A happy autumnal equinox (er... summer solstice?) to you all! It's been a little discombobulating to have August and September switch places this year. During the Common Ground Fair this weekend, we saw some of the hottest days of the year – perhaps setting a record for the hottest days in fair history! As the Fedco Trees & Maine Heritage Orchard booth faced south, we sat and talked with visitors all day long, watching everyone's faces grow increasingly red as the days wore on. We were lucky that our apple display didn't turn into a puddle of applesauce by the end of it! This last burst of summer is a blessing and a curse; I always welcome more warm weather to extend the season for heat-loving crops like peppers and tomatoes, not to mention one more chance to go swimming, but it's difficult for us on our off-grid farm to keep our just-picked apples chilled enough to make them last. Our strategy was to avoid packing shares and picking apples during the very hottest parts of the day, at which time I then chose to reacquaint myself with the gardens I hadn't seen much of for four days (oh, how I missed thee!), picking all I could. As the light waned, we all scrambled back into the barn to finish packing the shares and send them on their way. The picture above, of the tall Stark apple tree just outside the barn, was taken right as we finished up.
Oh, September! Where did you go?
Picks of the week:
(Click each variety for more info)
When you open your share this week, BEWARE: the apples are as sweaty as we are picking and packing them. Normally by the end of September we don't have to worry much about cold storage for our apples. The cool evening temperatures make our basement and root cellars the perfect place to keep apples for a few days until it's time to send them to you. But it seems a new normal has developed these past few years and that new normal is pretty crazy. To keep the apples fresh when it is 95 degrees requires a walk-in cooler. When we took the apples out, they began to sweat. So don't wait to examine your apples. Take them out of the bags and dry them off if they are still wet.
Inside those bags you will find a mix of flavors from tart to sweet and everything in between. These are apples that have stood the test of time and the scrutiny of farmers who were free to select the varieties that they wanted to grow. All but one was grown in Maine before 1900, and most originated well before that. Of these, Gravenstein is perhaps the most famous, especially because it has achieved notoriety as a pie and sauce apple both on the east coast and in California. We saw lots of Gravensteins growing in Sonoma County when we visited last June where they are making them into some tasty hard cider. But we like it best for pies. In fact, it won the most votes in our annual mid-September pie taste-off this year.
If you are still craving a pie or a crisp when the Gravensteins are gone, try Smokehouse. This richly flavored apple is delicious fresh, and it is also favored as a cooking apple. Since it will store well for several weeks, we suggest letting them ripen while you eat the other varieties.
St. Lawrence does not store as well as Smokehouse nor make as good a pie as Gravenstein, but its beauty can't be denied. Those deep carmine stripes over the lime green base are stunning and make it perhaps the most easily recognizable apple we have here on our farm. Its citrusy taste is pleasant for fresh eating, and it makes a good sauce. Some like it for pies, but it gets a bit too soft for our tastes after an hour of cooking.
The large, green apple at the bottom of your bag is Pound Sweet. This would never be a favorite at the grocery store, but it is a must in your apple education. Sweet apples are not necessarily high in sugar, they are just low in acid. To our 21st century palates, they taste mighty peculiar. But in the 1800's farmers grew them for molasses, to add to cider and for sweetening their food. Old cookbooks recommend baked sweet apples in milk as a cure for stomachaches.
Finally we come to the fresh eating apples, Spartan and Canadian Strawberry. The former is a more modern variety introduced in British Columbia in 1936. It is another apple with McIntosh as a parent, and it is crisp, juicy and more sweet than tart. But set it aside until after you have finished all the Canadian Strawberry apples in your share. We love it for its complex, power packed flavor and its sunset color. Our largest tree was shattered by an early November snow a few years back, but we have a few branches of it grafted here and there around the farm. To our delight, they produced a decent crop this year. We hope you enjoy it as much as we do.
*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.
"Pressed for Cider" Grand Opening - Knox, ME
For any of you who might have an abundance of apples (5 bushels or more), our friends at New Beat Farm will now be offering custom apple pressing in addition to raising livestock and vegetables. Beginning October 1st, custom pressing is available by appointment on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays through the fall. They are hosting a grand opening celebration on Saturday, September 3oth, 1-5pm, complete with horse-drawn wagon rides, cider-pressing demonstrations, and, of course, fresh cider. For more information, visit www.pressedforcider.com.
Hopefully by now, you know a bit about the core crew of four who make up the OOAL CSA. (If you are just joining us, click here.) We also host apprentices each season and encourage them to share a bit about themselves in the newsletter so our members know who is packing those bags. (Well, OK, we actually make them write bios for each other...)
Howdy! People say I am very spunky, funny, generous, full of life and oh-so-nice. I live with my husband Ben, dogs, chickens, and some bears on a homestead in Alaska. I work for the US forestry department, but my true passion is apples! I began my career in apples after college when I worked on an apple orchard in Kansas for four years. I came to Super Chilly Farm to learn more of this sensational fruit from John and Cammy – the apple masters! When I'm not eating apples, I love swimming, running, reading, cooking, making cocktails from foraged herbs, knitting, and hanging out with Jordan, the other apprentice (she's really cool, too). After Ben and I tour Alaska in our refurbished bus (outfitted with a kitchen and a little wood stove), we plan to move to Maine where I will pursue my dream as an apple orchardist on my very own orchard.
You can't help but smile when a happy Jordan trills “lalala!” Gung ho, chipper, full of questions and a zing for apples (especially cider), Jordan is one of two apprentices at Super Chilly Farm this year. She's a native of New York who thought the world of medicine was in her future until the farming bug got a hold of her. After doing a bit of traveling and apprenticing at a handful of other farms, Jordan and her spunky dog, Levi, landed here to learn more of the world of apples. But apples and Levi aren't her only passions in life. Horses have got a crazy grip on her as well. Perhaps cidermaking and horse whispering will be her future. Follow your dreams, you all, like we have at Super Chilly Farm.
Recipes of the Week
For me, the highlight of the Common Ground Fair weekend is the evening gathering of friends from many sectors of our lives for large and raucous dinners at our house. This year was no exception; the crowd included friends from Colorado, Vermont, Massachusetts, Alaska, New York and Maine. Despite the fact that many of us had been at work since dawn, and that most of the group had not met one another before, the conversation was nonstop and very loud. Since I never know how many hungry people will be here till they walk in the door, the key for me to enjoying the evening is cooking everything ahead. So this year I enlisted Jordan and Jen to help me make a meal that included apples in every dish. In the end we were too tired to run out to the orchard to grab a few Pound Sweets for a last minute addition to the Tomato-Corn Soup, but it probably didn’t matter much since Emily told me she was so tired and hungry by the time we were all assembled at the table that she didn’t even notice there were apples in her food. Try making these dishes with the apples in your share when you are well rested.
When Jordan suggested making a salsa with apples, I was not convinced I would like it. Somehow mixing raw apples with raw tomatoes confused my sense of the seasons: tomatoes satisfy my summer taste buds and apples, my fall. But it turned out that she was planning to use only apples as the base of the salsa – no tomatoes in sight. She chose the stripy Canadian variety, St. Lawrence, for its tart flesh and beautiful red and green skin. Then she added chiles and cilantro to give it some flavors from south of the border. The salsa was light and refreshing and the perfect blend of Canada, Maine and Mexico. No passport required.
3 medium apples, cored and sliced
1 clove garlic, minced or put through a press
Juice from a fresh lime
½ TBS cider vinegar
½ tsp salt (or more to taste)
½ cup cilantro, finely chopped
1 jalapeno or other hot chile, minced
2 sweet red peppers, finely chopped
If you have an immersion blender, put the apples in a narrow bowl and macerate. Otherwise pulse till ground up in a food processor. The apples should be soft and juicy and have the consistency of a slushie. You could also grate the apples.
Add in the remaining ingredients, and stir til well blended. The mixture should be a lovely combination of dark red and green flecks mixed throughout the light green apple puree.
Although we haven’t had time to try it, we imagine that the addition of roasted, chopped tomatillos would give the salsa a new dimension. Who knows, maybe you could even sneak in a green, Striped Zebra tomato as well.
Gravenstein Apple and Peach Crisp
Jen got her inspiration for this dessert from a recipe for an apple-pear pie. It was the cornmeal streusel that topped the pie that caught her attention. Because we had a crateful of peaches getting soft in the summer kitchen, she swapped out the pears for peaches and got rid of the raisins and crust, but she kept that yummy sounding streusel. Good choice. We served it with Raspberries ‘n Cream and Lemon Custard ice cream from John’s in Liberty – delicious to be sure, but I just ate the leftovers cold and without ice cream, and you will hear no complaints from me.
4 cups Gravenstein apples, cored and sliced
3 cups peaches, pitted, peeled and sliced
1/3 cup sugar
1 TBS fresh lemon juice
Zest from ½ lemon
2 TBS flour
2/3 cup flour
1/3 cup corn meal
2/3 cup sugar
¼ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp salt
½ cup solidified coconut oil (or cold, unsalted butter)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Mix the apples, peaches, sugar, lemon juice and zest together in a bowl. Set aside for 10 minutes.
After 10 minutes, check the amount of juice in the bottom of the bowl. If a lot of juice has accumulated, mix in 2 TBS flour. If there is not much juice, mix in less.
Pour into an 8”x10” baking dish.
To make the topping, put the dry ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and pulse till mixed. Take off the lid and scatter pieces of solidified coconut oil or butter over the mix. Pulse repeatedly until the mixtures looks like breadcrumbs. (You can also do this in a regular old bowl with a your fingers or a fork.)
Spread the topping over the fruit and smooth evenly with your hands.
Bake for 45-50 minutes or until the apples are tender and the juices bubble up through the streusel.
Remove from oven and cool before serving, if you can wait.
That does it for week #2. As always, if you have any comments, questions, or suggestions, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.