No other fruit says autumn like apples, unless perhaps it’s the pumpkin. But apples are more versatile, combining well in so many sorts of dishes, blending easily with other, stronger flavors.
This year’s Yankee Magazine, and a page I saved from last year’s Vermont Country Store focused upon this traditional fruit. A walk in my own front yard triggered more memories.
This Vermont Country Store article states there are over 7,500 apple varieties in the world, more than 2,500 in New England, alone. Every apple variety has its own special purpose. Some are best for sauces, others for pie, some are crisp, yet tender and flavorful, excellent for eating raw right off the tree.
Old time farmers were specialists in apple cultivation and culinary applications. Grafting is a procedure which can create a tree bearing several varieties of fruit. In addition to each home’s creation of sauce, pie, and other dishes, apple butter parties were thrown by neighbors. And someone local always had a cider press.
The article by Gardner Orton, one of The Vermont Country Store’s proprietors, mentions that there are now “apple hunters”- cider makers who comb the woods and fields for old abandoned farms, in search of unique apple varieties to flavor their product like special grape varieties are used to make signature wines. It’s great that the old varieties are being preserved.
My own personal favorite apple is the Northern Spy. But I’ve not found any in later years as huge, crisp, tart, and tasty as the ones a friend brought us from Michigan when I was a child. Empire is another favorite which can usually be had locally and is somewhat similar.
Apple is the easiest type of pie to make. I used to bake many each autumn, then switched to the easier to construct, though impressive in looks, galette.
Unfortunately, now that I’m writing regularly in addition to my other professional positions, I haven’t had much time to bake or even to make spiced applesauce which really isn’t difficult except for the peeling part.
I seem to be enjoying apples as an art form these days, reading about them in magazines, snapping photos of the ones that grow on my lawn. They have a good flavor, but it’s very labor intensive to cut the bad spots from them and salvage the white flesh. We don’t spray or treat them, so they’re a bit wormy and very petite.
We haven’t trimmed the tree in awhile, either, but don’t they look lovely, suspended in the autumn air on graceful drooping branches?