Savoring the Seasons: Apples galore!
By MARY MCCLINTOCK
I’ve never seen so many apples on the trees in my yard, in local orchards, and on every gnarly planted-long-ago-by-who-knows-who apple tree I come across as I hike in the woods. I’m seeing lots of trees with apples on them that I didn’t even realize were apple trees.
What an amazing year for apples!
I thought about those old trees a few weeks ago while I roamed around the Common Ground Fair in Maine. Common Ground, the annual fair of the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA), includes many workshops and displays about farming and gardening. One display with LOTS of people clustered around it described the new Maine Heritage Orchard being created on a hillside next to the MOFGA fairground. The 10-acre orchard will preserve over 500 apple and pear varieties traditionally grown on small Maine farms.
Historic fruit specialist John Bunker and others in MOFGA have been on a “statewide treasure hunt” identifying old varieties of apples. They’ve already identified and saved 200 varieties.
Seeing that display at Common Ground made me wonder what varieties of apples I’m seeing when I run across old trees in the woods. I don’t know if anyone in Massachusetts is doing anything like the Maine Heritage Orchard, but Cold Spring Orchard, run by the University of Massachusetts in Belchertown, grows more than 100 varieties of apples, including many heritage (also known as heirloom) varieties. And, many local orchards grow old varieties along with more recent commercial varieties.
One way to learn about old varieties of apples is to attend Cider Days, held across Franklin County on the weekend of Nov. 2-3 (see www.ciderdays.org). Looking at the Cider Days website, I see that John Bunker is giving several talks.
I often write about Cider Days later in October, but wanted to give everyone a heads-up to check out the website to see the special events included in this year’s Cider Days. Many Cider Days events are free, but some, including one of John Bunker’s talks, the cider salon, the harvest supper and others, require tickets. Ticket sales are now open. If you’re interested, don’t wait to buy them. Every year, many of the events sell out very quickly.
I was intrigued with the recipe on the Maine Heritage Orchard brochure because it’s a “hand-held pie” and it features an unfamiliar apple variety, Wolf River apples (see recipe below). Wolf River apples are large cooking apples that were first found near the Wolf River in Wisconsin. Wolf Rivers sound like the Pound Sweets I’ve seen at Clarkdale Fruit Farms. Looking at Clarkdale’s website, I see Wolf River listed as a variety they grow (www.clarkdalefruitfarms.com/fruits).
Clarkdale’s Harvest Festival is this Sunday, Oct. 13, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at their farm store on Upper Road in West Deerfield. They’ll have apple and cider sampling, including heirloom apples. Ask if they’ve picked their Wolf River apples and taste the many old varieties. Perhaps you’ll discover a new favorite.
This week we’re eating ...
SANDY RIVER WALK ABOUT
By Carol Gilbert (from the Maine Heritage Orchard brochure, www.mofga.org)
This is a hand-held pie that you can munch on while you wander through an orchard. It is best when made with an old Maine favorite, the Wolf River apple.
2½ C. flour
1 T. sugar
½ tsp. salt
1 C. shortening or butter
2/3 C. milk
1 egg, separated
1 quart sliced Wolf River apples
1 C. sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 T. butter
Mix flour with salt and 1 T. sugar, then cut in shortening. Beat egg yolk and milk. Add to flour mixture. Toss apples separately with sugar and cinnamon. Roll out half of the dough to fit a greased jelly roll pan. Spread apples on top and dot with butter. Add top crust and cut slits. Brush top with egg whites and sprinkle with sugar. Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes.