So, we now have one pickup under our belt, and we hope you are happy with your first parcel of apples! Throughout the season we will be providing you with information about the fruit you are receiving, along with suggested recipes and uses for them, but we also liked the idea of you the members being able to share your own recipes, uses, experiences, opinions, comments and questions with us and with each other. To that end, Out On A Limb is leaping straight into the modern age and creating a CSA blog. After every pickup we will publish the newsletter/variety info here as a blog post, and then you can reply with all your apple-related thoughts via the comments. Here is the first newsletter in digital form:
Out on a Limb Apple CSA Newsletter
Wednesday, September 2nd
We are focusing on three apples in this first delivery. These are Duchess (of Oldenberg), Paula Red, and Prima. Duchess is the most important hardy apple tree in the world. It is excellent in sauce and makes an outstanding pie. For a very quick applesauce, do as John does most mornings: cut up two or three apples, add a tiny bit of water and cook for a few minutes. You’ll have wonderful sauce.
Duchess of Oldenburg
Late Summer. Russia, 17th c. Also called Duchess. In 1835 the Massachusetts Horticultural Society imported the first of many apple varieties from Russia. These were Alexander, Tetofsky, Red Astrichan and Duchess of Oldenburg. Duchess was planted extensively wherever growers needed extreme hardiness and is still quite popular in most of northern New England. This is Aroostook County’s favorite apple. Thought to be a parent of the famous Canadian variety New Brunswicker and a parent of Dudley Winter. Medium-sized round red-striped fruit is irregularly splashed and mottled with crimson. The flesh is yellow, firm, fine-grained, crisp,tender, juicy, slightly tart, and aromatic. Highly esteemed for all sorts of cooking; Duchess is one of the best pie apples for coldest districts. Makes a pie with a tart flavorful zip and cooks up quickly into thick creamy delicious sauce. Prolific,precocious, small to medium-sized adaptable tree. Duchess seedlings are used as an extremely hardy rootstock called Borowinka. Blooms early. Scab resistant and grows in Zones 3-4.
Late Summer. Seedling of unknown parentage discovered in Sparta Michigan in 1960 and introduced in 1967. Paula Red is a perfect early season apple for fresh eating, though it quickly breaks down in cooking (i.e. great for sauce, but will not hold its shape in a pie.) Medium-sized, bright purple-red fruit, that is gaining a lot of fans in central Maine. Not as dark red as Macoun or Black Oxford, it resembles McIntosh in appearance, and has firm, crisp, juicy, mildly tart flesh. Commercial orchards are growing more of them because customers are asking for them. The tree is well-shaped, medium in size, productive, and regularly bearing. Grows in Zones 4-6.
Early Fall. (PRI Coop, 1970.) The first variety to be released by the cooperative efforts of the Agricultural Experiment Stations at three different Universities: Purdue, Rutgers, and Illinois. (The apple’s name comes from an acrostic of the names of those three institutions, PRI.) This was one of the first disease-resistant varieties to hit the market, and now is one of the tried and true. Although many nurseries and orchards have dropped Prima in favor of newer “designer” varieties, we still think very highly of it. Medium-large roundish fruit has a rich yellow skin with a striking orange-red blush. Resembles Jonathan, which is buried somewhere in its convoluted parentage. Mildly tart crisp white flesh provides excellent eating and makes good sauce and cider. Keeps about a month in cool storage. Open spreading, early blooming tree bears annually if kept thinned, and is proving to be hardier than anyone thought. Scab immune and resistant to fireblight, cedar apple rust, and mildew. Grows in Zones 4-6.
Steve and Marilyn Meyerhans
For over thirty years, Steve and Marilyn Meyerhans have been growing apples in central Maine, first in Fairfield at the Apple Farm and more recently also in Manchester at Lakeside Orchards. They grow over 30 varieties, some of which are quite rare. In particular we will feature their Gray Pearmains in mid-October. Both locations are open now through the fall. You can purchase fruit on location as well as do U-pick. Of the two spots, Fairfield includes the widest assortment of varieties. Originally growing apples on 24 acres, they are currently managing about 90 acres, 12 of which are organic. Steve and Marilyn have been endlessly generous with me over the years with their time, fruit and scionwood. A great deal of what I've learned has come from them. They are regular visitors to Super Chilly Farm. Both are active members of the Maine Pomological Society.
First Apple Pie Recipe of the Season - Cassie’s Favorite Apple Pie: (Made just this week with Duchess Apples!)
This is a classic French pâte brisée crust—I usually use the traditional butter, but if I am lucky enough to have someone who raises pigs give me some rendered leaf lard, I will sub that for half the butter and it is a delicious match w/ the apples!
1/2 pound (1 cup) cold butter cut into small pieces
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup ice water (plus more if needed)
1 tablespoon sugar, if you like a slightly sweetened crust
Combine dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl, cut in butter with a pastry cutter, or your fingers. Work butter in until texture of coarse crumbs with some larger pieces remaining. (If using your hands work quickly to make sure you do not warm the butter more than necessary!) Sprinkle mixture with ice water just until dough holds together w/o being wet or sticky. (Or, in the bowl of a food processor, combine flour and salt; pulse to combine. Add butter, until it reaches the above consistency, about 10 seconds. With machine running, add ice water through feed tube in a slow, steady stream. Do not process more than 30 seconds. ) Test by squeezing a small amount of dough together; if it is still too crumbly, add a bit more water, 1 tablespoon at a time.
Turn dough onto a clean work surface. Divide in half, and place each half on a piece of plastic wrap. Shape into flattened disks. Wrap in the plastic, and refrigerate at least 1 hour or up to 2 days. When ready to make, roll out one disk on lightly floured surface into a12 inch circle, lay it in pie dish and refrigerate while making filling. Heat oven to 425.˚
I like this filling because it is light on the spices, and lets you really taste the apples, not just the “apple pie spice.”
4 lbs Duchess apples—cored and cut into 1/2 – 3/4” slices (the question of to peel-or-not-to-peel is totally subjective, I go either way depending on my mood.) Toss with:
3/4 - 1 cup sugar (When I made this with the Duchess apples last night it was quite tart, so I would err on the side of more sugar…)
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tsp lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
Turn into the chilled pie shell, mounding in the center. Roll out 2nd disk and lay over the filling, fold edges under themselves onto lip of pie plate and pinch to crimp together. Cut 4 slits in the top of the pie. Bake for 25 minutes, then take out and brush top of crust w/ 1 beaten egg white, and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon sugar. Lower heat to 375˚, return pie to oven and bake until juices are bubbling and crust is deep golden brown, 35 to 40 minutes longer. Transfer pie to wire rack to cool (or windowsill—but beware thieving cartoon characters.) Delicious as soon as it’s cool enough to eat, after a few hours at room temperature, or cold tomorrow for breakfast!