Believe it or not, two more weeks have gone by, it’s mid-October, and we’re still in t-shirts as we work in the orchard and the barn. Given the unusual spring-like rainy weather we had this weekend, we had to pick furiously whenever it let up a bit. Thankfully, over the course of three days, there was just enough time to harvest all we needed to before today (when the rain began in earnest as we packed the shares under cover). It’s a good thing we love these varieties as much as we do; it makes harvesting in the rain seem like no big deal. It could be worse…we have a good crop of apples, they’re beautiful and complexly-flavored, and we don’t have to shovel snow to get to the trees, yet…
Picks of the week:
(Click each variety for more info)
Well the weather continues to surprise us – we had three or four nights of hard frost last week, and now the nighttime temperatures are soaring back up into the 60’s. The apple trees seem to be responding in kind by changing up their traditional ripening schedules and dropping apples whenever they feel like it. Many of the apples in your share today typically ripen in time for the 4th week of the CSA, but this year the seeds are already brown, the flavors have developed, and the skin is glowing red. It is time to pick them.
Three of the varieties are old Maine favorites. The giant Wolf River is a transplant from the Midwest that was brought back by the lumbermen who returned to Maine after cutting the forests in Wisconsin. It is too big and too dry for fresh eating, but it has played a starring role in many a Maine apple pie over the past 100 years. It is a favorite for drying as well. Nodhead is a native of New Hampshire that slipped across the border and found it’s way into many farmstead orchards. Eat them fresh, store them or bake them – they hold their shape in a pie. Hurlbut hails from way down south in Connecticut where it was discovered nearly 200 years ago. Trees are still found around central Maine. The apple has a spike of sweetness at first bite immediately followed by an aftershock of tartness that makes it perfect for fresh eating. Fresh eating usually wasn’t a priority for farmers in the 1800’s so perhaps they planted Hurlbut for sauce, baking, or its funny name.
The other two apples in your share are a mother-daughter pair. These modern apples out of the breeding program at the University of Minnesota have not created the sensation that their fellow MN protégé, Honeycrisp, has, but we’d happily choose a *Frostbite or its daughter, Sweet Sixteen, over a Honeycrisp, any day. In fact, four out of seven of us here at Super Chilly Farm, listed Frostbite on our Top Five lists of favorite apples. If you haven’t tried them before, be prepared for something new and different. There are no other apples that come close to the flavor of these two. We’ve heard molasses, sugar cane, yogurt, olives, cherry cough drops, licorice, vanilla and bourbon. Let your imagination run wild. We recommend both Frostbite and Sweet Sixteen for fresh eating.
*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. The Frostbites in this week's share were grown organically on our farm. You'll notice the chalky white residue - don't be alarmed, it is only clay used to physically deter pests.
Great Maine Apple Day - Sunday, October 15th
The 17th annual Great Maine Apple Day is happening this Sunday in Unity, ME at MOFGA's Common Ground Education Center. Admission is $4, or $2 for MOFGA members, and the event runs from 12-4pm. Here's the workshop schedule:
12:10 - 1 PM Fruit Exploring in Maine: Laura Sieger and Abbey Verrier
1:05 - 2 PM Organic Pest Management for the home orchard: Glen Kohler
2:10 - 3 PM Beyond Apples, many woody plants to grow on the farm: Aaron Parker and Jesse Stevens
3:05 - 4 PM Cider making basics and fine points: Angus Deighan and Justin Glover
Plus ongoing all afternoon will be: Cider pressing, apple tastings, apple identifications, educational fruit displays, hands-on kitchen workshops, and vendors including Fedco Trees and Organic Growers Supply. We hope you'll join us!
Top Five Favorite Apples of the Out on a Limb Crew
Everyone always asks John Bunker what his favorite apple variety is. We grow so many at Super Chilly Farm that it's impossible to choose just one, so we all decided, as a fun exercise, that each of us would list their top fives if we were cruelly forced to only to grow five trees. In choosing our favorites, we weigh carefully the traits we desire: different ripening periods, storability, uses (pies, sauce, dried, fresh eating), appearance, texture, and flavor. Here are each of our top fives (in no particular order):
John: Duchess of Oldenburg, Kavanagh, Collins (Cherryfield), Grimes Golden, Black Oxford
Cammy: Trailman, Blue Pearmain, Frostbite, Northern Spy, Golden Russet
John Paul: Black Oxford, Golden Russet, Frostbite, Trailman, Tolman Sweet
Emily: Blue Pearmain, Frostbite, Golden Russet, Gray Pearmain, Westfield Seek-No-Further
Laura: Gray Pearmain, St. Edmund's Russet, Frostbite, Black Oxford, Blake
Jen: Ashmead's Kernel, Finley Russet, Pipsqueak, Sour Gummi (a seedling!), Beacon
Jordan: Trailman, Wickson, Winekist, Cox's Orange Pippin, Pipsqueak
A few other farm residents also weighed in:
L-R: Radar, Myrtle, and Levi.
Radar says: Apples? Sure, I'll have a nibble. Just don't brush me.
Myrtle: I'll eat any apple you give me, but I do prefer peaches.
Levi: Who cares about apples? WHERE'S JORDAN?!
Recipes of the Week
Apple – Onion Tart
In the past two weeks I have made this tart three different ways. I started out with every intention of following the recipe to the letter, but I just couldn’t do it. For starters, I sliced the apples instead of grated them and then added more apples than was originally called for and layered them on the bottom of the crust. This meant I had to increase the number of eggs so that the egg mixture actually covered the filling. The end result (which is what is described below) was excellent.
But some of the eaters on our farm prefer dairy-free foods, so I made a second tart where I substituted coconut oil for the butter in the crust, olive oil for the butter used for sautéing the apples and onions, and applesauce for the heavy cream. I also left out the cheese and threw in some nutritional yeast to add a cheesy flavor. I topped this quiche with some late garden tomatoes that worked surprisingly well with the apples. Although there was one small piece of this tart left at the end of the meal, I don’t think anyone suspected that the two tarts were worlds apart in their ingredient lists.
Finally I made a third tart where I used a cup of cornmeal instead of a cup of flour in the crust. The only cheese I had on hand was some Parmesan so I omitted cheese from the crust and filling and sprinkled a bit on the top. I do think the cheese would have added something to the nicely crunchy cornmeal crust. So next time I will add that back in as well as some roasted poblanos to balance out the apples.
2 cups flour
pinch of salt
¼ tsp dry mustard
6 Tbsp butter
¾ cup grated Cheddar or Gruyere Cheese
2-3 Tbs water
2 Tbs butter
1 large onion – finely chopped
3 large apples – cored and thinly sliced (try Nodhead and Hurlbut)
2/3 cup heavy cream
¼ tsp Herbs de Provence
½ tsp dry mustard
4 oz Gruyere or Cheddar cheese
salt and pepper to taste
Sift the flour, salt, and dry mustard together in a bowl. Rub in the butter and cheese until the mixture forms soft crumbs. Add 2-3 Tbs water and stir together into a ball. Wrap in wax paper, and chill for 30 minutes.
Melt 2 Tbs butter in a medium-sized skillet over moderate heat. Add the onion and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent browning. When the onion is soft, stir in the apple slices, and sauté for another 4-5 minutes till they start to get tender. Set aside to cool.
Roll out the pastry and lay it into a greased 9” fluted quiche pan. (A pie plate will work too.) Chill for 20 minutes.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Line the chilled pastry shell with parchment paper and dried beans. Bake for 20 minutes.
Beat together the eggs, cream, herbs, seasoning and mustard. Grate ¾ of the cheese and stir in to the egg mixture. When the pastry shell is cooked, remove the parchment paper and beans and pour in the egg mixture.
Slice the remainder of the cheese and arrange the slices over the top of the egg mixture. Reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees, and return the tart to the oven. Bake 30 minutes until the egg is set and the top is golden. Serve hot or warm.
Salted Caramel Apple Pie Bars
Wolf River apples are well suited to baked goods that are meant to be dry rather than juicy. So when I came upon this recipe for Salted Caramel Apple Pie Bars, I thought it might be the perfect apple-cation for them. I tend to tone down the amount of sugar in most of the things I bake so I considered skipping the salted caramel sauce, but my daughter and son-in-law, whom I was visiting at the time, insisted that they would sacrifice themselves and eat all the sauce if I didn’t want any. So I reduced the sugar in the crust, filling and streusel a bit and added more apples, just to make myself feel better, and made the sauce. Although there were offers to finish off the sauce on toast, over ice cream, or just with a spoon, in the end we decided just to make another batch of the Apple Pie Bars. Hope you like them as much as we did.
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup white or whole wheat flour
5-6 large apples, thinly sliced (try a mix of Wolf River and Nodhead – if you use Wolf River you won’t need as many apples)
2 TBS flour
1 TBS sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
1/4 cup packed light or dark brown sugar
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup butter, cold and cubed
homemade salted caramel sauce (find the recipe online here)
Preheat the oven to 300°F. Line the bottom and sides of a 9-inch square baking pan with parchment paper, leaving some overhang on all sides. Set aside.
Make the crust: Stir the melted butter, sugar, vanilla, and salt together in a medium bowl. Add the flour, and stir until everything is combined. Press the mixture evenly into the prepared baking pan. Bake for 15 minutes while you prepare the filling and streusel.
Make the apple filling: Combine the sliced apples, flour, sugar, and spices together in a large bowl. Mix until all of the apples are evenly coated. Set aside.
Make the streusel: Whisk the oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, and flour together in a medium bowl. Cut in the chilled butter with a pastry blender or two forks (or even with your hands) until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Set aside.
Remove the crust from the oven, and turn the oven up to 350°F. Evenly layer the apples on top of the warm crust. It will look like there are too many apple slices, so layer them tightly and press them down to fit. Sprinkle the apple layer with streusel and bake for 45–55 minutes or until the streusel is golden brown and the apples are tender but not mushy.
Remove the pan from the oven and allow to cool for 20 minutes at room temperature, then chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours. Lift the parchment out of the pan using the overhang on the sides, and cut into bars. You can drizzle some salted caramel sauce on top of each or let everyone add their own caramel sauce at the table. These apple pie bars can be enjoyed warm, at room temperature, or even cold.
That's a wrap for week 3! As always, if you have any comments, questions, or suggestions, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.