The first week of October is when our market really starts to feel like an ‘Apple Market’, and we have a lot of fun re-arranging our market tables and displays to fit them all!
Here are some of the varieties we have had this past week, most of which should still be available through this coming weekend:
Right now at our market, the Crimson Crisp is the belle of the ball. This incredible dessert apple has beautiful, medium thick and glossy skin with a rich, fairy-tale-like red coloring, and an intense, crisp, subacid, tart yellow flesh. It’s a great keeper and we’ve read that it can last up to four months in cold storage after harvest- though we suspect we would eat them all long before then! We haven’t tested it yet in a pie, but we’re hoping someone might take a chance on it for our apple pie contest this year…? The Crimson Crisp was introduced in 1995 from the Rutgers Fruit Research and Development Center, and its parentage is so complex that we’ve decided to just show you a diagram:
RIGHT?? Apple breeding is an amazing science! We will leave you with Doug’s take on this apple, which he exclaimed to Talea after he picked his first Crimson Crisp in our orchard,
“Talea, if this was the Garden of Eden, and this was the apple, I would sin.”
Can’t say more than that!!
The most “local” apple we grow, the Jonathan was born on the farm of Philip Rick, in Woodstock, NY in the early 1800’s, and, as the story goes, it was a seedling of Esopus Spitzenberg. When it is first picked in mid to late September, the Jonathan apple is deliciously sweet, spicy, and cider-y. It’s wonderful in pies right after you pick them, but after being stored, it lends itself better to sauce and sweet cider, as the flesh loses its snap and goes soft. We love the color and beauty of this apple- on the tree it glows a deep red, and stands out in the orchard as one of the prettiest trees. Many people think it grows best in the Midwestern U.S., where it is very popular in the orchards of Michigan, Illinois, and Ohio. Jonathan has parented many of the apples we know and love, such as Jonagold and Idared.
If there’s one thing you should remember about apple varieties and their culinary strengths, the Cortland apple is the VERY BEST apple for making applesauce. There just isn’t anything better, in our opinion. The trick is, you have to cook the apples with the skins on, and then when you run it through a mill, the sauce gets this beautiful pink color, and it has the most delicious sweet-tart taste, and you don’t need to add a single thing to it except a dash of cinnamon.
Cortland is an apple that we think of as very old-fashioned. It’s sturdy looking, with pretty purple-white-red striped skin, and has a very white flesh that has excellent flavor and texture RIGHT after you pick it. If you get a Cortland within days of its harvest, it’s truly delicious in every way. After that, it quickly softens in storage, and gets down to the business of doing what it’s good at, which is being included in sauce, pie, and baking recipes. When you get to know this apple’s parentage, it makes a lot of sense: Cortland is a cross of a McIntosh, which we all think of as a traditional cooking and baking apple, and a Ben Davis, which was a very widely grown apple in the 1800’s, especially in the southern states. The Ben Davis was popular because it stayed on the tree for a good long time with very few drops, produced very large crops with minimal work, and stood up to repeated handling and shipping with very little bruising or damage. It dominated the apple orchards of the south from the Civil War into the early 1900’s, and was known as a “Mortgage Lifter” because of its ability to produce a reasonable crop no matter what. Other than all that, the reading we’ve done on the Ben Davis seems to suggest that taste-wise, it is a rather blah apple, and as a result (we are not meaning to offend anyone out there) it has been called the Red Delicious of the nineteenth century. Based on that, we probably will not try to grow the Ben Davis at Montgomery Place Orchards any time soon! BUT, what we can say about it, is that any magic that the Ben Davis possessed was clearly amplified by it’s marriage to the McIntosh, and passed on to its child, the Cortland. Maybe that’s where Cortland gets it’s beautiful skin?? Either way, we will always love Cortland, even if they are not as fancy as some of the newer varieties on the market.
“Spy’s are for Pies”
The Northern Spy apple is one of our favorites. SO sweet, and also somehow VERY tart, with creamy, dense yellow flesh and an overall flavor that can be quite intense. The Northern Spy also has one of the most perfumed skins of all apples, giving off a sweet, cotton candy scent, and it is an absolute winner in pies and tarts. This apple has quite a history, beginning with its origin as a seedling in East Bloomfield, NY in the early 1800’s. Due to its slow-bearing habit, and finicky nature, it didn’t quite catch on until almost the mid-1840’s, where it was first seen officially named in the Magazine of Horticulture. By that time, the meaning behind its name was full of speculation, and no one could quite say who named it or why it was called the ‘Northern Spy’. One story that stands out is that it was named after a character in a subversive Civil War book, written anonymously and published in secret, which was circulated among hardcore abolitionists around 1830. This character, known in the book as the ‘Northern Spy’, set up safe houses for slaves from Virginia to New York, in order to help them escape to Canada. Some say that this story was circulated as propaganda and helped start the Civil War. Is it true?? We don’t know! BUT we love this apple, either way.
A cross of Northern Spy and Malinda, the Sweet 16 comes to us from the breeding program of the University of Minnesota, circa 1973. We are only a few years into having this beauty at our market, so it is relatively new to us. The Sweet 16 is a most delightful apple, with sweet, cherry-flavored skin, and a fragrant, creamy flesh that is satisfyingly hard and juicy. We’re pretty sure it would make great pies. Last year we made a few batches of applesauce with it that tasted so good and spicy it was almost like the apples added their own cinnamon when our backs were turned! It also seems to be a good keeper, and we think it’s worth stashing a few in the fridge for later on. We just love it, and if there’s anything this apple can’t do, we’ll tell you when we figure it out!!
We know how much you love this one. A cross of McIntosh and Jersey Black, this apple comes to us from Geneva, NY, 1923. Macouns are so pretty, with their deep purple, dusty skin, and slightly green, regal shoulders. The flesh is pure white, with that characteristic snap, and a flavor that is all sweet with just a hint of tart. SO GOOD. A Macoun turns up in at least one of our winners in every apple pie contest we’ve ever had! However, Macouns are extremely seasonal. Many of you have seen us post our ‘Macoun Countdown From Harvest’ sign right on the display at our market. This little sign is meant to convey that the Macoun begins to break down and soften around ten days to two weeks after harvest, no matter what you do. So we like to post the date they were harvested, and eat one every day and see how they are. Because we are scientists! Ha ha, we mean enthusiasts…! Anyhoo, one thing we’d like to mention: this apple was named after a Canadian horticulturalist, William Tyrel Macoun, of the Central Experimental Farm of Ottowa…and this gentleman’s name is pronounced ‘Ma-koon’. Just sayin’.
We hope to see you all soon! We’ll be having LOTS of apple updates here this week, as our number of varieties at the farm stand increases…
An apple a day…