Dear wintry weather fruit fans,
There’s nothing like the first forecast of snow to inspire us all to do a big round of fall cleanup and winter prep. We packed this week’s shares in record time and quickly tucked all the fruit away so as to avoid the freezing temperatures and precipitation. We hope you are feeling prepared for the cold and the snow/wintry mix. In case you’re not, perhaps you can derive some strength from the apples this week. They are five solid, hardy varieties that are built for this time of year, and they will keep for weeks or months if stored properly.
We are so grateful you joined us for an awesome apple season. We hope you’ve enjoyed diving into the world of rare apples. If you have any feedback for us, we welcome it. Have a great winter, and remember, in six short weeks, the days will start getting longer again :)
Picks of the week:
(Click each variety for more info)
The apple harvest is finally in; we saved the last few frozen Wickson for our family to pick last weekend and press into sweet, sweet cider. But we are not yet ready to put up our feet by the woodstove; the frigid temperatures sweeping into Maine this week are galvanizing us to clean up our gardens and get the root crops stored, drain and hang up irrigation hoses that didn’t get shredded by the mower, wind the plastic guards around the trees in the orchard and nursery , and pick up all the apple drops before everything is frozen and buried till spring. As I drove around delivering apples today I was amazed at the number of apples that are still clinging tenaciously to leafless branches. They looked like golden and red orbs twirling in the snowy, winter wind - a welcome ornament to celebrate the end of the harvest season amidst the commercial holiday glitter already is taking over local stores with a vengeance. . Perhaps they will be a gift for a hungry flock of cedar waxwings passing through central Maine in a few months or a welcome snack for a four-footed beast as it travels through the frozen land.
Your share bags this week are also filled with gifts that will feed you through the winter and fill your homes with the best smells of the season past. The varieties are all “keepers” so take your time using them up. For fresh-eating we’ve included the old Connecticut apple, Hurlbut, and the catch-all apple, Golden Russet. Every orchard that grows this variety claims to have the real “Golden Russet of NY”, including us, but there is little agreement as to which Golden Russet is which. In the end all that really matters is that the apple is tasty, and we think these ones are.
And the final share of the CSA would not be complete without a big dose of cooking apples. We’ve given you three very different choices to satisfy your baking needs. Northern Spy is probably the most familiar of the trio; you can still find them at farm stands around Maine. Bright red and waxy - they make an excellent pie, and are one of my favorites for munching on in March. Winter Banana, that crazy yellow-red apple in your bag, has a following among many old-timers who just refer to it as “that banana apple”. It remains firm when you cook it so slice it thin if you put it in a pie or crisp. It holds well in a saute. Finally at the bottom of your bag you will discover the remarkable Black Oxford that launched at least one fruit explorer on his life’s work. John first encountered Black Oxford 40 years ago, and it was love at first sight. Every year I encourage our shareholders to hold off eating them or cooking with them til January to let the lovely flavors develop more. My guess is that no one does. They are a great pie apple, and since we are just about to enter “pie season” who can resist? We hope you are as wowed by them as John was and is.
Our apples come to you straight from the tree, so, as with all fresh produce, please be sure to wash them thoroughly before eating. Some of the apples are grown using Integrated Pest Management by the orchards we collaborate with throughout Maine, and some are organically grown here on Super Chilly Farm.
Upcoming Apple Events
November 19: Blue Hill Library , 5 Parker Point Rd., Blue Hill - 7 PM. John will be reading from his new book, Apples and the Art of Detection. Sponsored by Blue Hill Books (bluehillbooks.com).
Recipe of the Week
When John spoke at the Portland Museum of Art last week he imagined the 12 apple trees that might be required to meet the apple needs of a Maine household 140 years ago. These included not only apples for drying, molasses, frying and cider, but also the perfect baking, sauce, and pie apple for every season. The perfect pie apple is one that cooks at the exact same rate as the pastry so that when it is removed from the oven, a golden crust is suspended over tender, but never mushy, apple slices.
In the lobby after the talk I spotted a friend, Dorothy Rosenberg, who mentioned that she knew exactly the kind of pie apple that John was referring to because that was also the perfect apple for one of her favorite recipes, Heaven and Earth. Dorothy and her husband, Robert McIntyre, know a thing or two about apples so when she suggested two of the apples in our CSA this week as good choices for the savory dish, I decided I’d better ask for the recipe. I haven’t had a chance to try it yet, but this modified version of an old German recipe will be on our table when the temperatures dip into the single digits later this week. Dorothy says any waxy potato and good pie apple, such as Northern Spy, Black Oxford, Baldwin or Rhode Island Greening will work well.
Heaven and Earth
Equal parts potatoes, apples and onions or leeks – enough to fill a large baking dish or casserole.
Butter or neutral oil
¼ to ½ pound of Swiss cheese (Jarlsberg, Gruyere, Swiss) or goat cheese.
1 – 2 cloves garlic - minced
¼ - ½ cup white wine
Pepper, salt and nutmeg to taste
¼ to ½ cup heavy cream
Heat oven to 350 degrees F.
Cut the onions/leeks into thin slices, and sauté in oil or butter over medium to low heat with minced garlic until caramelized. Add white wine, grated nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste, and let the mixture cook slowly until the wine is absorbed.
Peel and cut the potatoes into thin slices.
Peel and cut the apples into thin slices.
Cut the cheese into thin slices.
Butter the inside of a large baking dish or casserole. Place a layer of potatoes on the bottom of the casserole. Add a layer of sautéed onions, then apples, then cheese, and repeat ending with a layer of potatoes. Scatter small pieces of butter over the top layer, and sprinkle with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Pour ¼ to ½ cup of heavy cream evenly over the casserole.
Bake for 1 hour. Let cool for 5 – 10 minutes before serving.
A scent of ripeness from over a wall.
And come to leave the routine road
And look for what had made me stall.
There sure enough was an apple tree
That had eased itself of its summer load,
And of all but its trivial foliage free
Now breathed as light as a lady’s fan.
For there there had been an apple fall
As complete as the apple had given man.
The ground was one circle of solid red.
May something go always unharvested!
May much stay out of our stated plan,
Apples or something forgotten and left,
So smelling their sweetness would be no theft.