October 11, 2007
Enjoy apple season from orchard to plate
Pick your own apples, make your own pie
By Lisa Brown email@example.com
Every so often, apple grower Erick Leadbeater has to police apple pickers who consider apples the perfect size for a baseball.
“I have to frequently say to middle-sized people, who are not being watched by their parents, that we do not throw our food here, don’t throw the apples,” said Leadbeater, owner of Gould Hill Orchard in Hopkinton. “If you throw an apple at someone and it hits a tree, it will hit about ten apples and some will fall.”
In Concord, apple grower Diane Souther finds it frustrating when apple pickers do their own picking without checking to see which apples are ripe.
“I sent a couple out today and they come back and say, ‘Oh, we found some Macouns.’ Well, they’re going to find out they don’t taste that good right now,” said Diane Souther, who owns Apple Hill Farm on Mountain Road. “That is the biggest fight we have ... it is very hard to convince the consumer that they have to wait until they are ready. That is why Wal-mart is open 24 hours a day, for people who can’t wait.”
After 26 years of growing apples and running an orchard, Linda Weiser is the portrait of patience when asked daily during apple-picking season, “How do you pick apples?”
“Hold the apple gently, pull up toward the sky and when you do that, most of the time, you are pulling it in the opposite direction of growth and the apple snaps off the branch,” said Weiser, owner of Hackleboro Orchards in Canterbury. “The stem stays with the apple ... and your apple will last longer because the stem is on it.”
Autumn has arrived in New Hampshire, there’s a crispness to the air and color on the trees, and lunch boxes are filling with apples. Farm stands that offer pick-your-own apples are buzzing with activity, both during the week with school groups and on weekends with apple-lovers and families. The season is short, and local growers know there’s only so much time to get back their sweat equity.
“We are facing tremendous competition from overseas; the apple is globalized and China is now the biggest apple producer in the world,” said Steve Taylor, New Hampshire Commissioner of Agriculture. “For the New Hampshire apple crop, the money is in marketing directly to nearby consumers.”
According to Taylor, 80 percent of the money made in apples in New Hampshire is from local sales. Because the picking season is short, and because growers realize their market is their neighbors, most PYO places offer a bit more than just an apple-picking experience.
At Gould Hill in Hopkinton, if you pick four bags of apples of a given size, you get a fifth bag free.
At Meadow Ledge Farm in Loudon, apple- pickers can indulge in apple ice cream and enjoy fresh baked apple cider donuts on weekends. In Pittsfield, at Appleview Orchard there’s a bouncy house for kids and grilled hot dogs for those who work up a hunger. On Carter Hill in Concord, at Carter Hill Orchards, there’s a huge old-fashioned rope tire swing for kids, along with a sandy play area full of pedal cars.
“You can bring your visiting doggy on a leash — we are getting known for that here,” said Linda Weiser of Hackleboro Orchard. “Don’t forget your camera [and] comfortable walking shoes, and bring a sweatshirt with a hoodie, because a lot of times it’s colder here than anywhere else.”
Sine the 1700s apples have grown along Gould Hill in Hopkinton.
“We are the second family to own the farm; the Goulds settled Gould Hill in 1760 and ever since 1764 there have been apples on Gould Hill,” Leadbeater said.
Today there still are, but fewer.
“A decade ago we were operating 128 acres, but the wholesale market, which was pretty good until the early to mid-nineties, [changed and] by the time the apples go off to a broker and are packed your return is minimal,” Leadbeater said. Tucked among his 30 acres of apples you’ll find 86 different varieties, from the McIntosh, which is considered a New England favorite, to the Cox Orange Pippin, sweet, juicy and considered one of the finest dessert apples in Britain.
The apple that gets the most attention outside of New Hampshire is the McIntosh.
“You can’t find it anywhere else in the world. This is the right climate for growing an old-time favorite,” said Diane Souther, of Apple Hill Farm. “They’re great for applesauce, eating and cooking.”
According to Commissioner Taylor, the McIntosh is a favorite apple in the British Isles, which makes it the primary apple exported from New England.
Apple growers have focused their attention on growing a variety of apples for consumers who have become more sophisticated in their tastes.
“You get your apple snobs out there ... they want the uncommon ones like the Hudson Golden Gem or the Esopus Spitzenberg, which is a French cooking apple with one of the highest vitamin C contents of any apples we have,” Souther said.
In New Hampshire, there are nearly 100 different varieties of apples, and, like most fruits, each variety has its own growing time. Not every apple on an apple tree is ripe, even if it’s red.
“It’s like any plant — it takes a certain number of days before they mature,” Souther said. “When the starches change to sugars it reaches its sweetness and full flavor.”
Souther does a starch test on all her varieties before giving the green light to go pick. Some apple varieties are ready now; others will stagger in throughout the month of October. By the time Thanksgiving or the first frost rolls around, the picking is over.
“We have the early varieties, like the Puritan and the Polly Reds and the Macs, that are in now,” Weiser said. “I let people pick and pick and pick until Mother Nature says it’s done, usually around Halloween.”
Some of the first apples of the season are August Sweet, Early Red Bird, and Gravensteins, which all appear in August. Cortland, McIntosh and Gala arrive in early September. Baldwin, Braeburn and Red Delicious show up in October.
Not every variety of apple is suitable for the pick-your-own crowd, so most orchards offer them already picked. Often the apples that are designated as PYO are the ones that are most popular and sturdier. Most growers don’t mind if the pickers do a little tasting.
“How can you tell a good apple? By putting your teeth in it,” Leadbeater said. “This is what sets us farm stands apart from supermarkets — you can go to any place in the area and they will let you do a taste test, but if you go to a Stop & Shop or whatever, if you start biting into apples there, the produce manager will have something to say about it.”
The other advantage of traveling to orchards is the chance to pick up fresh baked goods and recipes.
“I push the apple crisp,” said Linda Weiser. “Oh God, it is so damn good.”
Weiser has locals who do all the baking for Hackelboro Orchards; other apple growers do their own baking.
From now until Thanksgiving, Diane Souther at Apple Hill says she expects about 4,000 visitors to the farm, including students on class trips. When she’s not supervising tours, she’s baking. A lot. On a given week, Souther will bake between 75 and 250 apple pies. By the time the season is over, she expects, she’ll bake more than 5,000 pies.
Pick your own
• Apple Acres, 52 Searles Road, Windham, 893-8596. Open daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. PYO apples. Hayrides on weekends when you PYO.
• Apple Hill Farm, 580 Mountain Road, Rt. 132, Concord, 224-8862, www.applehillfarmnh.com. Open daily through Thanksgiving from 8:30 a.m to 5:30 p.m. PYO apples, jams and jellies, fresh baked pies (including an assortment made with sugar substitute), cider, fall vegetables and pumpkin picking. Gift shop, hayrides and picnic areas.
• Apple View Orchard, 1266 Upper City Road, Pittsfield, 435-6483, www.applevieworchard.com. Open daily 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. PYO apples, 10 varieties. Gift shop features N.H. products, gift baskets, ice cream, homemade apple crisp, hot dogs and soda. Special activities on weekends for families include hayrides, petting area and bounce house.
• Brookedale Fruit Farm, 38 Broad Street (Rt. 130), Hollis, 465-2240. Open daily 9 a.m to 5 p.m. PYO apples, pumpkins. Ice cream available on weekends.
• Carter Hill Orchard, Carter Hill Road, Concord, 225-2625. Open daily 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. PYO apples. Gift store with cider and NH-made products. Pumpkins and other fall items. Children’s play area, rope tire swing and viewing tower. Tractor rides on weekends.
• Currier Orchards, 9 Peaslee Road, Merrimack, 881-8864. Open daily 10 a.m to 5 p.m., weekends, 9 a.m.to 6 p.m. PYO apples. Farm stand has freshly pressed cider, pumpkins, gourds. Play area for children. “We might be offering a wagon ride at some point, all we need is a horse — we have the cart, before the horse,” said owner Eber Currier.
• Elwood Orchards 54 Elwood Road, Londonderry, 434-6017. Open daily 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. PYO apples. Hayrides, corn maze, squash, pumpkins and preserves.
• Gould Hill Orchards, 656 Gould Hill Road, Contoocook, 746-3811, www.gouldhill.com. Open daily, 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. PYO apples, pumpkins. A 200-year-old family-owned and -operated farm, growing more than 85 varieties of apples. Farm stand and gift store feature N.H.- made gifts including fresh sweet cider, maple syrup and jams and jellies. Farm museum. Spectacular hilltop location with views stretching 75 miles from south-central N.H. to the White Mountains.
• Hackleboro Orchards, Hackleboro Road, Canterbury, 783-4248, www.hackleboroorchards.com. Open daily, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Closed Tuesdays. Directions: From I-93: Take Exit 18, turn left at bottom of off ramp. Follow signs to Canterbury Center. At the Canterbury Country Store, turn left onto Hackleboro Road. PYO apples. Cider, pies, pumpkins, jams, jellies and NH made gifts. Scenic picnic area, mail order, weekend tractor rides, farm animals. View deck. Visiting dogs on leashes welcome.
• Lavoie’s Farm, 172 Nartoff Road, Hollis, 882-0072. Open daily 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. PYO apples and pumpkins. Corn maze.
• Mack’s Apples of Moosehill Orchard, 230 Mammoth Road, Londonderry, 432-3456 or 434-7619, macksapples.com. Open daily 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. PYO apples, 20+ varieties. Trails, farm pond with geese and ducks to feed. Activities on weekends.
• Mapadot Orchard, Rt. 13, New Boston, 487-5521. Open daily 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. PYO on weekends 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Pumpkins, cider and fall vegetables.
• McLeod Brothers Orchard, N. River Road, Milford, 673-3544. Call for hours. Closed Tuesdays. PYO apples.Pumpkins and other fall items.
• Meadow Ledge Farm, 612 Route 129, Loudon, 798-5860. Open daily 9 a.m to 6 p.m. PYO apples, more than 30 varieties. Fresh pressed cider demonstrations. Pumpkins and other fall items. Wagon rides on weekends and freshly made cider donuts.
• Oliver Merrill and Sons, 569 Mammoth Road, Londonderry, 622-6636. Farm stand is open daily 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. self-service. PYO only on weekends 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. PYO apples, several varieties. Farm stand has fruit and fall vegetables.
• Sunnycrest Farm Londonderry 59 High Range Road, Londonderry, 432-9652. Open daily 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. PYO apples. Cider, cheese, preserves, pumpkins and more fall items.
Chuck’s Favorite Apple Crisp
Recipe from Diane Souther, Apple Hill Farm, Concord
Peel, core and slice 8 med. apples (mix McIntosh and Cortland)
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 cup flour
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 to 2 tsp. cinnamon
butter (3/4 to 1 stick) softened
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut apples, make sure to eat a couple of slices while you’re preparing, and place in 9x9” casserole dish, (or 9-inch deep-dish pie plate). Sprinkle granulated sugar over apples and lightly stir in.
Mix flour, dark brown sugar, cinnamon and butter together and spread over apples.Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until bubbly. Serve warm, topped with vanilla ice cream. Even better warmed up the second day.
My grandmother’s apple cake
Recipe from Lisa Brown
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
pinch of salt
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
3 cups diced apples
Heat oven to 350.
Cream together sugar and butter, add egg, vanilla. Sift together dry ingredients and add to creamed mixture. Add nuts and apples and mix. Bake in 9x12” greased pan 45 minutes at 350. Serve warm or cold with ice cream or whipped cream.
Recipes from:Linda Robinson, mixologist at the Boston Bartending School, 142 Main Street, Nashua, N.H.
Washington Apple Martini
1 1/2 ounce Crown Royal
2 ounces cranberry juice
1 ounces apple juice
Put in a shaker with a scoop of ice. Shake briskly, pour into martini glass. Garnish with a slice of red apple. (Some people use apple Schnapps instead of apple juice).
Sugar the rim
2 ounces vodka
1/2 ounce apple liqueur
1/2 ounce orange liqueur
Place spirits in shaker with a scoop of ice. Shake briskly. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a thin slice of green apple.
Sour Apple Shot
3/4 ounce Southern Comfort
1/4 ounce sour apple liqueur
A capful of Paul Newman’s lemonade (already made) or a squeeze of lemon
Pour into shaker, add ice and shake. Strain into a shot glass.
Apple Pie Shot
1/4 ounce Amaretto
1/4 ounce cinnamon schnapps
1/4 Irish Mist
Put in shaker with ice. Shake briskly and strain into a shot glass.
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