As the days grow short and the nights are cooler it is the time of year when the back roads of New England are randomly dotted with trees laden with ripe apples. With many varieties living well over 100 years it comes as no surprise. Apples have been cultivated for thousands of years and fill our folklore and history with endless references and rich imagery. They also fill our market shelves and pie shells and are cause for festivals and family outings. They will be made into crisps, pan dowdy, sauce and strudel. However, they are best eaten fresh and by themselves, and for this there is no better time of the year!
A peek into apple lore reveals much to be amazed at. They are the #2 fruit crop in the U.S. just behind oranges! One rather surprising tidbit is that most of the eating apples that we are so accustomed to are not grown from seed but are grafted from trees that bear the most appealing fruit. Back in the day of ‘Johnny Appleseed’ they were indeed grown from seed, and if you cleared a few acres and planted 25 trees, a homestead was yours. They were hardly the sweet attractive fruit that we have come to know and love; they were mostly fed to the pigs or the fermentation barrel, neither of which was too picky! The resulting fermented beverage was ‘cider’ (not to be confused with what we call ‘sweet cider’ today) and was one of the most popular beverages from Colonial times through most of the 19th century. ‘Hard cider’ is currently enjoying a renaissance, and the Upper Valley is privileged to be home to one of the premier producers, Farnum Hill Ciders, one of the many local producers that the Co-op supports.
So it is quite simply time to buy apples and all products apple. They play a big role in the local economy. In the ‘old days’ a well balanced orchard would feature a yellow variety that would ripen in July, a bunch of great eating apples for the fall and a couple of ‘keepers’ that would make it through a good part of the winter. Nowadays the regional producers such as Champlain Valley Orchards and Walhowdon, do the hard part by balancing production and carefully storing their crops so that we can enjoy apples for a good part of the year. They make it look easy!
So hurry on out there and go to one of the many local orchards and sample what they grow. It is a suburb family outing and rewarding as well. A fun day trip on a sunny fall weekend might also reveal family farms and orchards that are preserving history (and agricultural diversity) by growing ‘heirloom’ varieties. They might not all be perfectly round, shiny and red but they are all definitely a treat that will make you smile.
Riddle: What can you bake, sip or crunch, had been around for 5,000 years and grows on trees?
So come on in and stock up on flour and butter for your crust; or find an easy to use pre made crust in one of our cases. Celebrate apple season; throw a party or have a ‘gala’, you might become the ‘apple of someone’s eye’! Oh, and don’t forget that bag of apples and jug of sweet cider.
Apple Cake to Flip Over
Recipe adapted from “Dishing up Vermont”
- 1 stick butter (plus some for the pan)
- 3 med. Apples (about 1lb) such as Jonagold
- 1 Tbsp. cinnamon
- 1 cup plus 1 Tbsp. sugar, divided
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 1 ½ cups rough chop walnuts
- Whipped cream or ice cream for serving (optional but highly recommended!!)
- Preheat over to 350. Grease the bottom and sides of a 9-inch round cake pan with butter and set aside. Melt one stick butter and set aside to cool.
- Peel, core and cut the apples into ¼ inch thick wedges. Combine 1 Tbsp. sugar and cinnamon in a bowl; add the apple slices and toss to coat. Arrange the apple wedges in the pan in concentric circles, finishing with any remaining apples.
- Whisk the remaining sugar and flour together in a mixing bowl. Whisk in the egg and melted butter just until combined. Fold in the walnuts and continue stirring until smooth. Do not overmix. Carefully spread this thick batter over the apples, smoothing the top.
- Bake until the cake is golden brown, about 40-45 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes.
- Run a knife around the edge to loosen the cake. Place your serving plate on top, and invert the pan. Remove the pan and rescue any slices stranded in the pan.
- Serve warm with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream as you prefer.
Makes one 9-inch cake, about 8 servings