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Here’s what farmer Mike has got to say about this week’s apple:

By today’s standards, the Newtown Pippin isn’t an elite apple like, say, Honeycrisp or Jazz. These two elite apples were carefully selected for their commercial appeal. Newtown Pippins were likely planted for more obscure reasons. What Honeycrisp and Jazz do not have is a connection with our culture, our history, our collective culinary psyche. And it is for this reason that the Newtown Pippin holds such an iconic place in New York City’s apple history. It is without a doubt the Big Apple’s apple.

The Pippin is a somewhat roundish (tending to oblong), yellowish-green apple that resembles (somewhat) a Granny Smith. The flesh is particularly dense without tremendous crunch or juiciness. But the flavor and aroma are heavenly.  Fresh off the tree, the first bite brings a sweet and sour taste with a hint of lemon. The second bite builds on the first and you understand why (perhaps) that first tree was planted on the Gershom Moore estate in the village of Elmhurst, then known as Newtown. The Moore property stood in the vicinity of what is now Broadway and 45th Avenue in Queens County on Long Island. This sweet and tart green apple became so prized by the most cultured citizens of our new republic that Thomas Jefferson declared from France, “They have no apples here to compare with our Newtown pippin.”

A few years ago Red Jacket Orchards planted an orchard to Newtown Pippin. This was done in part to diversify its apple plantings, but also to pay homage to the role apples, especially the Pippin, play to New York apples. In addition to our Pippins, we have some Cox Orange Pippin (another great apple that plays a major role in the history of apples), Baldwin (another big NY apple), Margil, and Lady apple (perhaps one of the oldest apples in production—dating back to the 1500s in France). Because of its commitment to heritage apples and sustainable farming, Red Jacket Orchards is well poised to be NYC’s orchard of choice when it comes to all things fruit.

Heirloom apples offer more than just history for appeal. Because they have not been selected for cosmetic values—many are russetted, small, generally unappealing from a commercial standpoint—they have retained what is great about them: their uniqueness. Each heirloom variety has its own look, flavor, aroma, and texture. And because of this, each variety deserves a looksee. But start with the Newtown Pippin, because there is little about this apple that isn’t New York—except that it doesn’t have pinstripes.

Tomatoes might be sitting on top of the proverbial heirloom throne, but how much do you know about heirloom apples? You can purchase a Red Delicious or one of a couple other varieties at the store, but it’s become very difficult to experience the beautiful variety that apples can provide. The history of apples goes back thousands of years and thousands of varieties. It is only with relatively recent modern agriculture methods that we’ve been limited to our current choices. Heirloom varieties are slowly making a comeback through the work of small farms and customers that our beginning to demand more authentic flavors.

Join Red Jacket Orchards’ head farmer Mike Biltonen as he discusses the history of apples in literature, art, and cuisine, and how these heirlooms are being preserved.  Participants will also learn about the four seasons of growing apples.  The class will also include a tasting of different hard-to-find varieties, heirloom apple ciders, and, the best use of heirloom apples, hard cider. Q & A session to follow.

Instructor
Mike Biltonen is the Farm Manager of Red Jacket Orchards. He is a lifelong farmer with a passion for great tasting, sustainably grown food. With over 25 years experience farming here, there, and everywhere, he also loves to teach about what he’s learned over the years. But mostly he just likes to farm. And eat heirloom apples with friends and foodies alike.

When: December 16, 2010 from 7:00 – 9:30pm
Where
: Third Ward, Brooklyn
Cost: $15 for Third Ward Members, $20 for non members

To purchase tickets, please e-mail me at redjacketorchardscsa@gmail.com

The Stayman Apple was developed by Joseph Stayman in 1866 and is a descendent of the Winesap apple.  Although developed in Leavenworth, Kansas, this heirloom apple is commonly associated with Virginia, where it is widely grown in pick-your-own orchards.

Jonagold is a cultivar of apple, a cross between the mellow Golden Delicious and tart Jonathan which was developed in 1953 in Geneva, New York (where Red Jacket is from!) at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station. They form a large sweet fruit with a thin skin. Because of their large size they are now favoured by commercial growers in many parts of the world. Jonagold is triploid, and as such requires a second type of apple for pollen and is incapable of providing pollen for other trees.

Jonagold has a green-yellow basic color with crimson, brindled covering colour and has a honey sweet taste with a hint of tartness. This makes it an excellent eating apple, as well as good for pies and salads and sauce. Jonagolds are also favorites as fried apples – simply saute in a little butter and add cinnamon – no sugar needed! The apple has a fluffily crisp fruit. It is juicy and aromatic and has a sweet-sour taste.

razcherry

Beyond our 40 varieties of apples, the winter CSA also features our juices, which have no sugar and no water added to them – that means it’s all fruit!  On top of all this, the juices are all freshly pressed on our farm.  Like everyone else, sometimes we make mistakes.  Why, just a few days ago we began pressing tart cherry stomp while there was still raspberry apple juice still in the mixing tank.  So what did we end up with?  A delicious and limited micro batch of tart cherry and raspberry!  So as a special present, we’ll be adding a 12oz juice of this micro batch to the CSA share this week (and hopefully next!).  Let us know what you think!

Back in the day before SweeTango or HoneyCrisp, or even Gala and Braeburn, there were two types of apples you would find in a grocery store: red and yellow. And, yes, you can rest assured that they were probably ‘Delicious’. Then, in 1972, Grady Auvil, of Auvil Fruit Company, planted the first ‘Granny Smith‘ orchard in Washington State (and the US as well). This planting represented a significant departure for US orchardists from the steady production stream of Reds and Goldens. While many of our apple varieties came from Europe, none (that I know of) came from Australia or other Pacific Ocean countries until Granny Smith. That doesn’t mean there weren’t some scattered about. It just means that major US production was still focused on the “Big 2” and that American consumers had yet to discover the truly great apples that we now find regularly in supermarkets, farmers markets, and CSAs. The Granny Smith apple kicked off a revolution in US apple production.

One of the great “other” introductions from Down Under came from New Zealand. The Braeburn apple was discovered at Williams Brothers Braeburn Orchards near Nelson, New Zealand, in the 1950s. Most presume that ‘Lady Hamilton’ apple was one of the parents, while the other parent is considred to be ‘Granny Smith’–but there is no way to verify this. This apples’ rich sweet – tangy spicy flavor has high impact with consumers. It is a very firm aromatic, juicy, crisp, apple that combines sweet and tart. The apple was introduced to the US in the 1980s and is now major component of production throughout.

Braeburn stores very well if picked while still slightly immature (although at Red Jacket Orchards we have found quite the opposite….when picked right, of course!).  Braeburn is arguably at its best soon after picking and as such that’s how we like to serve it up .

braeburn 

Red Jacket Orchards doesn’t grow very many Braeburns at all. But what we do grow is quite good because of our growing conditions and ability to focus on this apple as a CSA and farmers market apple, rather than as one for supermarkets (in other words, we do not look to store it for very long in any year). So enjoy our Braeburns this fall for as long as possible.

and now a message from Farmer Mike

You know what they say: one person’s junk is another’s treasure. This no truer than when it comes to Fuji apples. The Fuji apple was developed by growers at the Tohoku Research Station in Fujisaki, Aomori, Japan, in the late 1930s. It originated as a cross between two American apple varieties the ‘Red Delicious’ and old ‘Virginia Ralls Genet’ apples. The Japanese have traditionally grown this apple in the most caring of ways ensuring eating one of these precious gems is a near-spiritual experience.

Among its wonderful traits are firm, crisp flesh and super-sweet flavor.  Another of its traits is something called ‘watercore’. In hardcore scientific terms, watercore is described as a “preharvest disorder resulting in water soaked regions in the flesh, hard and glassy in appearance, only visible externally when very severe. The water soaked appearance of watercore affected fruit results from the accumulation of sorbitol-rich solutions in the intercellular spaces.” In other words, the vascular system (how water and nutrients move back and forth in the fruit) is jammed packed with sugars (aka sorbitol). Watercore-laden Fuji are considered defective in the US and other parts of the world, but in Japan they are considered a delicacy. The fact that Japanese will often pay up to double for a truly awesome Fuji bears this out quite obviously.

water core is pictured above as the star-like shape surrounding the seeds

The trouble is that it is very difficult to tell when an apple has watercore or not. Even though Fuji tend to have watercore does not mean that every apple will have it. It’s a bit like finding the golden ticket to Willy Wonka’s factory. The growing season often dictates the severity of watercore: hot, dry growing conditions increase the chances of watercore. This season in the Finger Lakes was nearly perfect weather for watercore. And Wow! does it show. So, we’ve decided to offer up a treat that you may not see until after you’ve crunched through a few apples. But even if you don’t get an apple with watercore, try, try again.

So, you see, it is all perception. One person’s junk is another’s treasure, and watercore is just another of Nature’s hidden culinary treasures. Tanoshimu!