Welcome to OOAL week #4!
At some point in the fall, usually in the latter half of October, central Maine experiences the first “freeze” of the growing season. A freeze, otherwise known as a “killing frost,” is the most severe of the three frost designations. A “light frost” refers to when the temperature on the ground barely touches 32 degrees. A “moderate frost” indicates a nighttime low of 29-31 degrees F. And a “freeze” occurs when temps drop to 28 degrees F or lower—if this is in the forecast, the apple grower must consider harvesting all fruit remaining in the orchard beforehand. Apples on the tree can sustain a moderate frost; if the temperature stays at 28F-29F for a while, they will freeze. HOWEVER (remember, apples are amazing!) lightly frozen apples left on the tree will thaw out during the day and be perfectly suitable for fresh eating for weeks!
The first freeze/killing frost of the 2018 season was in the forecast for Thursday night/Friday morning. Temperatures were predicted to drop to 26F or 25F, which could ruin the storage potential of apples, even the late-ripening “keepers” (storage varieties). We decided we couldn't risk it; we dropped everything and set out to pick all we could before Thursday night. On one of the coldest & windiest days of the season, three of us ventured out and picked as fast as we could. By the end of the day we had picked at 4 different orchards, and each of us had picked approximately 700 pounds of fruit, for a total of 2,100 pounds! It was a doozy of a harvest day. Not to mention that upon returning home in the dark, we had vegetables that still needed to be harvested and put in the root cellar. And guess what we discovered Friday morning? We hardly got a touch of frost. Such is life!
Picks of the week:
(Click each variety for more info)
The fall schedule can be exhausting; first there is the Common Ground Fair, followed in short order by the Great Maine Apple Day and the Volunteer Day at the Maine Heritage Orchard. Interspersed between these events are apple tastings, cider pressings and harvest festivals all that offer an opportunity for a display of heritage apples, apple identifications or a talk about the history of apples in Maine. And then there is the mad dash to get all the apples harvested before the temperatures hit 25 degrees (as it turns out they did not do last week). But none of these activities contributes to the fatigue of the OOAL crew nearly as much as the American League Playoffs and World Series do when the Red Sox are playing for the pennant. The too-late-for-a-farmer start times and the games that go on and on till 11:30, 12:30 or even 1:30 AM leave us bleary-eyed and groggy but always wanting more. We thought that it would be victory enough simply to beat the Yankees, but the spectacular hitting and fielding in the Astros series left us no choice but to stay up way past our bedtimes over and over again.
So to celebrate the winningest team in baseball, we have curated a special selection of apples this week to eat as you watch the World Series. We can’t guarantee that they will pair well with a Fenway Frank, but there are no Green Monsters in your bags.
Gray Pearmain – This apple is as memorable as a JBJ grand slam. The perfect balance of sweet and tart, crisp with notes of pear and the color of an autumn hillside - munch on this if Kimbrel starts walking batters in the 9th inning. It will calm you down.
Keepsake – Think of this as the World Series ring of the collection. This is the apple that you hope you will still have at the end of the Series. A sibling of Sweet Sixteen, this dessert apple will develop more flavor with every game. Store it in a cool, humid spot and you might just have one left when spring training begins.
Melrose – We chose this apple because Melrose MA is in the heart of Red Sox Nation. It is also the home of that iconic Red Sox player, Steve Lomasney, who caught in exactly one game back in 1999. We hope you’ll like this apple for fresh eating better than the Sox liked Lomasney. This is the first time we have offered it.
Rome – This bright red apple reminds us of the jerseys the Red Sox wear on Friday nights in Fenway. The color is a standout on the tree and on Xander Bogarts when he slides into second. This famous cooking apple makes great pies and sauce and is hard enough to keep through the winter. Just don’t throw it at anyone - getting hit with a Rome is like getting hit with a Chris Sales fastball.
Wolf River – Truth be told, not everyone on the OOAL crew is a diehard member of Red Sox Nation, so we have included this Wisconsin favorite as a shout out to our second favorite team, the Brewers, who we hoped would be battling the Sox in the Series. But sadly the scores the Brewers posted were not as huge as this apple. Too dry and large for fresh eating, this is one for the oven. A few of them look a bit gnarly, but slice around the bird pecks and you’ll still have a lot of apple left. If only the Dodgers would pitch Wolf Rivers to the Sox, they couldn’t miss.
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.
Upcoming Apple Events
Maine Heritage Orchard Annual Compost Day: Saturday, Oct 27th, 9am - 3pm.
Join MEHO staff (and OOAL crew mates) John, Laura and Jen as they lead a work party to plant bulbs and prepare ground for the latest expansion of the orchard! The Maine Heritage Orchard is located at 85 Crosby Brook Rd, near MOFGA’s Common Ground Education Center in Unity, ME. Call 568-4142 for more information and RSVP to email@example.com. Click here for more info.
John Bunker’s Apple Talks
As always, John Bunker spends the fall spreading apple love around the state, speaking at historical societies and libraries to educate the public about his important work. His upcoming talks include:
October 23; 3 PM Quarry Hill, Camden, ME.
October 24; 10 AM, Tuttle Road United Methodist Church, 52 Tuttle Road, Cumberland, ME.
November 2-3; Franklin County Cider Days, western Massachusetts – Bear Swamp Orchard, Ashfield MA: “Understanding Apple Names” (with tasting), Sunday AM.
November 9; noon: USM-LA Senior College.
Recipes of the Week
Apple-Mint Chutney (from Apples: A Country Garden Cookbook by Christopher Idone)
It is easy to find recipes that pair apples with pork. But I have yet to find one that matches apples with lamb. When our friend Si brought us several pieces of lamb the other day, I decided to get creative. I know people eat mint sauce on lamb, so how about this apple-mint chutney? John ate it alongside lamb stew and gave it the thumbs up. We ate it again tonight as a condiment for dal. Try it on rice or pork or with your favorite curry. Pretty good right from the spoon.
The recipe calls for three tamarind pods or ½ cup of canned tamarind paste. I have no idea where to find tamarind pods in Waldo County so I bought a jar of the paste at the Belfast Co-op Store. It worked well and was easier than soaking the seeds, squeezing out the pulp and straining.
½ cup canned tamarind
1/3 cup water
6 tart apples (I made this once with two Wolf Rivers and another time with two Twenty Ounce – the recipe recommends a Greening) – cored and diced
½ cup brown sugar
1/3 cup cider vinegar
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp salt
2 tsp dried mint
Place all ingredients in a nonreactive pan.
Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes until the apples are tender and the mixture is thick and pink.
Remove from heat, and cool.
Keeps in the refrigerator up to two weeks. Makes about one quart.
Missing Finger Chocolate Cake
We are not a family of cake lovers. In fact, we almost always have ice cream cakes for our birthdays. But if ice cream is not an option, this is the cake we opt for. It is moist, dense, chocolatey, and has frosting that is good enough to eat alone. (OK, the cake is really just an excuse to eat the frosting.) And as good luck would have it, this cake is made with apples. They don’t really add flavor, and you can’t tell they are there, but they keep the cake from drying out which is worth all the effort of grating them. Since Wolf Rivers aren’t the tastiest apple in the orchard, try grating them up in this cake. Romes will work too. Make it the day before you want to serve it as the flavors improve overnight.
Oh, if you’re wondering about the name, that’s a long family story.
2 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature
2 cups sugar
2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
3 TBS unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp allspice
2 tsp baking soda
¼ cup hot water
3 cups apples – peeled and grated
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 10” bundt pan.
Cream butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl until pale yellow and light. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each. Beat the mixture till light and fluffy.
Sift flour, cocoa, salt and spices together.
Add the baking soda to the hot water, and mix till dissolved.
Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture alternately with the soda mixture. Begin and end with the dry ingredients.
Stir in the grated apples.
Spoon the batter into the bundt pan. Bake until the cake is dark brown and springs bake when lightly pushed, about 70 minutes.
Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Unmold from the pan and invert onto a serving plate. Allow the cake to cool before frosting. (You can make this cake without the frosting, but I can’t imagine why you would.)
8 TBS unsalted butter
½ cup packed, dark brown sugar
2 TBS milk
1 cup plus 2 TBS confectioners’ sugar
½ tsp vanilla
Melt butter in a heavy saucepan over medium heat.
Stir in the brown sugar, reduce heat to low, and cook until the sugar melts and begins to get ropey – about two minutes. Keep stirring while the sugar bubbles.
Stir in the milk, and raise the heat to medium. Stir until the mixture comes to a boil. Remove the pan from the heat, and allow the mixture to cool to lukewarm.
Whisk in the confectioners’ sugar ½ cup at a time. Continue whisking until it is smooth and spreadable. (If your sugar is clumpy, you may have to sift it before adding.) Whisk in the vanilla, and use immediately.
Most likely you will have to spoon this over the cake. It will look like way too much, but trust me, it’s not. Use it all. People will fight to get to scrape off what spills down onto the plate.
We hope you enjoy this week’s share! -Cammy, John, Emily, John Paul, Laura, & Jen
If you have any comments, questions, or recipe suggestions, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.