As November nears, we residents of Super Chilly Farm can be found harvesting the last of the storage crops, composting leftover crop debris, and putting the gardens to bed with a thick blanket of hay mulch. A freeze is forecast for this week, which means we’ll soon pick the rest of our apples to store in the cellar. It’s also time to harvest cabbage, kohlrabi, and celeriac. And now that our cellars have cooled down, we’ll be digging potatoes, carrots, and beets next.
In early November, we will also dig a couple hundred young trees that we grafted two years ago, to bring them to the Fedco Trees warehouse for the winter. Come spring, they will be planted at the Maine Heritage Orchard and extras will then be sold through Fedco. Though now we are surrounded by the end-of-season decay, we cannot help but think of renewal. As we dig our trees, we will think ahead to their new lives when they are re-planted in April. The same goes for potatoes, which we eat through the winter and save the last few for seed. We look ahead to springtime when the season begins anew.
Picks of the week:
Blake (organically grown)
Although this year’s apple crop is nowhere near as epic as last year’s, it has been full of surprises for us, and we hope for you as well. We love when we can include a variety in your share that we have never offered before, and this week we are smashing all previous records with three first-timers.
Part of the fun of doing the CSA is not only introducing you to different varieties, but learning about them ourselves in the process. One of the varieties, Sandow, is so new to us that we didn’t even know its name it until Sunday afternoon when John finally identified it. And another, Blake, has proven so elusive, that after years of sleuthing, John is still not sure that he has found the real McCoy. But since it has the right coloring, shape, season and location, we’re letting it wear the moniker “Blake” for now. It is a tart apple that is good for cooking and also will be enjoyed by those who like a little pucker in their apple. Finally, let’s not forget the last newcomer, Turley Winesap. We hadn’t tasted this one before, but we much prefer it to its parent Winesap. Like the Sandow, it is ultra juicy, crisp and great for fresh eating.
For those of you who split your CSA share, we apologize that difficult negotiations might be required to divide the Turley Winesaps, Blakes and Sandows. There aren’t as many as we would like to give you, but we hope that one or two apples are better than none at all. And you will surely be the first ones on your block to try these rare varieties so bragging rights are included in your share.
Down below these new varieties, you will find some more familiar names: Gray Pearmain, Blue Pearmain, Rhode Island Greening, and Winter Banana are perennial OOAL favorites. These are the first of the winter keeper apples. The latter three are renowned for their cooking qualities, although it is not uncommon to find members of the OOAL crew snacking on a fresh Blue Pearmain. The Gray Pearmain, however, is the perfect dessert apple though if you close your eyes, you might be convinced you are eating a pear. Before you take a bite of these Pearmains, take a moment to admire them – it is hard to imagine more spectacular looking fruit.
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.
Have you ever wondered why the apples at the supermarket are smooth-skinned, waxy and a shiny red, yellow or green while so many of the apples in your OOAL CSA share are blotched with a rough brown suede? There is a reason for it – many in the commercial apple industry have decided that those russet streaks, stars, nets and patches are “bad” and that “good” apples shouldn’t have them.
The rough brown coating on many apples, such as Gray Pearmain, Golden Russet, and Black Oxford, is known as russeting. We have always described it as a “skin condition”. Recently, John and I took a trip to the USDA apple repository in Geneva, NY that houses the largest collection of apple species and varieties in the world. As we tasted our way though the rows and rows of trees, we were joined by the head curator, Thomas Chao and a graduate student, Dan, who is investigating the reasons for russeting on 100 apple varieties and its possible nutritional benefits. Dan explained that apples develop russet on their skin when the flesh of the apple grows at a faster rate than the epidermal layer. When this happens, the outer layer of skin ruptures, and the corky layer underneath protrudes through. This corky layer has the rough, brown surface we call russet. Some varieties exhibit a russet star around their cavity. Dan told us this appears to be the result of the stem irritating and abrading the skin of the apple. The rubbing of the stem causes the skin to crack, and the corky layer beneath seals the wound similar to the way a scab forms when we cut ourselves.
Dan was reluctant to draw any conclusions yet about his research into the nutritional benefits of russeting. However, Thomas was happy to speculate about the possible impact on the orchard industry if it were discovered that russet apples are better for you than that Red Delicious that we’ve been led to believe will keep the doctor away. We’ve got our fingers crossed.
Recipes of the Week
Green Chile-Apple Bread
I have a rule that when I get a new cookbook, I have to pass on an old one to someone else. I was perusing Mark Miller’s Indian Market Cookbook, wondering whether its time had come, when I came across a recipe I had never noticed before. Green Chile-Apple Bread caught my eye because it had “apple” in the title and also because I’m a fan of green chile-apple pie – a paring I had never seen in any other recipe. Mark Miller says that the “common seasonality (of apples and chiles) and complementary flavor tones make them a natural pairing” in NM cuisine. Who knew? We think Maine apples and chiles work well together too. The recipe below is just as it is given in the Indian Market Cookbook. However, I made few substitutions. Instead of 3 pureed apples, I used 1 cup of tart homemade applesauce. Because I never use bread flour, I used all-purpose flour plus a cup of whole-wheat flour – ½ cup added to the sponge and ½ cup added when kneading. It seemed to work to the delight of all the diners. Oh yes, Indian Market Cookbook went back onto my cookbook shelf. -Cammy
2 cups unbleached bread flour
2 Tbs fresh yeast or 1 Tbs active dry yeast
3 Tbs honey
¾ cup warm (100°F) water
1½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1½ tsp salt
3 green Anaheim or other roasting chiles – roasted, peeled, seeded and chopped
3 tart green apples – cored and pureed
3 Tbs cornmeal
In a large bowl mix 1 cup of the bread flour with the yeast, honey and warm water. Cover with a damp towel or plastic wrap, and allow the sponge to rise in a warm place for 20-30 minutes, until doubled in size.
Stir down the sponge, and add the remaining bread flour, the all-purpose flour (adjusting the amount if necessary), salt, chopped chiles, and applesauce, stirring until the dough is soft and smooth.
Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface. Knead the dough for 5 to 10 minutes, until smooth and elastic. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, and turn to coat it thoroughly. Cover with a damp towel, and let the dough rise in a warm place for 45-60 minutes, or until it has doubled in size.
Punch the dough down and divide it into 2 pieces, shaping them into round loaves. Place the loaves on a baking sheet that has been sprinkled with the cornmeal, and allow the dough to rise again in a warm place for 45 minutes, or until doubled in size. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Sprinkle the loaves with a little flour, and slash the tops with a sharp knife or razor blade, making cuts about 3” long and ½” deep. Bake in the preheated oven for 25 minutes, or until the loaves sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. Remove from the oven, and turn out onto a rack to cool.
Baked Apples with Bourbon-Soaked Raisins
(makes six servings)
When I think of comfort food, my mind conjures up an image of baked apples. I looked up the definition of “comfort food” on the internet, and there seem to be as many meanings as there are ways to make mac ’n cheese. The one that caught my eye is from the Free Dictionary. It reads, “Food that is simply prepared and associated with a sense of home or contentment”. Bingo – baked apples. On a blustery fall day, after eight hours of picking and packing apples, that is exactly what I want - that and maybe a nice, hot soak in the tub. This recipe comes from Rowan Jacobsen’s Apples of Uncommon Character. If like us, you don’t have any bourbon handy, you can substitute rum or apple brandy. Blue Pearmain is the perfect apple for baking, but Rowan suggests trying this with Romes, which are likely to be in your share in two weeks. Try both, and see which one you find more comforting. And a word of warning before you decide that you want to make this recipe for dinner tonight: the raisins need to soak in the bourbon 8-12 hours if you really want to feel contented. -Cammy
1 cup pecans, chopped
¾ cup bourbon-soaked raisins
zest and juice of one lemon
6 TBS butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar
pinch of nutmeg
6 medium-large apples
2/3 cup sweet cider
Place 1 cup of raisins in a glass jar. Add ¾ cup of bourbon. (Rum or apple brandy works too.) Put a lid on the jar, and store at room temperature for 8-12 hours before using in this recipe.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Toast the pecans in the oven or toaster oven on a medium-low setting or in a dry, cast iron pan over medium-low heat until they are dark brown. Watch them carefully, and stir them often so they don’t burn. Cool.
Combine all the ingredients except the apples and cider in a bowl. Mix so that the butter and sugar is distributed throughout the nuts and raisins.
Core the apples - be careful to leave the bottom intact. Scoop out the seeds, and make a bowl-shaped cavity inside the apple. A melon-baller works well for this.
Place the cored apples in a baking pan. Fill the cavities of each apple with the raisin-butter mix. Save any extra to add later during cooking. Pour the cider around the apples.
Cover the baking pan with foil, and bake 40 minutes. Remove the foil, add any extra filling to the apple cavities, and bake 15-20 minutes more. Use a fork to test the apples for doneness. They are ready when the fork pushes easily into the flesh.
Remove the apples from the oven, and cool for five minutes. Before serving, pour the cider sauce from the pan over the top of the apples.
We hope you enjoy your share from week #4. If you have any comments, questions, or suggestions, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.