Posts tagged apples
Posts tagged apples
Maine is beautiful in the summer. I am certainly not going to argue with that. But really, fall is my favorite season here. The nights are cool, you can break out warmer sweaters without having to bundle up in winter boots and coats and hats and gloves every time you leave the house, the trees turn beautiful colors, and it’s apple season.
I can’t wait.
I signed up for the Out on a Limb apple CSA again this year, so I’m looking forward to a wide variety of unusual apples. For those of you further afield, or not excited about quite so many apples, New England farmer’s markets are full of apples come fall.* And apple picking is probably the most wonderful of all pick-your-own experiences, what with the shade, cooler weather, ease of picking, and mulled cider and/or cider donuts (always and, never or).
We got our first Out on a Limb newsletter today, in advance of our first pickup tomorrow. I find the newsletter fascinating, although I now accept that some people do not (“Don’t eat those first! They save well. Didn’t you read the newsletter?” “No.” “It’s half the fun of the CSA!” “…”). In any case, this newsletter had a whole section on some of the common blemishes that you might find on non-grocery-store apples that I thought would be of wider interest to people buying local apples:
What are those spots on my apples?!
The apples you receive from OOAL CSA will probably never be as “perfect” as the ones you can buy in the grocery store. (Of course, we think that they are all perfect in their own way.) So, what are those various spots and blemishes that you’ll see from time to time on the fruit? Do they taste bad? Are they bad for you or your family?
Round blackish spots about the size of a small thumb tack are probably “scab”. Scab is the most common fungal defect found on apples in Maine. In extreme cases, it can completely cover the fruit, making it inedible, and it can even defoliate a tree. The most susceptible variety to scab is McIntosh. Most of the heirlooms and other varieties we provide are resistant to scab. While you may find a small scab spot here and there, it won’t negatively affect the fruit.
Sometimes you might see a light tan bump on the skin. Usually these are bug bites that have healed over. Cut them out if you like, but they rarely damage the fruit or cause any off-taste.
Tiny black dots in clusters of a dozen or so are called “fly speck”. They usually show up in conjunction with a smoky film called “sooty blotch”. Both are fungal defects. Neither is harmful in any way, nor do they have any taste.
None of these dings or spots or blemishes is bad for you or your family. Feel free to cut them out – or leave them!
I can confirm from experience that sooty blotch and fly speck are not noticeable when you’re eating apples. They also offer the unique pleasure of being able to use the phrase “sooty blotch” in conversation.
* It’s actually not been a great year for apples, unfortunately, but I’d still be really surprised if you didn’t see apples at farmer’s markets.
Hi Guys. I need help. I have a lot of apples in my fridge. A lot a lot. I have had apple crisp for breakfast and dessert every single day this week. Some of the apples are slowly getting squishy. We have moved beyond the point where an apple in a braised cabbage recipe or two apples in a tea cake will solve our problems.
Do you have suggestions beyond applesauce? Has anyone ever canned pickled apples?
This Wednesday I picked up my first of my Out on a Limb apple CSA share of the season, and yesterday I made my first apple crisp of the season, and this morning I had my first breakfast of apple crisp of the season. I am thrilled about apple season.
Even better, it seems to be a great year for apples. Last year was a little rough because of the warm, early spring followed by a series of hard frosts (fruit trees in general do not enjoy that type of bait and switch). But this year things look really good!
The Out on a Limb program is dedicated to distributing (local and) unusual historic and modern apple varieties. Every two weeks we get about 10 pounds of apples along with a newsletter describing the history, flavor, and recommended uses for the apples.
Here’s a note about apples: they vary a huge amount, not just in flavor but in texture and in the way they react to cooking. This means there are dessert apples well suited to eating raw, sauce apples that break down well in a sauce, pie apples that hold their shape and have nice flavor when baked, and cider apples that I don’t actually know a huge amount about but which are presumably well suited for cider pressing. My Joy of Cooking has a chart outlining different apple varieties and which are good for which use, but that seems like a lot to remember, and it’s also not comprehensive because there are just so many varieties of apples and new varieties have become popular since it was published (Gala, for instance, and Honeycrisp). If you’re buying apples or picking for a particular purpose, I’d recommend asking the farmer or fruit seller for advice. Or just playing around! But know that a sauce apple might make for a pretty flat pie. Or pie apples in applesauce might make for a chunkier sauce. I also sometimes cut my losses by mixing a variety of apples together.
The apples in the picture above are Garden Royal, originating in Sudbury, MA around 1790. According to this week’s apple newsletter:
“Garden Royal is one of the more famous dessert apples of the past. AJ Downing, in the 1860 edition of his Fruits and Fruit Trees of America, calls it ‘very tender, juicy, rich, vinous, aromatic, a beautiful and excellent fruit.’ Garden Royal fell out of favor as commercial nurseries and commercial orcharding became popular. The tree itself grows slowly in the nursery and rarely produces large apples.”
These apples also have sooty blotch, which is ugly, but apparently harmless and tasteless. So they’re kind of unappealing looking when stacked up next to some of the lovelier apples we got in our share this week. But prettiness actually doesn’t have much to do with tastiness, and there were some seriously ugly apples last year that were surprising and wonderful.
A link to another article about apples and biodiversity from Smithsonian magazine.
Apples are amazing.
1. I just made another crisp, this time being really careful about using apples that my little CSA apple handout says are good for baking. It was completely different from the first crisp (I suspect I used apples rated for baking AND sauce in that one). It was delicious, but instead of disintegrating almost completely,* the apples retained their shape** and even, sort of, texture really well in the crisp. I used some Priscilla apples and some Wolf River apples. The Wolf Rivers are dry, and I think actually the crisp was a tiny bit too dry, so next time I’ll mix in more of another variety.
But then I started thinking about how two varieties of the same fruit behave COMPLETELY differently when cooked and it blew my mind a little bit. Genetic variation in apples is amazing.
2. The apple CSA last week also included a bag of Gray Pearmains, which are crazy and delicious. They look really weird, kind of grayish (imagine that) and taste like a more flavorful asian pear. Here’s the blurb from the handout:
“Late Fall. Unknown origin. If you had your eyes closed, you’d think you were eating a crisp, delicious pear. Reminiscent of a Bosc. The best of both worlds, it is a juicy and mildly tart dessert apple. Dense sweetness. Firm white flesh. Also produces good juice. We eat a lot of them every year. The skin is a soft opaque greenish-yellow with a rosy pink blush, a bit of a russet veil, and a grayish bloom. Will store reasonably well although it may shrivel like a Golden Russet. One of the most popular of the many unusual varieties Steve and Marilyn Meyerhans grow at the Apple Farm in Fairfield, Maine. There were five or six of the trees in the orchard when they purchased it over thirty years ago from Royal Wentworth. Those trees were already very old. Unfortunately they never thought to ask the soft-spoken Wentworth about the origin of the apple. Recently we found a brief mention of it in a 19th century Maine Ag report growing in Skowhegan (very near the Meyerhans) but with no further details. Its origin may forever remain a mystery. Grown using IPM (integrated pest management), from The Apple Farm.”
They’re delicious and not at ALL what you expect from an apple from Maine.
* The disintegrating apple crisp was a little disappointing hot, but once it was cold it was actually really satisfying because it solidified a bit.
** Credit where credit is due: I left the skins on based on the advice of my little brother, and he was totally right. They may have helped the apples stay together, and at the very least, they were tasty and unobtrusive. I have decided that all crisps from now on will have apple skins. In addition, if I wanted to be fussy about cooking apples, I would be making tarte tartin. And I’m not.
Photo from the LIFE Photo Archive on Google. Taken in Portsmouth, NH in 1963 by Leonard Mccombe.
I wish this photo wasn’t blurry.
These are the apples I’ve been enjoying from the Out on a Limb CSA. When you last heard from me on the apple CSA topic, I was feeling moderately to extremely irate about how they signed up my husband instead of me. They since wrote me a really nice email apologizing, and explaining how it happened, and when I went to pick up my last share, my name was on the list, and it was all very nicely handled and I get to go back to feeling awesome and happy about the apples.
The apples are great! They have a one-page little fact sheet, with information about the apples and their origins, and the apples are all packaged and labeled so you don’t get confused re: which is which, and I love it.
In addition to the applesauce extravaganza, I also recently made apple crisp with the CSA apples when my little brother was staying over. My little brother and I are weirdly similar on a number of fronts (except for some obvious age/gender related differences), and particularly when it comes to our feelings about dessert. For instance:
Pie > Cake
Ice Cream > Most Things
Apple Crisp = Dessert AND Apple Crisp = Breakfast
Unfortunately, the apple crisp was not as awesomely good as I wanted it to be. The apples sort of disintegrated when I was cooking. My brother suggested that if I had left the peels on, that might have helped things stay together, and he’s probably right, but I think I also used a disintegrating apple variety rather than a not-disintegrating apple variety.* It was still fine though, because even a not-great crisp is better than no crisp.
The next morning I packed my brother off to school without having the crisp for breakfast, because it seemed like giving your brother crisp for breakfast and nothing else and then sending him to school is not the kind of thing a responsible adult does. I mean, he has a long wait between breakfast and lunch, and I wanted to make sure he had a decent meal. However, when I had crisp for lunch, the fridge had made it amazing, and I regretted that my brother didn’t get to enjoy the less-disappointing version of the crisp. During its cold overnight sojourn, the bottom layer had solidified a bit, and also blended more fully with the bottom edge of the crisp topping into a lovely buttery topping/apple mix. It was super good.
Crisp is pretty straightforward. I used Mark Bittman’s recipe (the link is from his Minimalist column in the New York Times, but it’s the same as the one in his How To Cook Everything cookbook):
Mark Bittman’s Apple Crisp Recipe
I did get my act together to make applesauce, and I made a pretty big batch (for me). When I’ve been making dilly beans, I make 4 pints at a time, so I process them in my new lobster pot with a round cooling rack on the bottom, which is smaller and easier to deal with than the big lobster/canning pot. However, I had a lot of apples, and once you’re wiping your counters down with bleach and boiling shit, it does seem like a go big or go home situation.
This is only a very small portion of the apples I washed and peeled and cored.
I don’t know that I’d call 7 pints “going big” by the standards of people who can regularly, but it counts for me.
I had a bit of a revelation this time around, though. Normally I use a microplane to peel some of the apples so I can keep the peels in with the apples (because it seems like the right thing to do with regards to fiber and nutrients and pretty pink color, but I can’t really back that up). If you leave the peels on, they don’t cook down as quickly as the apples do, and they remain kind of tough in the sauce. But if you chop them up small or grate them, then they cook faster and aren’t swimming around in there in chunks. It is annoying to zest a large number of apples, though, so I started peeling them and then stuffing the peels in my food processor and whizzing them, which worked really nicely.
Anyway, peeling and chopping that number of apples takes forever. And then I got to the bag with the Martha apples.
You have got to be fucking kidding me. But no. Not kidding.
Martha Crab Apples are really, really small.
Another note about applesauce: I like to use a variety of apples (even when I don’t have six different varieties in paper bags in my fridge), because I think it makes better and more interesting and more apple-y tasting applesauce. That does mean that the apples don’t cook down totally evenly. Get it so they’re mostly cooked down and then use a potato masher and then, as you’re stirring at the end, mash up any big apple pieces with the back of your spoon.
And because you’re using different varieties of apples, the sweetness varies by batch. Generally, I add a small amount of sugar and some lemon juice. I also add some spices, but not much, because I like the applesauce to be pretty versatile. Before you pack everything into jars and process them, though, taste the sauce and adjust the sugar.
In the end the whole process was easier than I remembered. But maybe I’ve just gotten more used to it.*
* Also, I learned this time around that it’s normal with applesauce to have some of the sauce ooze out of the jars when you process them or immediately after. I was always really worried about that, but the seal was always good.
Dinner was a disappointment,* but breakfast, guys, breakfast was awesome.
First, I had my main man** around, which was great.
Second, I had a fantastic cold brewed vietnamese iced coffee:
Third, our New York Times was successfully delivered and at our front door, which does not happen as consistently as I would wish.
Fourth, I had some nice Maiden Blush apples, sliced and cooked in butter with a little bit of brown sugar over steel cut oats with maple syrup. This is just about my favorite breakfast ever.
The apples were great, tart but also sweeter than I expected. I cut them up into wedges and laid them into my cast iron skillet with some butter and just left them there for a while til they browned and got all melty. When they got close to done I added some brown sugar.
Meanwhile, I cooked the oats with equal parts water and milk (1 part oats to 2 and a little bit parts liquid, about 1/3 cup to 1/2 cup oats per person). Bring to a boil, then turn down and simmer for 10 - 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Once they’re done, toss the apples on top of the oats, pour a little bit of maple syrup and voila. Best breakfast ever.
* I don’t know how I feel about this phrase, “main man,” but I’m looking for the male equivalent of “best lady” here.
I want to make this, but probably with apples, because I have a lot of apples at home.
Other things I am excited about making with my apples: