Newsletter No. 4

Greetings! We want to open this newsletter with a special 'Thank You' -- thank you for sharing your apple stories, your apple recipes,  and your apple enthusiasm.  Whether by email, snail mail or in person, we love to hear from you!  Thanks also to everyone who made it out to the apple and cheese tasting at Belfast's Eat More Cheese, as well as the celebration of all things 'apple' at MOFGA's Great Maine Apple Day.

In this newsletter you'll find an excerpt from John's book, Not Far From the Tree, as well as a big batch of recipes to keep your kitchens cozy and your bellies full.  Enjoy!

This Week's Picks

Bethel The first Bethel tree was discovered in about 1755 near River Road in Gaysville, VT, about 10 miles from Bethel.   It probably grew from Blue Pearmain seeds planted by David Stone, an early Bethel settler whose descendant introduced an apple called Stone about a hundred years later.   Once popular as an all-purpose variety in northern New England, Bethel trees have now all but disappeared.   We picked these apples from a tree at Cayford’s Orchard in Skowhegan.   Cayford’s call them Bethels, and we are fairly sure - but not certain- that they are..   Next week we’ll be going to Vermont, in part to see if we can track down a Bethel tree. We’ll keep you posted on what we discover.  Bethel takes awhile and lots of water to cook into sauce; the flavor is mild and sweet, and the texture is quite smooth.  It stands up well to cooking.  We’ve been trying it in desserts and as an addition to grilled cheese sandwiches this week.

Gray Pearmain Gray Pearmain probably originated in Skowhegan before 1850.   These apples come from The Apple Farm in Fairfield, just over the border from Skowhegan.  There were five or six old Grey Pearmain trees in the orchard when Steven and Marilyn Meyerhans purchased it over thirty years ago from Royal Wentworth. Unfortunately they never thought to ask the soft-spoken Wentworth about the apple. A few years ago we were given a citation from an old Maine Agricultural Yearbook indicating that C.A. Marston grew the variety in Skowhegan over 130 years ago.   Gray Pearmain is a pearmain that really does taste like a pear - or at least we think so.    We love it as a dessert variety.

Rome Rome originated in Rome, Ohio in about 1817. It was discovered by H.N. Gillett as a rootstock sprout in a bunch of trees received from Putnam Nursery of Marietta, OH.  Gillett separated it from the bunch and planted it.    The rootstock went on to become one of America’s most famous cooking apples. Some have written that the rootstock sprout that became Rome was itself a seedling of Westfield Seek No Further.   Until relatively recently you still could find Rome in grocery stores.   Although mostly considered a cooking apple, we actually like it fresh as well, especially in salads.   It cooks very quickly into a lightly tart, bright pink applesauce.  No need to add much water as it is very juicy.  One of the apples drawbacks is that it’s fairly susceptible to scab.

Tolman Sweet Tolman Sweet one of America’s oldest varieties.   No one knows when and where it originated, but some think it may have been a cross between Sweet Greening and Old Russet that was found growing in Dorchester, MA well before 1700.   Tolman Sweet is another of those names with lots of variations:  Talman Sweet, Tomey Sweet, Tom Sweet, and Taulman Sweet are a few. Tolman is an all-purpose fruit, used traditionally for cooking, dessert and even animal fodder. One old source called it popular for “pickling, boiling and baking.”   We recommend it for a sweet apple sauce.  Cook it slowly.   Tolman Sweet has one of the most recognizable tastes of any apple; you’ll never forget its peculiar sweet flavor once you’ve eaten it.   Young Tolman Sweet trees also make a very good rootstock for other apples.

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.

Apple History: The Rise of Industry and the Fall of Apple Diversity

by John Bunker

Last week, we learned about the growth of apple diversity and the rise of commercial orcharding in Maine .  This week, we examine the specific role of industrialization in the decline of heritage apple varieties throughout the state.

(The following is excerpted from John’s book, Not Far From The Tree.)

The first Maine canneries were built in the mid-1800’s. By the 1880’s there were roughly sixty in the state, mostly canning corn but also apples, succotash, shell beans and other vegetables.  The canneries were hugely important to the economic viability of the farming community.  Millions of cans were processed every year. The first evaporators were established in Maine in the late 1870’s as a way of making use of lower quality and surplus fruit.  The apples were pared, cored and sliced by machines, then dried on screens for two hours at 200 degrees, and bleached with sulfur fumes to retain a white flesh color.  Although no one  seems to know where the evaporator was in Palermo, old articles from the Kennebec Journal indicate its existence in the early 1900’s.  [...]

During the first years of the twentieth century the number of farms continued to increase around the state. Farmers were no longer raising many cattle or sheep, nor were they growing wheat.  Subsistence farming was giving way to commercial farming focused on a few major crops: corn for the canning industry, dairy, potatoes, poultry and apples. Over four million apple trees were bearing in 1900, with the typical Waldo County farm averaging 69 bearing trees. By 1907 orchards of a thousand trees were established in Kennebec and Androscoggin counties. In Palermo the largest orchard was likely not more than 130 trees. [...]

In 1910 there were 3.4 million bearing trees in the state. The 1914 Maine apple crop was the largest ever.  Ten years later that number dipped to 2.8 million and ten years later in 1930, it sank to 1.7 million.  Competition from Canada, New York and the western states was one cause for the slump.   In addition the two terrible winters of 1906-7 and 1917-18 killed thousands of trees.  North-bound, refrigerated railroad cars loaded with citrus were also changing the taste preferences of New Englanders.

Although the ‘hay day’ of orcharding in [small towns like our farm's hometown of] Palermo was winding down, our many small orchards continued to produce huge crops. During one conversation I had many years ago with Milton Dowe, he told me that as a boy he remembered seeing wagons lined up from the center of Branch Mills all the way  to the Railroad Station waiting to unload their apples.  A traffic jam of apples.  Then came the Depression.  Those years were hard on everyone in the country.  They were particularly hard on apple growers in New England, including those in Palermo.  On June 15, 1933 the WW & F’s south-bound Number 8 derailed and went over the bank a hundred yards north of the Whitefield iron bridge. A photograph taken four years later shows engine and freight cars vandalized but still resting exactly where they stopped that day.  Never again would Palermo’s apples be shipped to Wiscasset and beyond.

In 1927 a conspiracy of sorts between New England extension agents changed the face of the New England apple industry.  These agents created a list called the "New England Seven” which were seven apple varieties thought to be the future of New England commercial orcharding. They were Baldwin, Delicious, Gravenstein, McIntosh, Northern Spy, Rhode Island Greening and Wealthy.  Planting any of the many dozens of other varieties was discouraged.  It was an organized effort to limit selection in order to create a viable commercial orchard industry.

Next time:  1934 and the beginning of the new era of orcharding in Maine!

From the Palermo Test Kitchen

This week, we take you from appetizer through the main dish and right on to dessert!  There's even a snack for later!

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First, to whet your appetite...

Here is a quick and easy recipe to use as an appetizer or as an accompaniment to a soup.  Use an apple with a bright red skin to make it a colorful, tasty treat that is both sweet and savory.


Apple and Chevre Bruschetta
¼ cup chevre 1 red-skinned dessert apple (try Rome, Nodhead, Macoun) ¾ tsp chopped fresh thyme ½ tsp. chopped fresh oregano ¼ tsp. ground black pepper half a baguette of French bread, thinly sliced

1. Preheat broiler.
2. Core and chop the apples, but don’t peel.  Mix the apples with chevre, herbs and the pepper.
3. Arrange the slices of baguette on a baking sheet, and put under the broiler for a minute or two, flipping once,  until golden brown on both sides.
4. Spread the apple mixture evenly over the bread slices, and return to the broiler until the cheese is softened.  Serve immediately. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Now, to fill your belly...

If you’re like us, you probably have a basketful of orange-tinged tomatoes that you rescued from the garden right before the frost last weekend.  These tomatoes will never taste as good as the ones you picked in the summer, but, with the realization that we won't have fresh tomatoes until next July, it is hard to give up on them just yet.  Here, we have a solution that blends the flavors of summer and fall and puts the last of the tomatoes to good use. 

Phoebe surprised us with this unlikely combination of tomatoes and apples, and we were instant fans.  As she said, “the apples make the sauce smooth and yummy,” and they add just the right sweetness to offset the acidity of late fall tomatoes.

Tomato and Apple Pasta Sauce

Ingredients 4 TBS olive oil 2 large leeks – cleaned and chopped 1 medium onion – chopped 6 large tomatoes – enough to equal 3 cups when pureed 1 tsp. salt 1 lb. sweet, tender apples – peeled and cored (we used Miltons, but Tolman Sweet might work well) 1 lb. capellini or your favorite pasta Parmesan cheese for grating

Directions 1. Steam or roast the tomatoes till soft, then puree in a food processor or blender. 2. Put 4 TBS olive oil in a pan, set it over medium heat, and add the chopped onion and leeks.  Cook, stirring often, until the onions and leeks are caramelized, about 15 minutes. 3. Stir in the tomatoes, add salt, and heat to a simmer.  Cook, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes. 4. Coarsely grate the peeled and cored apples, and add to the tomato sauce after it has simmered for 5 minutes.  Simmer the sauce, uncovered, until it has reduced and thickened, about 15 minutes.  At this time the grated apple should be tender. 5. Cook the pasta until it is al dente.  Drain and add to the warm tomato-apple sauce.  Toss gently until all the pasta is coated.  Spoon into bowls, and serve.  Add grated cheese to taste.

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Why not finish things off with some dessert?...

This season, we promised to unravel the mystery of the apple desserts with the strange names.  So far we have shared recipes for a Crisp, Pan Dowdy and Brown Betty. This week we introduce the Slump, not to be confused with a grunt or a cobbler.  Or maybe the point is to be confused.  To figure out what is up with those names we started with a search through our many apple cookbooks, only to be unsatisfied with what they had to say. With reluctance, we turned to the internet for the definitive answer.  Again, there was a great deal of conflicting information out there.  Some attributed the differences in names to baking techniques, others to regions: in Massachusetts, the dessert was known as a grunt; in Vermont, Maine, and Rhode Island, the dessert was referred to as a slump.  One source claimed that the name of Grunt came from the noise people make while eating it. Finally we found an explanation on Relish.com that, while perhaps not the final word, seemed reasonable enough. Click here to read the full article.

Here is our version of a tasty apple dessert.  We cooked it in the oven and expected it to slump, but it didn’t.  Instead we heard lots of satisfied “slurps” from guests at the table.  Moral of the story- name it what you like! Apple-Blueberry Slump... or Slurp (or is that a Grunt?)

Ingredients for Filling 8 medium, firm apples (Bethel, Rome) 2 cups frozen blueberries ¼ cup sugar (or a little more if your berries are tart) ½ tsp. cinnamon ½ tsp. ginger ¼ tsp. cloves

Ingredients for Dough 1 cup flour ½ TBS. baking powder 2 tsp. sugar 3 TBS. butter ½ cup milk 2 tsp. vanilla extract

Directions 1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Grease 2-qt. baking dish. 2. Peel, core and slice the apples into ½ inch pieces. 3. Place the apples, blueberries, sugar and spices in a skillet or shallow saucepan.  Cover and cook over low heat for 10-12 minutes until the apple slices are just tender but not mushy.  Stir occasionally.  (The first time I made this, I thought that maybe I needed to add butter or water to keep it from sticking, but the fruit supplied its own juice so it wasn’t necessary.) 4. In a bowl, sift the dry ingredients together.  Cut the butter into cubes and add to the flour mixture.  Use your hands to mix it together until it resembles crumbs.  Stir in milk and vanilla, and mix until just blended. 5. Put the fruit mixture into the greased baking dish.  Spoon dollops of dough over the top. 6. Bake, uncovered, for 25-30 minutes until the top is brown.  Serve warm with ice cream or English custard (which was a total hit at our table).

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And, in case you need to nibble...

Still wondering what to do with the Hyslop Crabapples that you received in your share a few weeks ago?  Shareholder, Christa Little-Siebold, came up with a solution-- crabapple fruit leathers!  Her kids gobbled them up, and Cammy loved them too.  Although this recipe was inspired by crabapples, try it with other varieties as well.  For Cammy's version, she mixed sweet reds with the crabs and liked the results.

Crab Apple Fruit Leather

Directions Wash apples and remove stem and blossom end.  Place apples in a large pot and add enough water to cover the bottom.  Add a cinnamon stick.  Cover, and simmer till all the apples are soft, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.  Add more water as needed.

When the apples are soft, remove from the heat, and remove the cinnamon stick. Process the apples through a food mill to remove the seeds and skins.  Sweeten to taste with maple syrup or sweetener of your choice.  Add lemon juice to taste.

Christa used a dehydrator to make her fruit leathers.  She said it took about 5 hours.  Cammy lined a baking sheet with parchment paper, spread the apple mixture on it, and put it in the oven of the wood stove with the door left open.  A gas or electric oven would work too with the temperature as low as possible and the door left open a crack.  Give it a try!

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Do you have a recipe that tingled your taste buds or had everyone coming back for more?  Please share -- we're always looking for new ways to enjoy apples!

Well, that concludes this week's newsletter.  It's hard to believe, but the next delivery on the week of November 5th will be our last for the season.  Enjoy your apples!

-The OOAL Crew