Autumn has announced its return in usual fashion: its chilly grip now extends beyond the night and morning and lingers throughout the bright sunny days, summer vegetables are pumping out their last offerings before giving up for the season, and apples are dropping from the trees, just begging to be picked and eaten. It's fitting that this year the time of the equinox does mark a clear shift away from the hot and humid summer weather. Though we'll be sad to see our seemingly endless summer wrap up, we are glad to focus our attentions on our pomological passions. For us and many growers in our area, the weather has been largely on our side this year (though we would have gladly welcomed more rain). And though we were lucky on our farm, a freak storm in late July pummeled crops at Lakeside Orchards in Manchester. Misty Brook Farm in Albion reported "plum-sized hail and 70-plus mile an hour winds" that tore apart buildings and wiped out their vegetable fields, causing $60,000 in damage. For hardworking, small-scale farmers, a blow like that can be utterly devastating. The Maine Farmland Trust has recently set up a disaster relief fund, initiated partly in response to the needs of Misty Brook Farm. Click here to read more about their efforts to create a more supportive and resilient local food system in Maine.
It is a reminder just how precarious the occupation of farming can be, even in Maine, where we are safe from the drought and wildfires that are hitting hard on the west coast. We are humbled by those tragedies, and it makes us consider how fortunate we have been at Super Chilly Farm this year. Despite the challenges, we hope that you are all able to give thanks for this season.
This week's picks:
We hope you are excited when you open your share this week – the record number of eight varieties that we’ve included reflects the amazing diversity of fruit on the trees this year. Even more exciting, three are varieties we have never been able to offer before. So there should be something in your share to satisfy every palate and every use from fresh eating, to cooking, to drying, to cider.
Six of these apples rank among the most highly flavored dessert apples we know. Canadian Strawberry, Cox’s Orange Pippin, St. Edmunds Russet, and the diminutive Whitney Crab have all won the accolades of the crowd at the apple tasting at the Common Ground Fair. These rare heirlooms confirm the old adage that the best gifts come in small packages. Add Legace, John’s vote for the best tasting apple from Aroostoock County, and Burgundy, a modern gem with a unique flavor and zingy aftertaste, to the list, and you may want to swear off Honey Crisps forever.
If you’re looking for pie apples among the bunch, look no further than Maiden Blush. We used them for pies, croustades and tarts in the past week, and they have held up well to the baking and our scrutiny - think Granny Smith with more taste than pucker. Burgundy, Legace and Sharon cook up nicely too. There is plenty to experiment with in your share this week. We hope you have fun with it.
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.
Meet Us at the Fair
(The Common Ground Fair, that is)
This week is a busy one for us. As soon as we finish packing apples for you, we turn our attentions to gathering apples for the Fedco Trees apple display at the Common Ground Fair. Every year John puts together a display of over 100 apples collected from trees in Maine to illustrate the rich diversity of Maine’s apple heritage. It is always eye-opening, and with the abundance of apples on old trees this year, it is sure to be even more spectacular than usual. John will be on hand all weekend long to talk about the Maine Heritage Orchard, identify apples from old trees, and generally wax poetic about his favorite fruit. Most of the rest of the OOAL crew and many other apple addicts will be hanging around the display as well, trading apple stories and catching as many of the interesting orcharding talks as we can in the Hayloft Tent. John Paul will be leading a workshop on organic sprays for the home orchard and John will be channeling Thoreau in a talk about wild apples. And of course there will an opportunity to vote for your favorite apple at the apple tastings Friday and Saturday at 2:00. We hope to see you there.
To Peel or Not To Peel
Most recipes that call for apples recommend peeling the apples before using them. Here at Super Chilly Farm we rarely follow that direction, and instead we just wash and core the apples and use them with the peel on. We do this partly because it is quicker, partly because the colorful peels add some pizzazz to the dishes, especially the raw ones, but mostly because we had the impression that a lot of the flavor in apples is contained in the peel.
Last weekend we got to meet Maggie Campbell who joined an apple walk John was leading in Forest City, Maine. Maggie is the head distiller at Privateer Rum in Ipswich, MA and is working on her Masters of Wine. She writes a lot of tasting notes for wine so we asked her about the location of the flavor punch in apples. She said that the maximum flavor is located in a single cell layer right beneath the skin.
Maggie is also a fan of leaving the peels on, but when she does remove them, (and truth be told, we do peel some of the russet apples with tougher skins), she boils them in a pan of water till they are soft and the color has leached into the water. Then she strains the peels from the liquid, and adds sugar to the water in a 1:1 ratio. She uses this apple-flavored simple syrup to flavor pies and crisps, as a basting sauce for roasted meats or as the base in a seasonal cocktail. It can also be mixed with brandy or vodka to make a home-made apple liquor.
So if you must peel your apples, don’t throw them in the compost; use them to add flavor back into your dish!
New to the Out On a Limb crew this year:
This will be Kelsey’s first year as an apprentice and as a farmer. She has an ambitious goal of healing the earth one garden at a time, but with this goal comes patience. And she has a lot of it. She is willing to wait and spend more time in the garden to make sure that all the plants are taken care of. Kelsey has a strong maternal instinct and her soul resonates strongly within the earth, which is helpful to have in the garden! She is also very organized and likes to do the little tedious things that we all might not like doing. Put a label maker in her hand and a stack of unorganized bags of soil amendments and she'll have fun all day!
Recipes of the Week
We do a lot of fermenting here at Super Chilly Farm. All summer long we are brining cucumbers and cabbages to make pickles and sauerkraut. We throw in carrots and broccoli and fennel as the season progresses. When the peppers are ready, we ferment chile salsa and tomatillo sauce. Toward the end of October we press bushels of apples into cider and turn it into vinegar and hard cider. In the spring when the parsnips are ready to dig, we mix them with rutabagas to make sauerruben. And most of the year we have a pot of sourdough bubbling on the kitchen counter. Despite all our experimenting with ways to preserve the produce of the farm, we have never found a satisfactory recipe for a fermented kraut or pickles that includes raw, unpressed apple. That is until last weekend when we were visiting orchardist and food preserver extraordinaire Liz Lauer and her husband Chris Blanchard in Prentiss Township. Liz is my go-to guru whenever I have a canning, drying or freezing question, but until I visited I had no idea of the extent of the fermented products she puts up as well. And of course she immediately pulled out four combinations that included shredded apple. I came home and tried these two.
Beet and Apple Relish
4 large apples
2 large beets peeled
½ c chopped red onion
½ tsp grated ginger
1 TBS sea salt
¼ cup whey
Directions: Process in food processor until finely minced. Transfer to jar. Add cloves. Press down until covered with brine. Ferment 5-7 days. Remove cloves.
Emily thought this was light and crunchy and something that could stand on its own as a side dish. John Paul, who is not a big fan of beets, enjoyed it as a condiment with vegetables and grain.
Russian Half-Soured Cabbage
5 lb. cabbage – shredded
2 medium carrots – shredded
3 apples – shredded
2 tsp caraway seeds
2 TBS sea salt
Directions: Mix all the ingredients together, and press into a jar. Pound down. Press all the ingredients under the brine. Ferment 3-5 days.
We liked this kraut that was sweeter and not as strong as regular sauerkraut. The original recipe called for 2 TBS of caraway, but the Super Chilly Farm consensus was that it overpowered the rest of the ingredients so we recommend scaling it back to 2 tsp. See what you think.
Apple Mosaic Tart with Salted Caramel
Last year for John’s birthday, I made a tart that combined two of my favorite things – apples and salted caramel – cooked on top of a puff pastry. At the time I happened to have some very tart, red-fleshed apples in the kitchen so I alternated them with sweeter white-fleshed apples. The resulting tart was spectacular-looking and delicious. Mmmmm. Our daughter and son-in-law had sent me the recipe that they found on the Smitten Kitchen website so when I was visiting them recently, we made the tart again – this time without the red-fleshed apples. Although not as flamboyant, I think I liked the flavor even more.
Don’t be daunted by this recipe – it is very easy.
14-oz package puff pastry, preferably a brand made with all butter - defrosted
3 large or 4 medium apples (about 1 1/4 pounds)
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold, cut into small bits
Salted caramel glaze
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon flaky sea salt (or half as much table salt)
2 tablespoons heavy cream
Heat your oven to 400°F. Line a rimmed, 10×15-inch jellyroll pan or baking sheet with parchment paper.
Lightly flour your counter and lay out the pastry. Flour the top, and gently roll it until it fits inside the baking sheet, and transfer it there. I like to roll over the edge of the puff pastry a bit to make a small border.
Cut the apples into quarters from stem to blossom end, and core. Slice the apples quarters as thinly as you can with a knife or mandoline. Fan the apples around the tart in a slightly overlapping spiral — each apple should overlap the one before it so that only about 3/4-inch of the previous apple is visible — until you reach the middle. Sprinkle the apples evenly with two tablespoons of the sugar, and dot with two tablespoons of butter.
Bake for 30 minutes, or until the edges of the tart are brown and the edges of the apples begin to take on some color. If you sliced your apples by hand, and they are on the thicker side, you might need a little more baking time to cook them through. The apples should feel soft and dry to the touch. If your puffed pastry bubbles dramatically in any place during the baking time, simply poke it with a knife so that it deflates.
About 20 minutes into the baking time, make your glaze. (Resist the urge to prepare this sooner or it will harden in the pan and make a mess.) In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, melt your remaining 1/4 cup sugar; this will take about 3 minutes. Cook the liquefied sugar to a nice copper color, another minute or two. Remove from the heat, add the sea salt and butter, and stir until the butter melts and is incorporated. Add the heavy cream, and return to the stove over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly, for another minute or two until you have a lovely, bronzed caramel syrup.
After the tart has baked, remove it from the oven, but leave the oven on. Using very short, gentle strokes/pats, brush the entire tart, including the pastry border, with the salted caramel glaze. Return the apple tart to the oven for 5 to 10 more minutes, until the caramel glaze bubbles.
Let tart cool complete before cutting into 12 squares. Serve plain or with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
That's it for our jam-packed week two! Any questions, comments, suggestions, or feedback from a formal tasting: firstname.lastname@example.org