September 30, 2010

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Know your apples
Honey Crisp, Ginger Gold, Empire and all the rest
By Angel Roy aroy@hippopress.com

“This is Concord — it’s hard to believe,” Souther said. Nestled on a hillside on Mountain Road sits 40 acres of apple trees at Apple Hill Farm, owned by Souther and her husband Chuck. Between apples available for picking and purchase, the Southers offer more than 30 varieties of apples.

Colored ribbons dangle from the orchard’s branches to differentiate the varieties, each apple tree groomed to grow in a Christmas tree-like shape to ensure even light exposure. Some of the apples bear similar hues of reds and greens, but Souther has no difficulty distinguishing a McIntosh from a Macoun. “When you work with them all of the time, you know, it’s just like learning people’s names,” Souther said.

Souther and her husband both grew up working on a farm and both enjoyed the lifestyle. The couple purchased Apple Hill Farm in 1978.

“We had the opportunity to do it, and the rest is history,” Souther said.

While cruising through the orchard on a utility vehicle, Souther stopped to pluck an Empire apple from its tree.

“This blush on the apples, the cloudy look, it’s called mother nature’s wax,” Souther said as she polished the pomaceous fruit, transforming its skin into a shiny, glowing red color.

Empire apples got their moniker from the state in which they originated in the 1960s — New York — and boast a full-bodied flavor, more tart than sweet. The apple is very firm in texture, juicy and crisp.

Ernie Roberts, owner of Meadow Ledge Farm in Loudon, called the Empire apple a cross between two well-known favorites, Red Delicious and McIntosh apples. “The flavor really is right smack dab in the middle,” Roberts said.

Roberts, who holds a forestry degree from the University of New Hampshire, purchased the 32-acre orchard in 1994 but had worked there since 1992. He has grown apples since 1988, when the new owner of an abandoned orchard behind Roberts’ Barnstead home asked for help getting it back in operation. After successfully getting non-bearing apple trees to bear in Barnstead, Roberts began helping at Meadow Ledge.

Both Souther and Roberts get excited over Honey Crisp apples, which they said have drawn a “cult-like following” and has been dubbed as the new “snob apple.”

“They are explosively crisp, very juicy,” Souther said.

Jess Story, of Meadow Ledge Farm, called it the “golden egg of apples.”

“The bite is nice, it is what you would want the Delicious to be like, without the mush,” Story said.

“If people come in wanting Honey Crisp, they don’t want anything else,” Roberts said.

This is the first year that Honey Crisp apples have been offered as a “pick your own” variety at Apple Hill Farm. It is the farm’s seventh year growing the Honey Crisps, but Souther said it takes about five years to get a good crop of apples from a young tree.

“We have a very large crop, so we are willing to share this year,” Souther said.

A spring frost took a toll on Granite State apple farms, but both Souther and Roberts managed to avoid losing their entire crops.

The frost damaged 40 percent of Souther’s apple crop, but with temperatures remaining at 30 or above at the top of the orchard’s hill, she said, it was just warm enough to protect them.

“That is why most apple orchards are planted on a hillside,” she said.

Taking matters into his own hands during the frost, Roberts was able to save 90 percent of his crop by stirring up the air surrounding the trees with large fan equipment

“We got the air to move so it wasn’t as cold,” Roberts said. Different apple varieties, Roberts said, respond differently to weather conditions. Slicing open a Burgundy apple at his farm store, he points out that the inside of the tart fruit is typically red fleshed but this year has barely even begun to turn pink. “It didn’t respond the way it normally would but that’s bound to happen,” Roberts said.

To protect their crops for the future, the Southers have partnered with the state university system on a research product that, if approved by the Environmental Protection Agency, could reduce or eliminate the need for spraying apple trees.

Hanging from a few trees at the farm is a bright red fake apple topped with a sugar cap infused with a small amount of pesticides. During a rainstorm, the pesticide coats the artificial apple.

When the apple maggot fly seeks out the reddest apple of the crop to lay its eggs, it will be drawn to the fake apple — which boasts an odor of maraschino cherry juice as an attractant — taste its potential nesting location and ingest the pesticide without spray.

“It has been very effective,” Souther said. “We are very excited about the prospect of using it on a commercial basis. It would be something homeowners could do, too.”

One of the biggest problems faced by apple growers, Souther said, is that consumers want fruit that has not been exposed to any spray, “which is very difficult because there are numerous diseases that only attack fruit,” she said.

Souther said she and her husband have already been able to reduce spraying throughout the years through work done with UNH.

“If we were just growing apples and not doing anything different, that wouldn’t be fun,” Souther said. “Chuck loves the challenge.”

Both farms have taken to growing heirloom, or uncommon, apples to add to their autumn offerings.

One Apple Hill heirloom, the Wickson apple, gained national recognition when the Southers were asked to send a bushel to the White House last year to be used as Christmas decorations in its guest house.

“It was kind of cool,” Souther said. Souther described Wicksons as “little delicate dessert apples” that were a favorite of former first lady Martha Washington. The tart apples were used as dessert apples as Souther said women were able to eat one in its entirety for dessert in the 1800s. They can also be used to produce hard cider.

The Southers began growing heirloom apples in partnership with Poverty Lane Orchard in West Lebanon serving as a fallback for the northern New Hampshire farm, should its crop fail.

Another part of the unusual offerings at Apple Hill are Hubbardston Nonesuch apples, one of the oldest varieties found in New England, a hard, dense green fruit with a light red cheek and tart flavor.

Ribston Pippin and Ashmead’s Kernel apples are also unique options.

“Ashmead’s Kernels are quite acidic and are really sharp to the taste,” Chuck Souther said of the brown russet skinned-fruit.

Ribston Pippins, Chuck Souther said, are dense and prone to water core. The acidity of the apple overpowers its sweetness, giving it a sharp flavor, he said.

“When you bite into the flesh it looks like it’s soaked with water,” Chuck Souther said. “That’s why it doesn’t store very well.” Water core varieties have fallen to the wayside as people prefer for their apples to keep fresh, Chuck Souther said. “We just thought they were kind of unique,” he said.

Among the older-style apples at Meadow Ledge are Holly, Wolf River and Winter Banana apples.

Roberts has only two Holly apple trees at his orchard; their fruit is ready later in the season. He described the Holly as a very sweet Red Delicious-type apple.

“The pickers like those, so you don’t see too many in the store,” Roberts said.

Winter Banana apples boast a bright yellow skin.

“If you cleanse your palate, you can taste a hint of banana at the back of your throat, but you have to be looking for it,” Story said.

While it may blend in with other apples with its green and red coloring, the Wolf River variety stands out because of its size.

Roberts grows the coarse-grained and moderately juicy Wolf Rivers up to four inches in diameter.

“They could get bigger if I let them,” he said.

At Apple Hill Farm is another orchard that no one sees, which is home to hard cider varieties. The hard cider apples are produced for Farnum Hill Ciders, made at Poverty Lane Orchard, with Poverty Lane’s owners bringing back twigs of apple trees from England and France to grow the unique offerings in New England.

The apples, bearing French and English names such as Dabbinette, Yarlington Mill, Ellis Bitter, Major and Kingston Black, are not ideal for eating as they are high in acid and tannins.

“They are actually pretty sweet, but you can’t taste it because of the acid and tannins,” Chuck Souther said. “It’s like biting into a fresh cranberry; your first reaction is to spit it out.”

The apples are also not very attractive, he said.

“Pest control for the hard cider apples is easier because growers are not concerned with their appearance and there is less pruning,” Chuck Souther said.

Apples from Apple Hill Farm are also sent to the Flag Hill Winery in Lee to be fermented to make General John Stark vodka and apple wines.

Diane Souther said she never gets sick of eating apples.

“I am always looking for new recipes, ideas and things to do with apples,” she said. “I eats 50 apples a day at least — may not eat a whole apple, always sampling. That is the best way to tell when they are ready.”

Have a favorite vegetarian or vegan dish at a local reastaurant? Let us know at food@hippopress.com and we’ll pass along your advice in a future Weekly Dish.



9/23/2010 Vegetarian: ‘not as scary as it sounds’
9/16/2010 It's Glendi!
9/09/2010 Take another taste
9/2/2010 Chili Week sets a hot stage
8/26/2010 Finding the fun in food
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8/12/2010 The world in your cup
8/5/2010 A world of food in Manchester
7/29/2010 Fun fair food from fruit to frappes
7/22/2010 Food for folks
7/15/2010 Mexican in Manch
7/8/2010 Kugelfest or falafelpalooza
7/1/2010 It's pizza from Portland
6/24/2010 A millyard dog
6/17/2010 Lamb on the grill, lamb on the skewer
6/10/2010 Take some ribbing
6/3/2010 Taste is everything
5/27/2010 Taste time in Nashua
5/20/2010 Gluten-free bread, but noone has to know
5/13/2010 Shaker Village gets a new restaurant

5/6/2010 Mother's Day meals
4/29/2010 3C's makes a move
4/22/2010 Welcome to the Pattie Shack
4/15/2010 Move over calzones
4/8/2010 A taste of Boston on the West Side
4/1/2010 Sunday's best
3/25/2010 Taste brings the towns to Nashua
3/18/2010 Coffee and creativity
3/11/2010 Where to wear the green
3/4/2010 Tedy J's is a family endeavor
2/25/2010 New chef for the Granite
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2/11/2010 A whole lotta love
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1/28/2010 Warm your tummy and your soul
1/21/2010 Veano's Italian Kitchen returns
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1/7/2010 A new Leaf
12/31/2009 New eats and more beer
12/24/2009 Feast your way into the New Year

12/17/2009 Foodie gifts for 2009
12/10/2009 Microbrew heaven in the east
12/3/2009 Key ingredient: New Hampshire wine

11/26/2009 Enjoy south Indian cuisine in Nashua
11/19/2009 Barbecue all year
11/12/2009 Ciao Italia at Cotton
11/05/2009 Hops in Hooksett
10/29/2009 A 200-pound meatball in Concord?

10/22/2009 Hops in Hooksett
10/15/2009 A sweet little spot in the Capital City

10/8/2009 30 restaurants, one stop
10/1/2009 T-Bones: 22 new dishes for 25 years
9/24/2009 Sausage seller settles in
9/17/2009 Glendi means good times
9/10/2009 Sunny Side Up in Concord
9/3/2009 The night of 26 restaurants

8/27/2009 Milltowne at the airport
8/20/2009 Feast Day for all
8/13/2009 Beyond tacos

8/6/2009 Cooling off with a cone
7/30/2009 And the sippin is easy ...
7/23/2009 South of the border west of the river
7/16/2009 the food is the best part
7/9/2009 Today Pittsfiled, tomorrow the world
7/2/2009 The art of the sandwich

6/25/2009 Kitchens then and now
6/18/2009 Treat dad to something special

6/11/2009 Newly minted
6/4/2009 It's a stretch
5/28/2009 A South End tradition continues in Concord
5/21/2009 Nibbling through downtown
5/14/2009 Gyro, pastichio or spanakopeta?
5/7/2009 Give the gift of nobody doing dishes
4/30/2009 A Taste of old favorites, new dishes
4/23/2009 A week of eats in Manchester
4/16/2009 So happy together
4/9/2009 After candy, brunch and diner
4/2/2009 All made right here
3/26/2009 A sappy story
3/19/2009 Five-course trip to Lebanon
3/12/2009 Irish meals
3/5/2009 Get a peice of the farm

2/26/2009 Before late night eats,an evening at the pub
2/19/2009 Drinks with Dan Akroyd

2/12/2009 Crooked Birch branches out
2/5/2009 Dinner with your sweetheart
1/29/2009 Food for the 50-yard line
1/22/2009 Artisan bread at The Good Loaf

1/15/2009 "Fold, mush, turn"
1/8/2009 Once upon a time at a bistro...
1/1/2009 Zacky's to go
12/25/2008 2008 in small bites

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12/11/2008 Delicious gifts for the foodie
12/4/2008 New chef at UnWine'd
11/27/2008 Corks pops at BVI
11/20/2008 Big plates, big food
11/13/2008 IPA first prize

11/6/2008 You want it? He'll bring it.
10/30/2008 Cooking up a mystery
10/23/2008 Running with the bulls
10/16/2008 Like grandma made it
10/9/2008 The flavor of Concord
10/2/2008 Indie donuts rising

9/25/2008 Buy a bowl, feed the hungry
9/18/2008 Oktoberfest — for a cause
9/11/2008 A slice ofGreece, Asia, France...
9/4/2008 Flavors of Manchester
8/28/2008 D.I.Y. sausage
8/21/2008 Summertime and the living is chilli
8/14/2008 Weekend of festivals
8/7/2008 Going for pizza gold
7/31/2008 Red and juicy, from vine to table
7/24/2008 Meet the Manch-vegans
7/17/2008 Meet the winemaker
7/10/2008 Pupusas, cervesa y batidos
7/03/2008 3C's Cafe opens in Highlander Inn
6/26/2008 Oh, tartar sauce!
6/19/2008 From farm to grill
6/12/2008 450 pounds of lamb
6/5/2008 Travel the culinary world at BVI
5/29/2008 Chocolate throwdown
5/22/2008 Hit the road for some Yum-Yum
5/15/2008 Local, gluten-free and ready made
5/8/2008 The return of brownies and pasta
5/1/2008 Have a fiesta
4/24/2008 Noshing and shopping
4/17/2008 Celebrating with Greek eats
4/10/2008 Drive-ins open for the season
4/3/2008 Noshing for a cause
3/20/2008 The Easter Bunny brings dinner
3/13/2008 The Irish Spirit
3/6/2008 The sweet season
2/28/2008 Cambodian (or Italian) made easy
2/21/2008 Fresh fish comes to Nashua
2/14/2008 Hearts and fibers
2/7/2008 A romantic dinner for two
1/31/2008 Celebrate Mardi Gras
1/24/2008 Morroccan in Milford
1/17/2008 The chef is inn
1/10/2008 Italian street food in NH
1/10/2008 The contorni approach
1/3/2008 Like Disneyland for foodies
12/27/2007 More food and wine events, a menu for the bar
12/20/2007 Lots of dough
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12/6/2007 Making spirits really bright
11/22/2007 Just don't ask them to cook
11/15/2007 Easy as pie
11/8/2007 Italian eats, bistro style
11/1/2007 Bringing Italia to New Hampshire
10/25/2007 Trick or treat, the grown-up version
10/18/2007 Shop where the pros go
10/11/2007 Enjoy apple season from orchard to plate
10/04/2007 Tradition on the menu
9/27/2007 Meet your pig
9/20/2007 In search of the right meat
9/20/2007 Vegan blogger branches out
9/13/2007 Get ready to eat
9/6/2007 Fifty years of fair
8/30/2007 The buzz about peach fuzz
8/23/2007 Enjoy the Caribbean, sans hurricanes
8/16/2007 Festival weekend
8/9/2007 Still time to scream
8/2/2007 Perfecting a pound of pasta
7/26/2007 Gourmet Concord?
7/19/2007 Tart treats of a New Hampshire summer
7/12/2007 Reintroducing ratatouille
7/5/2007 Time to hit the grill
6/28/2007 Peanutty dinner delight
6/21/2007 Spicy meat, grilled meat and saucy meat
6/14/2007 Holy Barbecue
6/07/2007 A wine for Red Sox
5/31/2007 Pinot noir romance
5/24/2007 Josh Logan eats (not before shows)
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5/10/2007 Cremeland celebrates 60 years of burgers and shakes
5/3/2007 New eats in bloom
4/26/2007 Pho sure
4/19/2007 Cakes, cow-free
4/12/2007 Serving up the first square
4/5/2007 More than just a chocolate bunny
3/29/2007 New 'nuches
3/22/2007 A taste of genuine sweetness
3/15/2007 From homemade to home business
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3/1/2007 Feeding Mama Kicks
2/22/2007 Keepers of the vino
2/15/2007 Noodly comfort food
2/8/2007 The luxury of osso bucco
2/1/2007 Super platters for the Super Bowl
1/25/2007 It's a wrap
1/18/2007 The writing foodie
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1/04/2007 The healthy foodie
12/28/2006 The return of pasta and fall of the diet: the year in eats
12/21/2006 Organic on the ice
12/14/2006 French but not fussy
12/07/2006 Southeast U.S. culture, in sandwich form
11/30/2006 Bites of comfort with chips of happiness
11/23/2006 Cityside adds class to conveniece
11/16/2006 Easier-to-enjoy Thanksgiving feasts
11/9/2006 The new classic
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10/19/2006 A new way to crepe
10/12/2006 Comfort food for blokes and birds
10/05/2006 Smaller crop but still red and delicious
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08/24/2006 Way down south in Hollis
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08/10/2006 Enjoy the bluest month
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07/27/2006 Vacation on a plate
07/20/2006 Hitting barbecue big time
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06/22/2006 Sweet rosey taste of summer
06/15/2006 When to pull out the EVOO
06/08/2006 What can you grill?
06/01/2006 Taste of downtown Nashua
05/25/2006 Deulge at farms
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05/11/2006 Rub down
05/04/2006 Pinot to go
04/27/2006 A bit Italian, a bit egg foo young
04/20/2006 Meatier than breakfast...
04/13/2006 Let yourself eat cake
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03/30/2006 Making Friday a fishy delight
03/23/2006 The Thin Mints are here
03/16/2006 Divining your personality from pizza
03/09/2006 Cooking up a big bowl of comfort
03/02/2006 Dumplings demystified
02/23/2006 Carbs and comfort all the way
02/16/2006 She sells sushi by the sea shore
2/09/2006 Biting into the burger with bling
02/02/2006 Forget formal dining, head to the bar
01/26/2006 Goodbye rooster, hello year of the dog
01/19/2006 The secret lives of chefs
01/12/2006 Cooking up a pot of delayed gratification
01/05/2006 A sunny Italian side dish
A year of eats

All-you-can-read guide to breakfast
A bagel by any other l
abel
A picnic — it’s romance with ants
A sweet burst of summer, in stages
Beef, It's What's For Dinner, Lunch, And Dessert
Be it ever so humble, the burger rules
Blockbuster snacks for your movie
Box Of Chocolates
C Is For Cookie And Christmas And Cool Combo
Celebrating A Holiday For The Rest Of Us
Celebrate Easter In A Sugar Coma
Chat And Chew

Chinese soup is magic
Chocolate cake makes everything better
Chocolate, Part II
Competition flows like chocolate
Corn Flake Chicken, Honeycomb Salad
Dining at the "Your House Bistro"
Don't Dread The Bread
Dress Up Your Next Meal
Drinking Out Of The Box
Eating Your Way Back To Health
Empanadas
Enter Soup
Experiments With Very Bad Brownies
Feeding A Crowd The Morning After
Follow the cider house rules
Fresh Herbs
Go ahead — run silent, run deep
Goodbye corn syrup, hello organic oatmeal
Go Indian for Thanksgiving
Grilled Cheese Junkie

Halloween candy for grown-ups
Have a Happy Meal and a happier wallet
Holiday Cookies - The Easy Way
Holiday Potluck 101-Tips For The Kitchen Novice
Home-Based Date
How do you like them apples?
In-A-Pinch Love Feast
It's not easy to be cheesy
It’s not Christmas without tamales
Lest We Forget The Humble Squash
Keeping your cool while you eat
Living through your salad days
Looking Beyond The Hot Dog Stand
Lunching your way to a less toxic you
Meat's meat and a man's gotta eat

Moist and delicious chicken — no, really
Oatmeal Cookies, The Miracle Cure
Oscar Night, When The Stars Come Out To Eat

Offering Up A Slice Of Teriyaki Pie
Pot Pies Are Darn Tasty
Pumpkin-Flavored Treats
Small Plates Are The Next Big Thing
Speedy 'za not pie in the sky
Steak: it’s what’s for dinner, again
Summer coolers, just add sunlight
Summer Squash
Super Bowl Grub
Take A Walk On The Dark Side
Taste of Manchester Event
The Cosmopolitan
The joys of a simple oatmeal breakfast
The return of comfort food
The One-Note Cook Book
The New American Plate Cookbook
The Stickiest, Hottest & Sweetest Of Love's Labors
The taste of retro
The Unheralded Peanut Butter Cookies
The union of sweet and heat
The Weekly Dish (12-16-04)
The Weekly Dish (12-23-04)

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There's a Barbecue Bonanza Next Door
Week Four: Adding Diet To The Mix
What Was Hot And Haute In 2004
When $$ trumps urge to dine out
When in doubt, go for the organic
When nothing else will cool, Slurp it
You Say Potato, She'll Say Potato,Too
You say tomato, writer says lunch