Food Friday: Pick Some Winners


Here it is, mid-October and I am finally wearing a sweater. A very light sweater, I admit, but it has two long sleeves and I pulled it on over my head. I am ready for the great apple gathering.

You can never have too many apples. I love having a big bowl of apples on the table in the kitchen. It looks artful and smells wonderful. It is less expensive than cut flowers, and is right there, out in the open, when I wander helplessly into the kitchen looking for something to gnaw on. Obnoxiously, some people say that apples are nature’s dental floss; how prosaic and demeaning for the noble apple, which has been captured in language that is so much more romantic and transporting.

Read these names, and see if you don’t suddenly have a yen to wander into your own kitchen to rustle up a sweet snack:
Allen’s Everlasting apple
Ambrosia apple
Beautiful Arcade apple
Beauty of Bath apple
Bedfordshire Foundling apple
Bloody Ploughman apple
Brown Snout apple
Buckingham apple – Pale yellow flushed and mottled with red, and striped and blushed with
bright red. The surface is covered with white dots. Shape is oblate and somewhat
irregular with tough thick skin is tough and flesh juicy, yellow, crisp and sprightly
subacid. It has a small core and a short stalk.*
Catshead apple
Cheddar Cross apple
Coeur de Boeuf apple
D’Arcy Spice apple
Doctor Harvey apple
Duchess of Oldenburg apple
Esopus Spitzenburg apple – said to be Thomas Jefferson’s favorite!*
Fallstaff apple
Foxwhelp apple
Frostbite apple
Goof apple
Horneburger Pancake apple
Kentish Fillbasket apple
King Cole apple
Michelin apple
Nonnetit Bastard apple
Northern Lights apple
Northern Spy apple – one of our personal faves (There is also a Prairie Spy apple)
Obelisk apple
Peasgood’s Nonsuch apple
Pixie Crunch apple
Scotch Dumpling apple
Sheepnose apple
Sir Isaac Newton’s Tree apple
Twenty Ounce apple
Westfield Seek-no-Further apple

Visit this link to see even more poetic apple names. You may be inspired to do a still life painting of apples, or you can surely find a name for the pub you have always wanted to open:*

I digress.

Right now is an excellent time to stock up on apples that store well, either in your coolish back hall, in the fridge, or in your basement; someplace cool and dark. Apples that are ripening now in October have the best chance of keeping well. Pick wisely. Red Delicious, Winesap, Rome, McIntosh, Golden Delicious. Sort through your apple haul, and choose medium-sized apples, checking for bruises or broken skin. Eat the large ones now and use the bruised apples for baking or applesauce. Some apples will keep for up to five months, but you should check often to see how the ripening process is – there is a reason for some of those old sayings, and you don’t want to discover that one bad apple three months from now. More helpful hints can be found here:

Some apples are better for applesauce: Cortland, Golden Delicious, Braeburn, Rome. Some are better for pies: Granny Smith, Sun Crisp, Pink Lady. Thanksgiving is just around the corner, so start practicing your pie crusts!

There are more uses for apples that snacks on the fly, applesauce or pie.
Our kitchen god, Mark Bittman, has a deelish recipe for Apple Crisp, with oatmeal and cranberries:

And here are some others:

And the best use of apples (and oh, so seasonal) is apple cider doughnuts. Yumsters!

“And then there is that day when all around,
all around you hear the dropping of the apples, one
by one, from the trees. At first it is one here and one there,
and then it is three and then it is four and then nine and
twenty, until the apples plummet like rain, fall like horse hoofs
in the soft, darkening grass, and you are the last apple on the
tree; and you wait for the wind to work you slowly free from
your hold upon the sky, and drop you down and down. Long
before you hit the grass you will have forgotten there ever
was a tree, or other apples, or a summer, or green grass below,
You will fall in darkness…”
― Ray Bradbury

About Jean Sanders

Letters to Editor

  1. From Country Clubs to the Grange Hall
    After 20 years, in the corporate world, I left my job as president and CEO of a major transportation company. My wife, Penny, and I decided that it was time to enjoy a
    slower pace and bring up our four children in a different environment. So we did what most of my executive friends only talked about … we bought the farm.

    It was in Vermont, a 3,000 tree, run-down apple orchard of 150 acres situated on a small mountain and fronted by a half mile of a river, filled with native trout. Yankee Magazine once featured the orchard as one of the most beautiful farms in New England. While searching for an appropriate name, we found 225 year old references to the site as “Burnham Hollow,” and we became proud and naive owners of Burnham Hollow Orchards.

    We immediately set about reconstructing the 1790 farm house, which was ready to collapse at any moment, by restoring the original additions dating back to 1815, 1850, 1900 and 1934. When it was completed, the contractor handed us the final bill and said, “Folks, I could have built you two new houses for what it cost to restore this relic.” During the next two years, we rehabbed the trees, purchased new equipment and built a cider mill along with a cold storage. We learned how to grow apples, and unfortunately, learned how to purge our savings account. We were ready to take on the fruit growing industry but forgot to check with Mother Nature to see if she agreed with our plans.

    She didn’t. During the first 5 years we suffered 3 total crop losses from 2 hail storms and a deep freeze. After the third disaster our family was reduced to picking apple “drops” from the cold wet grass, early mornings, at a neighboring orchard, to keep the cider mill operating. It didn’t take long to realize that we were fighting a losing battle. Exhausted, depressed and near broke, we decided to change our direction by distributing our own apples and cider to area stores and dairies and opening a retail store. The next year, we developed a pick-your-own operation. After visiting local orchards, it was apparent that most of them considered a PYO sales outlet as a chore. After announcing our open picking, the competitors dropped their prices. We raised ours, after promoting the operation as a festival, offering free cider, hay rides, and a petting zoo,* accompanied by personal greetings and a party atmosphere. We also opened a satellite store in the barn, which led to a lively competition between the farm PYO and barn store sales vs the store sales in town.

    One Sunday, during our third season, a farm hand rushed up to the picking area saying that the state police just arrived and were very upset. We were in trouble. I flew done the mountain to the barnyard and yes, the police were upset. They excitedly pointed down the hill to the main road yelling “do you see that mess?” The main road was blocked for two miles with cars waiting to come to the orchard. That mess turned out to be our first major success. From then on, we greeted customers from seven neighboring states along with “Leaf Peepers” as far away as Texas and Florida.

    Meanwhile, we purchased a building, in town, opening a country store in our local city, 20 miles away, and close to the ski areas. Burnham Hollow Farm Store stocked with our own farm products, cider, maple syrup and apples. We soon added dozens of Vermont home-made gourmet foods (remember “Baby Boom”), several of which became famous brands. Burnham Hollow became the test distributor for the new Vermont Food Products Marketing Board, helping us to attract hundreds of tourists and skiers.

    To augment the off-season, we bought more land and started a small fruit and vegetable farm to grow corn, vegetables, and flowers, eventually selling everything we grew. Penny ran the store, while I handled the orchard and farm. Next we started making fresh pies and baked goods, all made by hand. In a short while, we were barely able keep up with the demand, reaching 9,000 pies a year Our final venture was a mail order operation that served customers in 38 states.

    Determination, business experience and self reliance saved us. By embracing the first personal computers in 1983, we were able to help prevent crop diseases, develop valuable crop growing procedures and reduce our chemical usage by programming our farm operations. Computers also assisted in maintaining inventory controls for our retail and wholesale business. We also adopted recently developed business promotion systems such as “guerrilla marketing,” along with innovative personal and product branding techniques.

    By 1990, my sight loss had reached a point where I could no longer operate the equipment or drive safely so we sold the orchard and the farm, but kept the country store operating until 1995. Our original reason to move to the farm was fulfilled. Despite hardships and disappointments, our journey back to the land nurtured close family ties that make our life rich in many ways. My wife, Penny, was a perfect companion and became an astute partner, our anchor, during the the bad times and the good times. Our four children, who cheerfully shared the hard work with us, learned values which have made a positive and visible difference in their lives, to this day. Looking back at our toil and troubles and eventually reaching our goals, we can say: ‘We Did It Together – We Did It Ourselves.

    But come …my wife and let us try, before we die,
    To make some sense of life.
    We’re neither pure, nor wise, nor good… we’ll do the best we know.
    We’ll build our house and chop our wood
    And make our garden grow…
    —Voltaire/Bernstein, “Candide”

    The orchard was never ours. Even though we were accepted by the town folks the orchard always remained as a major feature belonging to them.

    We should have read the early signs of impending disaster. The week that we purchased the farm, the temperature plunged to 45 degrees below zero, ruining the plumbing and heating systems in the main house, tenant house and the barn.

    At our first fruit farmers meeting, we were told that a line of growers at a table was for people betting how soon we would quit and return to the city. Later, these same farmers elected me to the boards of the Vermont Fruit Growers Association, the New York & New England Apple Growers Association and the Fruit Growers Marketing Council.

    During first five years, we hired spray planes, flown by former war pilots with a streak if craziness. Most of the spraying was scheduled early morning and their favorite trick was to wake us up, next to our bedroom window, with an explosive engine noise, (like a truck “downshifting”). One Sunday morning I ordered a spray and told the pilot that we might be in church if he arrived soon. In the middle of the priest’s sermon, the spray plane pilot buzzed the church not more than 25 feet alongside and blasted his engine, shaking the small structure. The priest calmly announced, “Mr. Hall, you are excused, please tend to your trees.”

    After opening the store, we bought a neighboring farm to grow vegetables and flowers,
    I asked the state and federal experts to look it over and help me establish a sweet corn operation. After a few hours later, they concluded that I was wasting my time, without an agriculture education and my background as a “big executive from New York.” Two years later we sold sold all of the crops including 30,000 ears of corn in our country store.

    * The petting zoo consisted of horses, cows, sheep, goats and pigs. The Three Pigs lived in a small hut with their names painted on a sign – “Peanut, Butter and Jelly” or “Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato.”

    Our wholesale apple and cider business selling to stores and dairies in the region required a new larger truck. The day it arrived was immediately after the eye doctors took my keys away, so my wife was designated as an alternate driver, thereafter known by the farm hands as “Mrs. Double Clutch.”
    Life is Good,
    Easton, MD

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