Newsletter No. 2

Welcome back!  The last two weeks have been eventful here at Super Chilly Farm.  John tracked down a new apple, the Pumpkin Sweet in the share this week.  We've been energized by MOFGA's Common Ground Fair.  John and his apples found their way the pages of Martha Stewart Living magazine this month, too.  We've opened The OOAL Store on the blog where you can find John's book, Not Far From the Tree, and our fabulous tote bags. Last but not least, we've been cooking up a storm!

This Week's Picks

Pumpkin Sweet There are several different apples that originated around New England called Pumpkin Sweet.  The most famous is a big, greenish-yellow one from Connecticut. There is a red one from Downeast Maine found growing in Orland, and there’s this one, from Mt. Nebo Orchard in Mt. Vernon, Maine. There may be others.  'Pumpkin Sweet' is one of those names that got attached to very different apples in very different places, back when the oral folk tradition was alive and no one much cared what someone was calling their apple a few states away - or even a few towns away.  It's a wonderful name for a big sweet apple.

This Pumpkin Sweet is not what we would call a dessert fruit.  (Although Abbey and Jill have been eating quite a lot of them.)  John cooked up some with his oatmeal and was very pleased with the result.  Peel and slice them up, add a half cup of oatmeal, bring it to a boil and then cook them slowly for about 20 minutes. Cheddar and Pumpkin Sweet apples make a great combo for topping pizza.  They are great in the recipe for Apple Brownies featured in this month's Martha Stewart Living.  Corinne created a delicious apple chutney with them that was great on crackers with cheddar cheese-- find the recipe below.

Scroll down for more on this Pumpkin Sweet.

Hyslop Crabapple Hyslop crab originated well before 1850, probably in or around Boston, MA.  The Hyslop family came to America relatively late in the colonial period. William Hyslop may have been the first arrival in about 1740.  His decendent, William Hyslop Sumner, was the primary developer of what became East Boston which he created out of five islands in the early 19th century. Though the history of the crabapple itself is unclear, it is almost certain that it was named by the family sometime during the 1800s.

For well over 100 years, it was very well known and commonly grown.  Although crabapple aficionados all know the apple, in recent times it has been mostly forgotten. Fortunately many commercial orchards still hold on to a crab or two despite a lack of interest and the additional expense of picking small fruit.   These apples come from Lakeside Orchard in Manchester.

Unlike the Whitney crab in your last share, this is not an apple for fresh eating. However, Hyslop is one of the best for jellies, pickles and even as a source of tannin for hard cider.   If you don’t plan to do any serious cooking with them, try tossing a few in a pot of applesauce.  They will color the sauce and add a nice zing to the final product.

St. Lawrence St Lawrence is another very old variety that most likely originated in northern New England or Canada sometime in the 19th century or much earlier.  It’s thought to be a Fameuse seedling.   Can you taste the resemblance? It’s also one of the other candidates for McIntosh parentage.  In fact, Mac could even be the child of a Fameuse/St Lawrence love affair.

We think you’ll agree that St Lawrence is one of the most visually distinctive apples.  The ground color (background) is a flat light green, and the red stripes are almost like colored pencil lines.  The contrast is always striking.  We recommend St Lawrence for fresh eating and for sauce.  Although it will likely lose its shape in a pie, it does have a good, tart flavor. Jill thought it had just the right amount of juiciness for her pandowdy.

Jonathan Jonathan is probably an Esopus Spitzenburg seedling that originated in Woodstock, NY about 1800.  Jonathan gained huge popularity farther south and west but was never grown widely in New England.  Along with Golden Delicious and Cox Orange Pippin, Jonathan is one of the most commonly employed apples in modern breeding.  Many new varieties, such as Jonagold, have it has a parent.

Jonathan is excellent for fresh eating if you catch it when it’s ripe. We’re very happy with this year’s crop.  It came in second place at the Common Ground Fair Saturday apple tasting a few days ago.  Fair-goers were impressed.  Jonathan also makes a good pie.  The texture is smooth, the flavor is quite good and, with the skins left on, it lends the pie a beautiful pink color.

Fameuse The Fameuse apple, which is also called Snow, is one of the oldest North American varieties.  Historians have speculated that the apple may have originated in France, although evidence suggests that it is more likely to have originated in French Canada sometime before 1700.  By the 1700’s it was widespread in the Champlain Valley of Vermont, and it may have made its way to Maine via that route.  Old trees can still be found here and there all over Maine.

Fameuse resembles McIntosh in many respects, and it is possible that Fameuse may be one of “Mac’s” parents.  (McIntosh originated in Ontario in about 1800.)  Like McIntosh, Fameuse is very susceptible to the disease, “scab”, and you will find scab on some of the apples in your share this week. It is a cosmetic blemish that can be removed by peeling and should not affect the flavor. Phoebe thinks that once you taste Fameuse, you will be so delighted that you won’t even notice the scab.

The apple’s other name - Snow- comes from its “snow white” flesh.  It is really, really white.  Recently we heard another explanation of the name Snow:  that the apples rot and “melt” into the ground shortly after dropping.

We recommend Fameuse for fresh eating (dessert) and also for sauce.  Here’s an 1889 recipe for something called Apple Snow that might be perfect to prepare using these apples: Pare and core tart, juicy apples; stew with just enough water to keep from burning; sweeten with white sugar; flavor with lemon, the juice is better than the extract; sift through a potato masher or beat it until light;  eat with whipped cream.

Our apples come to you straight from the tree, so, as with all fresh produce, please be sure to wash them thoroughly before eating.  Unless otherwise specified, the apples are grown using Integrated Pest Management by the orchards we collaborate with throughout Maine.

Pumpkin Sweet: The Bittersweet Discovery

by John Bunker

Abbey and I picked the Pumpkin Sweet found in this week's distribution at Mt. Nebo Orchard in Mt. Vernon, Maine.  I had heard of this apple years ago but had never visited Mt. Nebo and its owner, Manley Damran.  Perhaps it was too much out of the way.  Just over 2 weeks ago a friend contacted me with the terribly sad news that Mr. Damran had been killed in a freak car/tractor accident.   We decided to go visit the orchard with an offer to help in any way we could.  When we first arrived, we found the orchard abuzz with U-pickers and an assortment of volunteers; following the tragedy, the support from the surrounding community has been huge.

After that initial visit, we returned a few days later and put together a map of the orchard.  There was a note card on the wall of the orchard shed with some notes about the varieties, but most trees were unidentified. No one there knew what was what.  We sorted out the varieties, and then we picked the Pumpkin Sweets.

We’ll return to Mt. Nebo soon in hopes of helping out some more.  It is incredibly heartening to see how a community can rally when the need arises.  Mt. Nebo is a small commercial orchard of only about 300 trees.  It’s in a beautiful setting.  If you want go on a wonderful outing, consider a trip there.  It’s open every day except Tuesday.  They will be very happy to see you.

Apple History: Cider apples in 18th century Maine

by Jill Piekut

This season, we’ll follow the apple through America’s history and answer common apple questions.  Up this week: seedling trees and hard cider.

In the last installment, we charted the journey of Malus domestica through its early history in Asia and Europe.  From there, Malus domestica traveled to the New World by boat. But it's a difficult task to transport a living tree on a multi-month trans-Atlantic journey, therefore much of the genetic material now living in the Americas came here in the smallest of packages: the seed.  And it is from here that the story of Malus domestica in the Americas begins.

As the saying goes: "apples don't come true from seed."  This means that if you plant the seed of a Cherry Crab, you won't get a Cherry Crab. For example, long ago, someone planted a Cherry Crab seed and got a Wealthy apple.  But a Cherry Crab seed will never again produce a Wealthy apple; not even a Wealthy seed can produce a Wealthy apple. Every apple seed is unique; every apple seed, when planted, will produce a different and completely new variety of apple.

Not all of the apples grown from seed are as good as their parents. In fact, most apples grown from seed are pretty awful in one way or another. So much can go wrong with an apple: it can be too hard, too soft, mealy, sour, astringent, cloyingly sweet, less resistant to pests and bad weather, unsuitable for storage, too small, too green.... But the Europeans who brought their seeds along to Maine didn't really care. Of course the settlers of St. Croix, Arrowsic, and Sheepscot Farms hoped their seeds would produce something beautiful, something that balanced sweet and tart, something that would last in the root cellar -- and occasionally they did. But whole orchards could be planted without more than one star apple among the "spitters."

"When your orchard gives you spitters, make hard cider," was the informal motto of the early Maine settler.  Tart fruit, soft fruit, and poor keepers would all get thrown into the cider press together, pressed, preserved by fermentation, and consumed as alcohol through the chilly winters.  But it was the "spitters", the tart and astringent apples loaded with tannin, that provided the essential ingredient for the successful fermentation of apple juice. Tannin, found in many foods like grapes and hops, produces that puckery feeling on the tongue when you bite into a crab apple, drink strong black tea, accidentally eat a bit of banana peel, or taste red wine. Without tannins, beer, wine, and ciders go bad more quickly. So, it could be said that those early American seedling orchards were, in fact, cider orchards.

With so many cider orchards, hard cider remained a popular drink in Maine until the successive waves of the Temperance movement and Prohibition washed away New England's cider orchards. During that time, the incredible diversity of seedling trees was reduced to almost nothing as cider orchards were cut and burned, or converted by grafting to more wholesome varieties for a developing market.

Next time, we'll see how grafting and new market trends brought old varieties from Europe and new varieties to fame in the 19th century.

Fresh from the Palermo Test Kitchen

Last week we embarked on our journey through the world of apple-based desserts with the Apple and Peach Paradise.  This week, we take on Apple Pandowdy.

Apple Pandowdy sits comfortably among the more obscure apple recipes, back behind the Crisp and Cobbler families, near the even more retiring Slumps and Brown Betties. A cousin of the Pie, Pandowdy relies on a pastry crust, rather than a crumble, to give it that golden brown quality. What distinguishes a Pandowdy from a Pie? For one thing, a Pandowdy has no bottom crust. Another unique quality develops just before the pie is served, and gives this dessert it's "dowdy" appearance. Follow the recipe below to see just what makes a Pandowdy so good.

This recipe, selected from a handful we found in our cookbook collection, is slightly adapted from Baking Illustated (the original recipe can be found on page 300). Baking Illustrated suggested using half Granny Smith and half McIntosh, to strike the perfect balance between tart and firm, and sweet and juicy fruit. We replaced Macs with St. Lawrence, which quickly cooks down to a sweet sauce. For the firm tart apples, we used the Gravensteins we had on hand from last week. The resulting flavor and texture were right on target. Like many pies and crumbles, this recipe could easily be made gluten free, and could even benefit from a drier blend of non-wheat flours.

Apple Pandowdy Serves 4 to 6

Crust: 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the pan 1/2 tsp salt 1 tablespoon granulated sugar 1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4 inch pieces 3 to 4 tbsp ice water 1 tsp milk cinnamon sugar

Filling: 2 large tart firm apples, cored and cut into 1/4-inch slices 2 large sweet soft apples, cored and cut into 1/4-inch slices 1/3 cup packed light brown sugar 1 tsp grated zest from one lemon 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1. For the crust: Mix flour, salt and sugar in a medium bowl. Scatter the butter pieces into the flour mixture; cut the butter into the flour until the mixture is pale yellow and resembles coarse crumbs, with butter bits no larger than small peas.

2. Sprinkle 3 tablespoons ice water over the mixture. With the blade of a rubber spatula, use a folding motion to mix. Press down on the dough with the broad side of the spatula until the dough sticks together, adding 1 tablespoon more ice water if the dough will not come together. Place the dough on a sheet of plastic wrap and press into either a square or a circle, depending on whether you are using a square or round pan. Wrap the dough in the plastic and refrigerate at least 1 hour, or up to 2 days, before rolling out.

3. For the filling: Adjust the oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 425 degrees. Toss the apple slices, brown sugar, lemon zest, and vanilla together in a large bowl until the apples are evenly coated with the sugar. Place the apples in an 8-inch square or 9-inch round glass baking pan.

4. To assemble and bake the Pandowdy: If the dough has been refrigerated longer than 1 hour, let it stand at room temperature until malleable. Roll the dough on a lightly floured work surface or between two large sheets of plastic wrap to a 10-inch square or circle. Trim the dough to the exact size of the baking dish.  Place the dough on top on the apples. (Jill's note: Leave a 1/4-inch gap between the dough and the sides of the pan to allow steam to escape as the fruit bakes. This will keep the crust from getting soggy.)  Brush the dough with the milk and sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar mixture. Cut four 1-inch vents into the dough. Bake until golden brown, 35 to 40 minutes.

5. Score the pastry in a wide grid pattern with a knife as soon as it emerges from the oven. Use the edge of a spoon or spatula to press the edges of the crust squares down into the fruit without completely submerging them. Because the crust will soften quickly, serve pandowdy warm.

Encouraged by a friend and long-time canner, Jill tried her hand at pickling crabapples this week.  Though these apples are tart and astringent now, when they are done being pickled, about the time Thanksgiving rolls around, you'll be able to pop one of these crabs into your mouth, pinch the stem, and pull the core right out!  What a treat!

Jill's recipe is from The Apple Cookbook by Olwen Woodier.

Canned (Pickled) Crab Apples Prep time: 2 1/2 hours Yield: approx. 6 pints

3 pounds crabapples 3 cups granulated sugar 2 1/2 cups cider vinegar 2 1/2 cups water 1 tsp whole cloves 1 tsp whole cardamom seeds 3 sticks cinnamon

1. Wash the apples very thoroughly, paying extra attention to the blossom ends, and prick with a needle in 2-3 places.  Leave stems intact.

2. Place half of the apples in a large kettle and cover with sugar, vinegar, and water.  Stir.

3. Tie spices in cheesecloth and add to crabapples in kettle.

4. Cover kettle and slowly bring to a boil.  Too much heat too quickly will make the skins burst.  Reduce heat to a gentle simmer and cook 15-20 minutes, or until the apples are tender.

5. Remove apples from hot syrup and set aside.  Add remaining apples to syrup and repeat cooking process.

6. When all apples have been cooked, remove kettle from heat and return the first batch to the hot syrup.  All of the apples will be in the syrup.

7. Allow the apples to cool in the syrup.

8. Drain the crabapples, discard the spices, return the syrup to the pan and and bring to a boil.

9. Pack the crabapples into sterile pint jars, cover with the boiling syrup (leaving 1/4 inch headspace).  Screw on lids.

10. Process in boiling water bath for 20 minutes.

The taste and firm texture of Pumpkin Sweet got us thinking about chutney.  Warmed slightly by a hint of cayenne, this chutney is perfect with cheddar, pork or your favorite Indian dish.

Pumpkin Sweet Chutney

5 ounces Pumpkin Sweet apple, chopped 1.75 ounces onion, finely chopped 1 tomato, chopped 2 Tbs cider vinegar 2 tsp balsamic vinegar 1.75 ounces sugar 1/2 tsp salt 1 1/2 tsp brown mustard seed Cayenne pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a pan and mix thoroughly. Simmer over medium heat for 15-20 minutes. Allow chutney to cool in the pan.  Can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 months.

That's all for this time.  The next distribution is the week of October 8.  Enjoy those apples!

- The OOAL Crew