Welcome to the 2013 Season of Out on a Limb Heritage Apple CSA - Newsletter No. 1

Greetings! We are very pleased that you all could join us for the fifth season of our Out on a Limb Heritage Apple CSA. Once again, we appreciate your willingness to look beyond the Cortlands and Macs as you support local orchards and all the unusual apples we seek to popularize throughout Maine and beyond. This growing season may not have produced a spectacular fruit set, but it is bountiful compared to the meager crop of 2012. Hopefully, this means even more selection, and already we are excited to provide one never-before-offered variety to you in this first installment.

 blossomsPollinators hard at work!

This year, we have a partial crew change. With Daniel and Corinne leaving to focus on their own farming operation, we welcome back Emily and John Paul, former apprentices who assisted with the CSA in 2010 and 2011, respectively. Also returning is last year's apprentice, Abbey, and of course John and Cammy. We are all eager to jump in and deepen our apple knowledge, with our aprons and picking poles at the ready. Bios coming soon!

Have you explored our website lately? We are working on compiling information for each apple variety we've featured since day one. You can now browse descriptions alphabetically, and soon, view photographic documentation, by clicking on the Apple Varieties tab at the top of the page. To simplify the newsletter, we will now be linking the apple names to these descriptions on our website. This will also ensure we include every last bit of information we've previously gathered.

This Week's Picks:

Duchess of Oldenburg

Garden Royal

Milton

Red Gravenstein

Zestar (new!)

 

Get ready for apple pie. This week we are featuring three excellent pie apples: Red Gravenstein, Duchess of Oldenburg, and Milton. The first two are classic early fall apples that bake up into tangy and delicious pies. Milton also makes a good (but soft) pie, although we prefer it for apple sauce. Cooks up very fast on these cool, nearly-fall mornings. In addition to these cooking apples we are offering two dessert (fresh eating) apples: Zestar and Garden Royal. Zestar is a modern apple that is popular with some of our orcharding friends. We have never offered it before and thought it was worth a taste. When you look in your Garden Royal bag, don't be shocked. You will only find one or two small apples. Garden Royal is an heirloom variety that originated in Sudbury, MA. It is slow to bear fruit, and this is only the second year we have ever had any on our tree. We had quite a good crop, but the wet, wet weather caused many of them to crack and be poor quality. But we still wanted to share what we had with you. It's just a bite, but, hey, isn't that why you signed up for this CSA? To try new things? We do hope you enjoy them.

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.

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What You Need to Know About Summer Apples

Even though October, with its brisk temperatures and vibrant colors, feels like the proper time for apples to come into season, there are also many varieties that ripen between July and September. Like ephemeral spring wildflowers, summer apples are early and short-lived. They are much more delicate than their late fall storage counterparts. Be gentle with them – they bruise easily. They are too fleeting to leave sitting in the refrigerator crisper, so you'll want to make use of them at the peak of their ripeness (i.e. right away!).

Apple Tasting at The Common Ground Fair, September 20-22

Canadian Strawberry. Chestnut. Cox’s Orange Pippin. Liveland Raspberry. What do all these fruits have in common? Amazingly they are all late summer/early fall apples, and the only place you can taste them is the Fedco Trees Tent at the Common Ground Fair. On Friday and Saturday afternoons, apple enthusiasts gather to taste these and other rare apples and to vote for their favorites. It’s a raucous event where devotees campaign for their favorites at such high volumes that neighboring tents have been known to complain about the noise.

Although most apples reach their taste peak later in the fall, there are still enough unusual apples that are ripe by the third weekend of September to tantalize everyone’s palate. Don’t expect to sample a Black Oxford or a Northern Spy – we save them until the Great Maine Apple Day in late October. Instead you’ll have an opportunity to taste such classics as Duchess, Wealthy and Gravenstein, some monsters like Charette and Alexander, or some sleepers like Milton, Prima or Maiden Blush. Since apples have their good years and bad, it’s always a surprise what we’ll be sampling. Sometimes fairgoers contribute their own homegrown favorites to the mix. It’s a bit like going to a Red Sox game. You never know when the eighth man in the batting line up is going to hit one over the Green Monster or Dustin Pedroia is going to strikeout standing.

apple display1Sneak peek of what you'll find at this year's fair.

So if you want to walk on the wild side of apples, make sure to join us for the apple tastings. As you sample 10 to 12 varieties, you’ll get to hear a bit of history and odd anecdotes about each apple. Then you’ll have an opportunity to shout out your opinions about the apples and try to rally the crowd to support your favorite. When the votes are tallied, the Common Ground Fair Apple favorite is crowned.

This year John will have his apple display and tastings in the Hayloft which is located next to the Fedco Tent. In addition to the apple and grape tastings there will be talks on orcharding, cider making, permaculture, wine making, beer making, soil science and grape growing. John will be speaking every day about the new Maine Heritage Orchard that is being developed at MOFGA in an old gravel pit. And as always he is on the look out for old trees (more than 100 years old), so if you know of any growing in your neighborhood, bring him some fruit to identify. We hope to see you there.

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For more information about the fair, visit MOFGA.org.

From the Palermo Test Kitchen, by Cammy Watts

Every few years I get obsessed with a new cook book, and I endeavor to cook every recipe in it (although I haven't succeeded yet). My new favorite is Didi Emmon's "Wild Flavors" which chronicles a year of cooking on her friend, Eva Sommaripa's herb farm. I love it because it divides the recipes by season so I can use the items in my garden in the summer or my root cellar in the winter, and it forces me to try out new herbs instead of resorting to my old fallbacks, basil, thyme and cilantro. Happily, Didi has included six apple recipes to inspire me this fall, so I may even share one a week. For starters I tried this Apple Pecan Salsa with African Blue Basil. Because of this book, I actually tracked down and planted African Blue Basil this summer. If you didn't, try my old favorites: mint, cilantro, basil or anise hyssop.

Apple Pecan Salsa with African Blue Basil

1.3 c chopped African basil leaves

1/4 c chopped pecans, toasted

1 crisp apple (Zestar, Gravenstein) with peel - diced

1/2 red onion - minced

2 TBS lemon juice

1 TBS olive oil

salt and fresh black pepper

1 tsp honey- or more to taste (optional if your apple is tart)

1 small hot pepper - minced (optional)

Combine all ingredients, and season with salt and pepper to taste. If you use a tart apple, such at the Gravenstein, you may want to add a tsp or more of honey to offset the tartness. For those who like their food spicy, a bit of hot pepper can liven up the salsa. Serve with game, chicken or pork, rice or other grains. Add it to a salad. Didi suggests omitting the nuts if you serve with fish. Best when made right before serving, although I just ate some that had been sitting in my fridge for three days and it was crisp and tasty.

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Since we gave you so many pie apples this week, we just have to include a recipe for apple pie. Well it's really an apple tart, or an apple cream tart to be exact. The recipe comes from Brooke Dojny in "Dishing Up Maine", and she in turn adapted it from Julia Child. So you know it must be good. I made it for a pie social at the library, and it was a hit. Everyone kept asking me what was that "special" taste in it; I was too embarrassed to tell them it was rum.

Julia’s Apple Cream Tart Brooke Dojny, Dishing Up Maine

Sweet Short Crust

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 Tablespoon sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

5 Tablespoons cold butter, cut into 5 pieces

3 Tablespoons cold vegetable shortening, cut into 3 chunks

4 Tablespoons ice water

Apple Cream Filling

3 cups peeled and sliced apples, such as Gravenstein or Duchess (about 1 pound)

2/3 cup sugar

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 egg

3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/2 cup light cream

1 Tablespoon rum or cognac

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Powdered sugar

Crust: To make the crust, combine the flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor and pulse to blend. Add the butter and shortening and pulse until the shortening is about the size of small peas. Drizzle the water through the feed tube and pulse until the pastry begins to clump together. Turn out onto a sheet of plastic wrap, flatten into a disk, wrap, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. (To make by hand, whisk the dry ingredients together in a bowl, work in the cold butter and shortening with your fingertips, add the water, and stir with a large fork to make a soft dough.)

Roll the pastry out on a lightly floured surface, working from the center in all directions until you have an 11-inch round. Fold the dough in half and ease it into a 9-inch tart pan with removable bottom with the fold in the center. Unfold the dough, press it against the sides of the pan, and trim the edges. Freeze for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375°. Press a sheet of foil into the bottom of the tart shell. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and continue to bake for 5-8 minutes, until pale golden. If the pastry starts to puff up, press the bottom gently with a large spatula or oven-mitted hand to flatten. Fill immediately or cool on a rack. If proceeding immediately, leave the oven temperature at 375°.

Filling: In a large bowl, toss the apples with 1/3 cup of the sugar and the cinnamon and spread into the bottom of the tart shell. Bake until the apples begin to color and are almost tender, 20-25 minutes. Reduce oven to 350°. Whisk together the egg and remaining 1/3 cup sugar in a medium-sized bowl until well-blended. Whisk in the flour, then the cream, rum, and vanilla. Pour the mixture over the apple mixture

Bake until the top is pale golden and a knife inserted part way to the center comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature. Sprinkle with the powdered sugar before serving. Serves 6-8.

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To all (but especially returning) members: we want to hear from you!

If you've found a recipe that you think perfectly complements the qualities of an apple we've featured, we want to hear all about it! We may even include your recipe in a future OOAL newsletter. Since much of the knowledge about the particular uses of these rare apples is either lost or yet to be discovered, we encourage everyone to experiment and let us know the best ways you've found to use them. You never know when a somewhat bland dessert apple will cook down into the most delicious applesauce (says Emily, “Black Gilliflower, I'm looking at you!”).

As always, if you have questions, comments, or suggestions, please contact us at csa.outonalimb@gmail.com.