Is it fall or is it still summer? It seems mother nature is having difficulty deciding, as the weather last week drifted back up into the 70s while the bright backdrop of turning leaves left us confused about whether to dress in sweaters or t-shirts. Hurry up, we say! We can't wait for more cold to arrive, so we can warm our frosty fingers with mugs of spicy mulled cider. We haven't gotten a killing frost yet, but already, our minds have almost completely shifted from our fall garden harvest to the delicious pome fruits that we pick and bag and cook into an endless array of pies, crisps, and sauces. And we can't get enough.
Thanks to all the CSA members who joined us at the Maine Heritage Orchard in Unity last Sunday to help prepare the soil so that we can plant over 100 heritage apples next spring. It was inspiring to see all the shoveling, wheeling, and dumping of compost and soil amendments that got done in short order by the enthusiastic and hardworking volunteers. Everyone went home well fed thanks to the efforts of our newest CSA member Nan Cobbey who pitched in with the kitchen crew to cook up a delicious lunch.
Apple Tasting and Other Upcoming Events
Just a reminder that we will be tasting apples, cheese and Kennebec Hard Cider at Vinolio in Belfast this coming Thursday from 5-7pm. Mention that you belong to OOAL CSA and you will receive a 10% discount on cheese, olive oil and vinegar. If you are in Portland on Friday, come to the Rosemont Produce Company to learn about John's efforts to track down some elusive apple varieties in Cumberland County. There will be unusual apples to taste. Visit http://outonalimbcsa.wordpress.com/calendar for more details and other events.
This week's picks:
We are such apple nerds that sometimes on late night drives we play the "Apple Alphabet " game to keep ourselves awake. How many apples can we name that begin with A, B, C…….? Well this week we can name a lot that start with "W" , and four of them are included in your CSA share: Wagener, Whitefield, the gigantic Wolf River, and the tongue-twister Westfield-Seek-No-Further. This is the first time we have offered either Westfield or Whitefield so we would love to hear what you think. Whitefield holds up well to our early cooking experiments so we think it might be good for pies and tarts. Westfield-Seek-No-Further is great just about any way you can think of - fresh, cooked and dried. And if you don't feel the urge to turn your Wolf Rivers into a pie or magnificent baked apple, just leave them on your counter and watch every person that comes in your kitchen make a bee-line for them and pick them up. It happens at every display John does. But "W" is not the only letter represented in your share this week. The three others, C (Cox's Orange Pippin), P (Pomme Grise), and N (Nodhead), are distinctive enough to stand on their own. We think you'll be bowled over by the flavor packed into the diminutive Cox's Orange Pippin and Pomme Grise. Nodhead, while a bit more mellow than the other two, seems to get better with every bite - lots of subtle floral flavors. We hope you enjoy the variety this week. There should be something for everyone in your share.
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.
Out on a Limb Crew Member Spotlight
Abbey grew up in Rhode Island but transplanted to Maine in 2010 when she enrolled at the College of the Atlantic. She splits her time between MDI, Newburgh, and now, as she is back for her second Fall season, Palermo. Abbey first became interested in apples on a whirlwind trip through the orchards of England with a group of students co-taught by John. Interest grew to passion back in Maine when it became apparent that the state is home to hundreds of varieties just waiting to greet her palette. This Fall, Abbey has enjoyed tracking down old trees with John, searching for bitter cider fruit with her main man, Angus, and developing a relationship with her new kitten, Corsamungseus. Outside of apple season, she enjoys most farming activities (everything except picking long rows of summer squash in shorts and a t-shirt), swimming in the glorious lakes and ocean harbors of MDI, and dancing with her friends. Her hope is to one day sip cider beneath the canopy of an apple tree that she planted.
A Few Notes on Applesauce, by Emily Skrobis
For a long time, the thought of applesauce harkened back to my days of brown bag school lunches. I never did care for those little containers of sauce that I considered to be grainy and overly sweet, lacking depth in flavor. In fact, due to this and my distaste for the ubiquitous Red Delicious, I was convinced for most of my adolescence that I just didn't like apples. Which completely changed, of course, when I started working here a few seasons back.
Applesauce, as I firmly believe now, is underrated and beautiful in its simplicity. These days, everything contains such an unbelievable amount of sugar that I simply cannot bear to add it or anything else to my sauces. By using only the apples themselves, especially for varieties I wish to acquaint myself with, I'm able to appreciate their full essence. I wash them, quarter them, core the pieces with a paring knife, chop them and then cook them in a small pot over low heat, covered. I prefer to leave the skins on since they contain so much flavor and the texture doesn't bother me.
I've begun to dabble in single-variety taste tests to compare everything: color, texture, flavor, even how well the apples cook down. My favorite sauce this week is Whitefield, but be warned: it's a bit needy. When you begin to cook them, apples will let you know if they want to be made into sauce. Some varieties will quickly bubble down into their own juices, no questions asked, but it's amazing how reluctant a great deal of them are – no matter how low you turn down the heat or if you generously add water to the pan, they refuse to relax and give themselves over to creamy applesauce bliss. At that point I might just slip them into a grilled cheese sandwich instead. However, there are some varieties that do need a little coaxing - perhaps some water to start them off or a light mashing at the end of the process. It can be a gamble, but sometimes you'll be rewarded. I did a five-variety taste test earlier in the season and decided Sops of Wine (unfortunately too rare to feature in our CSA this year) turned into an incredibly delicious, peach-like (in both texture and taste) apple sauce, despite the necessary added water and some mashing. I even liked it better than Newt Grindle, which was not only a wonderful balance of sweet and tart but also eagerly obedient during the whole process.
Lately I've been eating applesauce as a dessert on its own, sometimes mixing it with yogurt or peanut butter. 98-year-old orchardist Francis Fenton never goes a day without eating hot applesauce and ice cream, which I'm sure is the secret to his longevity! Plain applesauce is a good complement to many foods, particularly breakfast: a pancake topper, a crepe filling, an oatmeal accompaniment, a fruity dip or salsa. Although it's easy to incorporate into a wide variety of baked goods, I generally like to keep it the star of the show. (Coming soon to my kitchen – applesauce smoothies? Applesauce pizza?) I'm eager to do more experimentation as the season progresses. It's often difficult to find the time to bake a pie, so I'm quite interested in anything I can cook up right away and save in the fridge for use later. It's a great way to cook these unique apples without dedicating a lot of time and effort and without the risk of overpowering the flavors with other ingredients. I'm on the lookout for new ways to enjoy this simple applesauce or incorporate it into a recipe. Please let us know if you've found something really good!
Fresh From the Palermo Test Kitchen, by Cammy Watts
I spent the past weekend visiting our youngest daughter, Tracy, who has recently moved to New York City. As we often do when we get together, we cooked a a brunch on Sunday morning for a bunch of her friends. The challenge was what to cook that we could manage to make with the less than adequate counter space available in her NY apartment kitchen. I saw this recipe for baked oatmeal and thought it might be a good replacement for the raspberry scones I usually make; not only did it look easy, I could switch out the bananas for apples - always a plus. I picked up some heirloom apples at the Union Square Farmers' Market although I couldn't find any of the ones we are offering this week. We served the baked oatmeal with some plain yogurt, and the brunch crowd gave it their unanimous endorsement. In fact when I went back for seconds, I was too late.
2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup walnut or almonds, toasted and chopped
1/3 cup sugar or maple syrup, plus more for serving
1 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
Scant 1/2 tsp sea salt
2 cups milk (almond milk works too)
1 large egg
3 TBS unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 firm tart apples - peeled, cored and sliced into 1/4" half moons (try the Whitefields or the Wageners)
1 1/2 cups blueberries or mixed berries (fresh or frozen)
1. Preheat the oven to 375°F with a rack in the top third of the oven. Generously butter the inside of an 8-inch square baking dish.
2. In a bowl mix together the oats, nuts, sugar if using, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt.
3. In another bowl whisk together the maple syrup if using, the milk, egg, half of the butter, and the vanilla.
4. Arrange the apples in a single layer in the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Overlap them so they completely cover the bottom.
5. Sprinkle two-thirds of the berries over the top. Cover the fruit with the oat mixture. Slowly drizzle the milk mixture over the oats. Gently give the baking dish a couple thwacks on the countertop to make sure the milk moves through the oats. Scatter the remaining berries across the top.
6. Bake for 50 minutes, until the top is nicely golden and the oat mixture has set. 7. Remove from the oven and let cool for a few minutes. Drizzle the remaining melted butter on the top and serve.
8. Serve with yogurt and/or maple syrup.
So we can't send you a bagful of Wolf Rivers without at least giving you some suggestions of what to do with them. For our tastes they are too dry for fresh eating, but it's hard to imagine a better apple for baking. In the first year of the CSA we included a recipe for my favorite baked apples, and I still haven't found one I like as well. But I also read Cook's Illustrated on occasion, and so I turned to them to see if they had the definitive word on how best to bake a whole apple.
The main difference between their recipe and my favorite was that they recommended peeling the apples to avoid the disastrous and unsightly collapse of the apple. They also browned the outside of the apples in a skillet before baking to intensify the flavor. Definitely a little fussier than the way I have done it in the past, but probably worth a try. Think I will cook up a batch for John's birthday tomorrow.
Oh yes, one last difference: they used Granny Smith apples (yikes). Perhaps we should send them a care package of Wolf Rivers and see what they can do with them.
If baked apples hold no appeal, check out the Walk-About Apple Pie.
That about wraps up week three! We love feedback. For all your comments, questions, suggestions, and recipe-sharing needs, get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.