Greetings, apple lovers! Thank you for joining us for the 9th year of the Out on a Limb CSA!
We say this every year, but it remains true: we feel fortunate that we can help to revive the culture of apples in New England. We’re fortunate for the apple growers (past and present) who have been selecting and maintaining outstanding varieties for hundreds of years. We’re fortunate that we live in Maine, where so many unusual apple varieties are growing. We’re fortunate that the globalized apple market hasn’t been able to convince us all that Gala and Fuji are the the finest varieties in the world. We’re fortunate that more and more people like you are stepping up to support (and thus preserve) rare varieties grown by local orchards. Last but not least, we’re fortunate that 2017 has been a prolific apple year, meaning we’ll have a great selection of superb varieties for you to enjoy!
As usual, we’ve had a busy and eventful growing season in Palermo. In March, while there was still a foot of snow on the ground, we brought home an 8-week-old Collie pup (nowadays, in addition to being an affection hog, Myrtle is an orchard-and-garden-patrol-dog-in-training). In April and May, we welcomed two enthusiastic and dedicated apprentices: Jen (from Alaska/Kansas), and Jordan (from New Hampshire/New York). In June, we completed construction of a small hoophouse that is now home to many dozens of productive pepper plants. In July, we set up a solar-powered drip irrigation system for our young 200-tree orchard. In August, we re-built an outdoor wood-fired oven and erected a shelter to protect it and its users from the elements. At the beginning of September, we narrowly escaped a frost, and we started working inside a bit more, going a little crazy with all the fruit and vegetables we had to preserve via canning, freezing, drying, and pickling. Thankfully, the apple CSA forces us to get out and explore other beautiful orchards in all their fruitful fall glory. For these next 10 weeks, our priority is to bring back the best fruit we can to distribute to you all.
We’re glad you’re sharing the season with us!
Picks of the week:
Many people discount the summer apples as too soft or too strange flavored or not worth the trouble. And in years past, that has been pretty much been the attitude here at Super Chilly Farm. But this year the summer apples have demanded that we pay more attention. And we have been pleasantly surprised. Not only have a few of our trees borne fruit for the first time, but varieties that typically have been cracked or dropped early have held on the trees and look beautiful. Since summer apples are not known for their keeping qualities, we have been drying them and turning them into applesauce and fruit leathers as fast as we can.
We hope you will be equally delighted with the summer apples in your share this week. For those of you who are new to the CSA, do not be dismayed or confused by the two small bags on the top of your share. That’s all we have, and we wanted you to at least get a taste of two very rare apples, Garden Royal and Newt Grindle. Garden Royal* is an old variety that originated in Sudbury, MA. It is slow to bear so it probably was never popular with commercial growers, but we think its honey flavor is worth the wait. Newt Grindle is a Maine original from East Blue Hill that was named after the man who cultivated the tree with the intention of feeding the fruit to his hogs. Somewhere along the way he sampled it himself and enjoyed its crisp texture and floral taste. Please don’t confuse this apple with a politician of a similar name. This one is much more palatable.
Down at the bottom of your bag you will find another apple with a great name – Summer Rambo. Despite what you may imagine, this apple was not named after a movie; instead it is a true heirloom dating back to the French village of Rambure in 1535. We are excited to be able to offer it for the first time. Highly recommended for pie when it is still green and slightly underripe. That is the way we have picked them. As it ripens, try it fresh with a slice of cheese.
The other three apples this week are old CSA favorites. Martha Crabs will wake up your taste buds from the summer doldrums and get them ready for fall. Like many tiny apples they pack a lot of flavor into every bite. Zestar is also a perfect apple for fresh eating. When Jen took her first bite, she said “Zing, zang – that makes my tongue curl.” See if you notice the hints of banana in the taste. And we can’t forget Milton. This Yellow Transparent x McIntosh cross is an all-purpose fruit. It makes a nice sauce and is equally tasty eaten out of hand. The skin can be tough so you might want to peel it first.
*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 Garden Royals this week do come from our own farm, so you may see a white dusting on the fruit; it is kaolin clay, which we use early in the season to deter the pesky plum curculio from damaging our crop.)
Warning: Read these instructions completely before open your CSA bag!
Just kidding, nothing dangerous in there, just some perfect[ly delicious] apples. Of course many of them don’t look much like the apples you see on display in the produce sections at Hannaford or Whole Foods, where apples are required to have a certain uniform shape, color and size. Those stores would never sell these apples – the names are too weird, the sizes vary too much, the flavors are too flavorful, the flesh isn’t the required crispiness, or the skin has strange bumps and dings. We suspect that you are in agreement that the apples in your bag are much more interesting than the standard supermarket fare or you wouldn’t have joined this CSA. But you still may have questions about all those bumps and dings. If you are a new shareholder, you might even be wondering if these apples are OK to eat. The answer is definitely YES.
It is difficult to grow a perfect-looking apple, as any of you who have a tree in your backyard can attest. Insects, fungi, deer and birds all love them for both food and shelter. Weather takes its toll as well. Luckily for the orchardist and the apple eater, the skin of the fruit provides a good first line of defense against many natural hazards, taking lots of hits while still protecting the prize beneath. Look closely at the apples in your bag and you might see examples of the skin protecting the fruit from:
- plum curculio that leaves the apples with smiles and european apple sawfly that leaves question marks
- sooty blotch that gives a smoked appearance to the skin
- scab that is responsible for the dry, crusty patches
- hail damage that leaves small dents on the top or sides of the fruit.
Because the skin does such a good job at protecting the apple, the flavor and the quality of the fruit may not be negatively affected by attacks from these assailants. In fact some researchers claim that insect-damaged and scabby apples are more nutritious than perfect-looking ones because the apples pump out the nutrients to fight off the attack. At least those apples with more scab damage seem to ripen earlier and be more brightly colored than less affected fruit.
Which brings us back to the warning label: the apples in your bag are perfectly delicious, if not perfect looking. We do are best to cull out the cracked, bruised and excessively damaged fruit that would have a shortened shelf life; we don’t want you to pull out drippy or soggy apples when you open the bag. The blemishes we tolerate do not affect the taste or storage quality, and if you must, you can easily cut around them with a knife. We welcome the small, slightly misshapen, lightly dented and dinged apples into our CSA so that we can offer you a wider selection of rare fruit than you are going to find at any grocery or farm stand. After you taste them, we hope that you will agree that, "beauty’s only skin deep."
Common Ground Fair - 2009 apple t-shirts available!
The annual Common Ground Fair is coming up, September 22-24. Once again, John (with the help of Cammy and Laura) will be assembling a vast display of apple varieties found in old Maine orchards, so stop on by the Fedco Trees tent and say hello. There will be plenty of interesting farm/orchard talks in the Hayloft, apple tastings on Friday and Saturday, and most exciting of all, MOFGA will be offering t-shirts of John's much-loved apple design from 2009. All proceeds will benefit the Maine Heritage Orchard. There is a limited quantity of shirts and they will not be printed again, so head over to the MOFGA Country Store early and snag yours!
Recipes of the Week
In every newsletter we try to offer two recipes, a sweet and a savory, that would work with at least one of the apples in your share. Whenever we can, we test these recipes with several varieties of apples so that we can recommend one or two. We rarely ever agree. The flavors and textures of the apples polarize us into opposing camps that are rarely consistent. In some recipes three of us like the sweeter, firmer apple better, and the next week we find ourselves arguing for the softer, tarter apple. We all taste different flavors in the same apple, and when one of us objects to the tough skin, five others will bite through without a problem. Which makes cooking with apples a great adventure. If a recipe doesn’t suit your fancy, try it again with a different apple. And please tell us which ones you like best (or least).
Apple-Lime Custard Tart
In my quest to use the summer apples during the steamy days of August, I searched for recipes that didn’t require a lot of cooking. When I discovered this one in Rowan Jacobsen’s book, Apples of Uncommon Character, I had to try it. I made it with Pomme d'Or, and it was easy, tart and refreshing. In fact everyone at the farm voted to include it in the newsletter. Since the Pomme d'Or are long gone from our trees, try it with the Summer Rambo or Milton. The red in their skins might add some sparkle to the pie.
2 1/2 cups pecans
4 TBS butter or coconut oil
4 TBS sugar
¼ tsp salt
4 large apples, cored and sliced
1 cup sugar
zest and juice from half a lime
whip cream for garnish (optional)
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Make the crust by blending the crust ingredients in a food processor until fine.
Grease a 9" pie pan. Press the nut mixture into the pie pan with your fingers or the back of a spoon. Evenly cover the bottom and sides.
Bake the crust until lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven.
Place the apples in the food processor and process until the apples are reduced to pulp. Add the other ingredients and pulse until they are thoroughly mixed. The apple peels should look like bright flecks in the mixture.
Pour the filling into the crust, and bake for 25-30 minutes, until the custard has set but still quivers.
Remove from the oven, cool, and refrigerate. (I kept mine in the freezer because my refrigerator was full of veggies from the garden. I let it sit out a few minutes before serving. We all liked it better that way.)
Kathy Wallace's Apple-Beet Puree
I’ve never been a big fan of beets – something about the cold rubbery feel of the sliced beets that were a standard of salad bars in the 70’s put me off them for decades. But recently I’ve come to realize that if I can get inventive with the texture, I really do love their sweet, earthy flavor. At Maine Apple Camp in August I spied a serving bowl overflowing with soft, pink mounds of what looked like cherry-colored, mashed potatoes. I read the card – Apple-Beet Puree. No rubbery beet chunks in sight. Perfect. I scooped some onto my plate, gobbled it down, and went back for more. Before I let myself have a third helping I tracked down the camp’s main kitchen wizard, Kate Wallace, who told me it was her mother’s recipe. Kate said her mother usually adds vinegar to the recipe to give it some bite, but the tart summer apples provided that bite all on their own. Try it with Summer Rambo this week or wait for the Gravenstein and St. Lawrence.
½lb beets, washed
1 TBS olive oil
1 cup onion, chopped
1 TBS butter (or substitute olive oil)
4 cups tart apples, cored and chopped
Salt & pepper to taste
1 TBS apple cider vinegar (optional)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Trim the roots and the woody parts of the skin from the beets – no need to peel. Cut beets into ½” cubes, then toss with 1 TBS olive oil and ¼ tsp salt and spread on roasting pan.
Roast in oven for 45-50 minutes until they are soft and easily pierced with a fork. Remove from the oven and cool.
Place cooled beets in the bowl of a food processor with 1/8 cup of water, and blend until smooth. Add more water as necessary.
Melt butter (or 1 TBS oil) in a sautée pan over medium heat. Add onions, and cook until soft, stirring occasionally to prevent browning.
When the onions are beginning to soften, add the apple slices and sautée until they lose their shape and begin to break down into sauce. Add water to keep them from sticking. If the apples are firm or sweet, you may want to cover the pan as they cook.
When everything is soft and nearly saucy, add the onion-apple mixture to the food processor and puree until smooth. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm or cold.
If it doesn’t have the zing you are looking for, try adding some apple cider vinegar. You can vary the proportion of beets to apples to highlight different flavors. A little beet goes a long way.
We hope you enjoy this late summer bounty. Thanks for joining us this year. -Cammy, John, Emily, John Paul, Jen, Jordan, and Laura
If you have any comments, questions, or suggestions, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.