 apples, peeled and thinly sliced

½ tsp cinnamon ¼ cup sugar

¼ cup slivered almonds or chopped walnuts

Directions: Preheat oven to 400˚. Cream the butter and sugar, then stir in vanilla. Mix in the flour to make a smooth dough. Press into the bottom of an 8-inch springform pan, giving it about a 1-inch rim. Bake 15 minutes, or until lightly golden. While the crust bakes, prepare the filling by beating together the cream cheese, sugar, egg, and vanilla until smooth. In a separate bowl, toss the apple slices with the cinnamon and sugar. Remove the tart shell from the oven and spread the cream mixture inside. Arrange the apple slices on top, then scatter on the nuts. Bake until the apples are tender and golden, about 40 minutes.

Apple and Beetroot Borscht, adapted from “A Basket of Apples”, by Val Archer. A lovely union of flavors, particularly for anyone who likes a soup on the sweeter side. We are advising to use more apples than called for in the original recipe, to be sure they don't get lost in the shuffle. Priscilla's dense flesh would make it a good candidate for cooking, as well as Spartan's firmness and sweet flavor.

Ingredients:

2 Tbsp. melted butter

1 medium onion, peeled and chopped

1 large carrot, peeled and coarsely grated

2 stalks of celery, thinly sliced

1 lb (approx 2 cups)beets, peeled and coarsely grated

1 ½ cups red cabbage, coarsely grated

1 bouquet garni

2 Tbsp. cider vinegar

1 14 oz can or 3 cups peeled, chopped tomatoes

4 ½ cups vegetable stock

3-4 dessert apples, peeled, cored, and chopped

1 tsp dried dill

salt and freshly ground black pepper

sour cream

Directions:

In a large saucepan, fry onion in butter until transparent. Add carrot and celery and fry for one minute. Add beets and cabbage to the saucepan with the bouquet garni. Pour in chopped tomatoes, cider vinegar, and stock, cover, bring to boil and simmer for 30 minutes. Add apple and dried dill and cook for a further 10 minutes or until cabbage and beets are cooked but not mushy.

Turn off heat, pour half of soup into a blender and process until smooth. Pour back into saucepan and combine with other half so the soup is thick but still has a texture. Salt and pepper to taste. Reheat without boiling. Serve in bowls with a swirl of sour cream in each. Garnish with additional apple slices if desired.

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

--Mark Twain

Out on a Limb CSA

167 Turner Mill Pond Rd.

Palermo, ME 04354

outonalimbcsa@gmail.com