Ah, late October, I don't recognize you this year! Still t-shirt weather? Yep. Still picking apples? Yep. Still picking garden veggies? Yes, although all of that is winding down, slowly. Trees are still holding fast to their leaves, so our fall color seems like it'll be sticking around a bit longer. We had a light freeze, but we're not yet at the panic point when we've got to get everything picked and stored in the cellars ASAP, which is fine, because it's been so mild that our root cellars are much too warm to reliably store our crops. Some apples are still clinging tightly to their branches, refusing to give in. Other varieties will announce their readiness with a sharp bonk on the barn roof or a soft thud in the grass. We were packing shares in the barn all day and kept hearing those apples hitting the roof: a constant reminder to move fast and get to pickin'!
Picks of the week:
(Click each variety for more info)
This week brings six old timers and one surprise. We can’t wait till you find it.
For all you Out on a Limb CSA veterans, no need to convince you of the charms of the Pearmain sisters – Blue Pearmain and Gray Pearmain. No one would mistake these for twins, but they are some of the most beautiful apples of the season. The former likes to get into all things baked, while her snappier sister is best eaten fresh.
Adding to the rainbow of colors in your bag this week are two green heirlooms: Rhode Island Greening and Twenty Ounce. RIG starts out as an excellent pie apple; but it sweetens as it ripens, and we prefer it for fresh eating as the season progresses. Save Twenty Ounce for your cooking projects – although the ones this year are not "as big as a baby’s head" as apple lore claims, the big ones are a mouthful.
Finally, we round out the color wheel with two red apples. Laura commented today that if anyone ever wanted to call an apple "red" it should be Opalescent. This is the first time we have offered the greasy skinned, brilliant crimson Opalescent in the CSA. It is juicy and floral with hints of strawberry. We love it as a dessert apple, but it is also excellent dried. If you plan to bake the Blue Pearmains, throw an Opalescent into the pan as well and see how it does. The other red apple is a NJ apple that’s been grown since before 1800. King of Tompkins County, or King as many call it, is good fresh, in sauce and for cider.
And that other little bag in your share – well, our lips are sealed. You’ll just have to wait till you pick up your share today.
*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.
Volunteer work party at the Maine Heritage Orchard this Saturday!
With the season winding down, it's time to complete various fall tasks to prepare the Maine Heritage Orchard for winter and for expansion next spring. John Bunker (Orchard Director) and Laura Sieger (Orchard Intern) are leading a work party to help plant 500+ flower bulbs, install tree guards to protect trees from voles for the winter, mulch newly-seeded land for future orchards, and prepare planting sites with compost and soil amendments for 30 apple trees to be planted next spring. Join us from 9-4 this Saturday, October 28th. Lunch is provided. Volunteers who stay all day will receive a MOFGA T-shirt or a Maine Heritage Orchard tote bag as special thanks.
The Maine Heritage Orchard is located on MOFGA land near the Common Ground Education Center on Crosby Brook Rd. in Unity, ME. Call 568-4142 for more information and RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Illustrated History of Apples in the United States and Canada by Daniel Bussey
Review by John Bunker
This past summer marked the occasion of the publication of the most important book on apples ever to be published in the English language. Really? Yes!
For nearly 40 years, Dan Bussey (who is currently the curator of apples at the Seed Savers Exchange in Decorah, Iowa) transcribed thousands of descriptions of apples from old fruit books, annual agricultural reports, hundreds of articles, unpublished manuscripts and much more. He compiled descriptions of over 16,000 varieties in all. This incredible feat took Dan a lifetime of dedication and thousands of hours.
In 2010, Dan handed over his manuscript to Kent Whealy of Jak Kaw Press to proofread and edit. Kent also added over 2,000 classic apple watercolors commissioned by the USDA in the late nineteenth and early 20th centuries. These watercolors are the best depictions of American apples ever painted. They are, in themselves, a national treasure. At long last, the book - in 7 volumes - was published this summer.
The end result is mind-boggling. It is fantastic. For the apple researcher, the enthusiast and the apple geek, this is the book is a must-have. If you’re interested in purchasing the seven volumes of the Illustrated History of the Apples of the United States and Canada, visit jakkawpress.com. You’ll be happy if you do.
This past summer also marked the occasion of the first annual Maine Apple Camp. It was held in August at Camp NEOFA in Montville. About 80 campers gathered in the woods for two and a half days to learn about, discuss and obsess about apples. Apple collectors from around the country, including Dan Bussey, joined together to strategize about how to save our historic apple varieties. There were workshops in fruit exploring, varietal preservation, using apples in the kitchen and making cider. A lot of time was spent eating great food, drinking cider and just hanging out. It was a wonderful weekend and one we hope to repeat again in the summer of 2018. Hope you will join us!
Recipes of the Week
Braised Fennel and Apples
I like cooked vegetables two ways – either just barely heated so they are still crunchy or slow cooked for a long time so they melt in your mouth. Braising seemed the perfect way to cook the late season fennel that is still growing in our garden. And apples seemed like the perfect complement to the fennel. Together they softened and melded over the low heat and were the perfect comfort food after a long day digging potatoes.
2 TBS olive oil
2 bulbs fennel – cored and finely sliced (about 4 cups)
2 large garlic cloves – peeled and minced
1 cup hard apple cider – you can also use white wine, water or veggie stock
salt & pepper
2 apples – cored, peeled and cut into thin slices (try RIG or KoTC)
1 TBS butter (optional)
Heat oil in a heavy sauté pan over medium heat. Add the fennel and stir to coat it with the oil. Sauté 5 minutes.
Add the minced garlic and sauté 5 minutes more.
Add a cup of the cider or other liquid to the pan. You may need to add more liquid if the fennel isn’t covered.
Add ½ tsp salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste.
Bring to a boil, then cover the pan. Turn down the heat so the liquid is simmering.
Simmer until the fennel is tender, about 30 minutes. Stir occasionally and add more liquid as needed.
When the fennel is soft, lay the apple slices on top of the fennel, and replace the cover. Continue to cook over low heat for 15-20 minutes more until the apples are broken down.
Remove the cover during the last 5 minutes to let some of the liquid evaporate.
Stir the apples into the fennel, add 1 TBS butter (if you dare), and correct the salt and pepper.
Best served hot, but room temperature is pretty good too.
Baked Apple Pancake
I was recently craving a very specific apple dessert I'd made years ago but had forgotten the name of. The recipe called for diced apples, sauteed in butter in a cast iron skillet, then, after the batter is poured right on top, the entire skillet gets popped in the oven to bake. By my standards, that dessert was The One: a light, eggy texture that I love, a minimal amount of sugar, the whole thing was so quick and easy to make, and you only need to dirty a couple dishes to make it! Luckily, I was able to retrace my steps and found my way back to The One (courtesy of The Wednesday Chef, by way of Smitten Kitchen). Never again will I let it slip away!
5 TBS butter, melted, divided
3 eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 cup milk
1 TBS granulated sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup + 1 TBS flour
2-3 apples, cored and thinly sliced
3 TBS brown sugar, lightly packed
powdered sugar for dusting
(If you're feeling adventurous, try a chai spice mix instead of the vanilla and cinnamon called for: 1/8 tsp each of cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, white pepper, and a pinch of cloves, star anise, and nutmeg.)
Heat the oven to 450°. Combine 2 tablespoons of melted butter with the eggs, milk, granulated sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, salt and flour. Mix the batter by hand or in a food processor. Set aside.
Heat the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter with the apple slices in a 10-inch oven-proof skillet until the apples are sizzling and slightly cooked. Pour in the batter. Sprinkle the top with brown sugar and bake until well browned and puffed, 20 to 25 minutes.
Dust with powdered sugar. Cut into wedges and serve immediately.
That's it for week #4 (already?)! As always, if you have any comments, questions, or suggestions, drop us a line at email@example.com.