Thank you for supporting the Out on a Limb CSA!
In late October/early November, there is usually an extreme weather event that compels us to harvest hurriedly any apples that remain in the trees. In a typical year, this "extreme weather event" tends to be either the first snowstorm (looking at you, 2014) or the first hard freeze. This year, it was instead the forecast for 30+ MPH winds and 5+ inches of rain over 3 days! What a doozy! Won't forget that anytime soon. We hope you all weathered the storm with minimal damage. Thankfully, we fared just fine here at the farm.
So, the final pickup week is here! All good things must come to an end, right? Thank you for joining us in our ninth season. It's continually inspiring and heartening to see so much support for what we do and so much enthusiasm surrounding unusual, locally grown apples. We appreciate it. We wouldn't be able to do it all without you. If you'd like to sign up for next season, please be in touch in the spring. We will send out an email announcement when we begin accepting members, and we do offer a discount to returning members.
Now it is time to hunker down for winter and prepare to cozy up with all our storage fruit. Until next season...
-Emily & John Paul
Picks of the week:
(Click each variety for more info)
The watchword for this week is WAIT. As tempting as it may be, don’t eat these apples yet. Well, OK, if you must, you can tear into the bag of Grimes Golden today, but hold off on the rest of them for as long as you can – they will only get better. I met a man today who told me that he tried a Black Oxford last week and he found it dry and not very tasty. (Arrgh.) If only someone had encouraged him to eat a Honeycrisp today and save the most beautiful of Maine apples till the snow flies (or at least Thanksgiving). If he had given it some time for its flavors to mature, he would have found it as tasty as it is magnificent.
“Keeper” apples were the Holy Grails of the early farmers who planted tens of thousands of apple seedlings in hopes of discovering one whose fruit would keep all winter. This sextet of “keepers” will keep well in a cool (just above freezing), moist basement or root cellar or in your refrigerator if you have the space. And when you are ready to use them, you will find them good for fresh eating as well as sauce, baking, cider and drying. Here at Super Chilly Farm we make sure to have at least a bushel of each of these varieties tucked into our root cellar when we turn back the clocks in the fall. With any luck, we will still be eating them when we spring ahead next March.
*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.
Will you be the one to find the golden apple?
Inspired by Willy Wonka and his golden tickets, we hid a gold-wrapped apple in one of the shares this week. Alas, we have no candy factory to bestow upon the winner, but we do have a Maine heritage apple tote bag to give away! Check each of your bags to see if you are the lucky winner. If it's you, take a picture of yourself with the golden apple and send it to email@example.com to claim your prize!
"After Apple Picking"
My long two-pointed ladder’s sticking through a tree
Toward heaven still,
And there’s a barrel that I didn’t fill
Beside it, and there may be two or three
Apples I didn’t pick upon some bough.
But I am done with apple-picking now.
Essence of winter sleep is on the night,
The scent of apples: I am drowsing off.
I cannot rub the strangeness from my sight
I got from looking through a pane of glass
I skimmed this morning from the drinking trough
And held against the world of hoary grass.
It melted, and I let it fall and break.
But I was well
Upon my way to sleep before it fell,
And I could tell
What form my dreaming was about to take.
Magnified apples appear and disappear,
Stem end and blossom end,
And every fleck of russet showing clear.
My instep arch not only keeps the ache,
It keeps the pressure of a ladder-round.
I feel the ladder sway as the boughs bend.
And I keep hearing from the cellar bin
The rumbling sound
Of load on load of apples coming in.
For I have had too much
Of apple-picking: I am overtired
Of the great harvest I myself desired.
There were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch,
Cherish in hand, lift down, and not let fall.
That struck the earth,
No matter if not bruised or spiked with stubble,
Went surely to the cider-apple heap
As of no worth.
One can see what will trouble
This sleep of mine, whatever sleep it is.
Were he not gone,
The woodchuck could say whether it’s like his
Long sleep, as I describe its coming on,
Or just some human sleep.
Storing Apples for the Winter
For the final CSA installment of the year, we like to repost our winter storage tips, both to inform newcomers and as a refresher for returning members. We recognize that everyone's storage capabilities are different, therefore we try to cover all the bases (refrigerator, root cellar, etc.) so that you are equipped to get the longest life out of your apples. If you follow the guidelines laid out below, you could be eating and/or cooking with apples well into Winter and—depending on the variety—early Spring.
Every apple is a living organism. Once harvested, the fruit cannot obtain nutrients from the tree, and because it is still respiring (breathing in oxygen and breathing out carbon dioxide, just like humans), it begins to use up the energy it stored up during the growing season. As this energy is used up while in a cellar or refrigerator, the sugar, acid, and starch content of the fruit change. At some point, these processes cause the tissue to break down, and the fruit becomes mealy or rubbery, and it eventually rots. Therefore, the goal of storage is to slow down the breathing of the apples, in order to slow down the ripening. Furthermore, cold temperatures will retard the activity of the bacteria and fungi that cause decay.
The optimal storage conditions for apples are: 30-40°F, and 80-95% relative humidity (RH). Within that range, colder and more humid is the best (30-32°F, and 90-95% relative humidity). In many cases, it will be hard to sync both temperature and humidity. If you can keep the fruit near 32°F, you can get away with a little less humidity (80-85% RH). On the other hand, if you can only get the storage temperature down to 40-50°F, then make sure to raise the relative humidity to 90-95%. Some people run humidifiers in their storage space, while others simply mist the fruit periodically through the winter. Due to the high sugar content of apples, they will freeze at a lower temperature than water. The “freezing point” of apples ranges from 27.8°F to 29.4°F. If apples do get frozen, their quality will quickly deteriorate—the flesh will soften and rot will ensue.
As a general rule of thumb, apples held at 40°F will age and decay twice as quickly as those held at 30°F. Apples held at 50°F will age twice as fast as those held at 40°F. At 70°F, the speed of deterioration doubles again. Whatever storage facilities you have available, try to keep the temperature consistent. Large temperature swings will cause more respiration and thus faster decay.
If you are storing your apples in a refrigerator, be sure to keep the apples in perforated plastic bags. The plastic will help retain moisture (refrigerators are drying agents), and the perforations will allow carbon dioxide to escape. In the absence of perforated bags, you can use unperforated polyethylene bags, but do not tie them shut—once the fruit is cooled in the refrigerator, simply fold over the open ends. Be sure that your refrigerator isn't set too cold; you don't want to store the fruit in the back of the fridge and forget about them, only to have them freeze and rot!
If you don't have enough refrigerator space and your cellar or basement is too warm, you can try storing your fruit in insulated containers in an unheated room or outbuilding—but be sure the temperature in the containers doesn't drop below 30 degrees!
It is best to store apples in shallow layers, because there is less chance of bruising the fruit on the bottom with the weight of the fruit on the top. Shallow layers are also easier to inspect and pick through!
Shriveling is caused by rapid respiration of the fruit (the apples are using up their reserves in response to an environment that is either too dry or too warm). However, shriveled fruit is perfectly fine to cook with, because the cooking process naturally softens the fruit. If you're like some of us on the farm, you may find that the altered texture doesn't bother you enough to prevent you from enjoying the raw fruit out of hand.
If any fruits are damaged with handling, be sure to use those first. Damaged fruits will give off ethylene gas more rapidly, and this ethylene causes surrounding fruit to ripen faster. Thus the saying, “one bad apple spoils the barrel!”
Wherever you decide to store your apples, make sure you can access them on a regular basis, in order to: a) monitor how the apples are doing, make adjustments if necessary, cull any rotting fruit, and—most importantly—procure fruit to use! Perhaps you have heard the adage, “The best fertilizers are the footsteps of the farmer.” The same principle holds true for storing apples: the apples that keep the best are those that are monitored and cared for regularly.
Happy Storing (and Eating)!
Recipes of the Week
Apple & Roquefort Pizza
We made our annual pilgrimage to western MA this past weekend to participate in Franklin County Cider Days – a celebration of all things apple. I was listening to a lecture on perry when I noticed that my friend Annette who was sitting next to me was scribbling a note to her husband. Being curious I leaned over to get in on some good gossip only to read, “Let’s have pizza with apples, Roquefort cheese and bacon tonight”. Now that was interesting. So when we pulled into Palermo last night after the five-hour drive from Greenfield, I decided to steal her idea and give it a try. Of course it was way too late to make pizza dough, so I substituted a couple of tortillas I had in the freezer. They worked great although I’m sure a thin pizza crust would be much better. Since I don’t eat meat, I replaced the bacon with some toasted walnuts, but try the bacon if you like. Annette is a fabulous cook so I’m sure her instincts are good.
1 Tbs – 2 Tbs olive oil
1 onion – sliced thin
2 Grimes Golden apples – cored and sliced thin
¼ cup walnuts – chopped and lightly toasted
¾ cup Roquefort cheese – crumbled
Parmesan cheese – grated
Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.
Heat the olive oil over a low heat in a sauté pan or skillet. Add the onions, and sauté, stirring every few minutes, till they are soft and beginning to caramelize, approximately 20 minutes. Remove the onions to a plate and set aside.
Add the apples to the pan that the onions were in and sauté them over low heat until they begin to soften and turn brown on the edges, 5-8 minutes. Don’t let them become too soft or start to break down. Remove from heat.
Dust a pizza stone or pan with corn meal, and stretch the pizza dough out on it. Brush the outer edge with olive oil and sprinkle lightly with coarse salt.
Spread the onions across the top of the pizza, then arrange the apple slices over them. Scatter the walnuts (or bacon) evenly over the pizza. Crumble the Roquefort cheese on top, and slide into the hot oven. Remove when the edge starts to bubble and turn brown – approximately 7-10 minutes.
Grate Parmesan cheese over the top of the hot pizza.
Slice and enjoy.
Apple and Pear Shortcake
I have been ignoring a bag of beautiful pears that has been sitting in our summer kitchen for the past two weeks. I’m not really a fan of pears – I don’t enjoy biting into all that grittiness. But tonight I came across a recipe for Apple and Pear Compote that inspired me to combine the pears with the two gorgeous Black Oxford apples that were sitting on my counter. I imagined the fruit releasing their juices into the pan as they cooked so I decided those juices needed something to soak them up. I flipped through the cookbooks – pound cake, sponge cake, crepes – I even briefly considered scones. Then I remembered shortcake biscuits. They turned out to be the perfect thing. Who says shortcake is only for strawberries?
For the Shortcake:
2 cups flour
4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1 Tbs sugar
1/3 cup cold butter or other shortening – cut into small cubes
2/3 cup milk
2 Tbs applesauce or 1 large egg beaten
Put the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse 2 times. Remove the lid, and sprinkle pieces of butter across the top of the flour. Replace the lid, and pulse six times until the mixture resembles fine crumbs.
Add the milk and applesauce (or egg) to the crumb mixture, mixing just until combined. Spread the mixture into a greased 8x8 cake pan or form into biscuit shapes, 2-3” in diameter, and set on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Bake at 350 for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
For the Compote:
2 cups apple cider
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1 Tbs brown sugar
2 Tbs unsalted butter
2 medium (about 1 lb total) Black Oxford apples - cored and thinly sliced
2 medium (about 1 1/2 lbs total) pears – cored and thinly sliced
1 tsp vanilla
Combine apple juice, vinegar, and brown sugar in medium saucepan. Simmer on medium-high, uncovered, stirring occasionally until reduced to ½ cup, 15-20 min.
Melt the butter in a saute pan over medium-low heat. Add the apples and pears. Cook, stirring occasionally until the fruit begins to soften. Stir in the reduced apple cider, and cook 10 minutes more until the juice has thickened slightly and the fruit looks like it will melt in your mouth.
Cut the shortbread into nine pieces, and split each in half from side to side. Place the shortbreads in individual bowls and spoon the warm compote over them. Spoon some juice over each.
Serve as is or with maple or vanilla yogurt, cream, whipped cream or ice cream. Enjoy the flavors of fall.
...And this marks the end of our ninth season! Thanks for joining us this year. We hope you've enjoyed tasting your way through the many apple varieties this region has to offer. If you have any comments, questions, suggestions, or recipes you'd like to share, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Cammy, John, Emily, John Paul, Jordan, Jen, and Laura