Sampling Sweet Heirloom Treasures … Apple Tasting at Scott Farm Orchard

October 20th, 2011 § 4 comments § permalink

The Golden Light of Harvest Season at Scott Farm Orchard in Vermont

If a rose is a rose is a rose, does it then follow that an apple is an apple is an apple? Of course —except in the most simplistic of senses— neither statement is true. Each of these closely related species —both of which belong to the family Rosaceae— is tremendously complex; with a fascinating variety of forms, habits, flowers and fruits. Like many gardeners, I’ve long considered adding fruit trees to my landscape and many heirloom apples top the list of this most-wanted species. But with so many fruit trees to choose from, how will I decide which varieties to grow? There are apples for cooking and baking, apples for cider, jam and sauce, and there are even apples for floral arrangements, crafts and decorating. Of course, there are also oh-so-many apples perfect just for eating, and is there anything more delicious than a bite of crisp, tart apple on a cool autumn day? I decided to consult with a true, heirloom apple expert, who also happens to be a local friend …

Heirloom Apples at Sunset: Scott Farm Orchard

Earlier this month, I was invited to local, historic Scott Farm Orchard in Vermont for a private, heirloom apple tasting tour with orchard manager and apple expert, Ezekiel Goodband.  This is harvest season, and with apples to pack, cider to press, guests to greet and a farm business to run, Zeke Goodband has hardly a minute to spare. Yet my kind and knowledgable friend took time out of his very busy day to share some of his favorite heirloom fruits and bits of their fascinating histories. Below is a small sampling, and descriptions of the many treasures I took home from my stroll through gloriously beautiful Scott Farm Orchard

Black Gilliflower or Sheep’s Nose Apple: this beautifully colored, fragrant apple is one of my tasting favorites. When I took my first bite, Zeke advised me to look for the flavor of clove. And indeed, the sweet, floral flesh is followed by just a hint of spice at the end. This old, New England apple dates back to the early 1800s and it is wonderful both for cooking and baking or eating fresh, straight from the hand. I like it with a good, sharp cheddar cheese

Heirloom Winesap: amid all the green foliage and golden light, this pretty red apple really stood out in the trees. The Winesap is an American apple dating back to the early 1800s. Named for its wine-like flavor, this juicy red fruit with golden flesh is incredibly fragrant; with floral notes and a hint of spice. Tart flavor is nicely balanced with sweetness, making this a perfect choice for cooking (excellent for sauce, butter and puree), baking, cider making and eating out of hand

Lady Apples: this variety is the oldest of the heirlooms still in cultivation today. Known for their blushing, delicate beauty, clusters of Lady Apples often appear in autumn flower arrangements and wreaths. Of course I can’t imagine wasting a bite! This apple may be small, but it carries an intense, bright flavor. Try popping a couple in your pocket for a snack on your next autumn hike, or arrange slices amongst whole fruits on a platter of cheese as a beautiful appetizer

Heirloom Golden Russet Apples: this gorgeous gem from New York state dates back to the mid 1800s. The Golden Russet is crisp and flavorful; often called the ‘champagne’ of cider apples, it’s also delicious cooked in apple butter, sauce, puree and for baked goods. Rumor has it this variety makes a wonderful hard cider as well

Pinova: According to Zeke, extraordinary beauty and complex flavor makes the Pinova a favorite apple during tastings at Scott Farm. And without a doubt, an apple laden Pinova is truly a sight to behold. The photo simply can not do the color justice (and then there is the annoying lack of click-and-sniff on the screen!). Originating in Germany, this crisp apple posesses a perfect balance of tart and sweet. It’s a fine choice for baking and for eating out of hand.

Whenever I visit Scott Farm, it occurs to me that in addition to their delightful fruit value, apple trees truly are some of the most lovely ornamental plants for home gardens …

When asked about fruit trees for backyard gardens, Zeke Goodband’s first advice is to grow what you like and what you will use. Beyond peaches and pears, which Zeke recommends and sells to home gardeners, there are heirloom apple trees for sale at Scott Farm as well. Some of the more suitable backyard apple tree varieties tossed about in our conversation? The reinettes and russets were first to roll off the orchardist’s tongue, followed by some specific names; including Calville Blanc, Cox Orange Pippin, Holstein and Black Oxford. When choosing apple trees, it’s important to try many varieties of fruit and research their uses, to be sure that you select the apples you like best. Of course, when it comes to doing homework, apple tasting can hardly be considered a chore! If you happen to be traveling in Vermont this fall, I highly recommend stopping in to Scott Farm for an heirloom sampler and some delicious, fresh-pressed cider.

Below are some more of my favorite heirloom apples; chosen for beauty, unique flavor and usefulness in baking or cooking. Interested in continuing your backyard orchard research? The books listed at the bottom of this post are a good place to begin furthering your education. Many thanks again to Ezekiel Goodband at Scott Farm for sharing his time, delicious fruit and orchard expertise with The Gardener’s Eden

Good things do come in small packages: meet the Lady Apple (also pictured above in the orchard) Though she may be small, this apple is one gorgeous and delicious fruit

Another diminutive treasure, the Royal Medlar apple reminds me of winter-dried rose hips. The fruit is hard when harvested, but after “bletting” (a process of ripening off the tree, on a cool, bright table for a few weeks) these tiny apples become soft, juicy and delicious. Sweet with a hint of cinnamon, this fruit is sometimes used for jelly and is also delicious roasted, or baked; especially in pies. Royal Medlar trees are quite striking, with lovely blossoms, and make fine ornamentals in the garden

In terms of baking apples, Calville Blanc d’Hiver is a culinary favorites among the heirloom varieties. This unusually shaped, blushing, golden, 15th century French apple adds wonderful flavor to cakes and tarts, and it holds its shape and texture beautifully in a hot oven. Eaten out of hand, the flavor is both tart and sweet, with hints of spice and vanilla. If you love to bake with apples, this is one you will want in your home orchard

Ashmead’s Kernel is a delightful old English variety dating back to the 1700s. This gorgeous russet fruit is used for baked goods, cooking, eating fresh and also for both fresh pressed and hard cider. The flavor is truly exquisite; a complex ride that starts off with a kick of lemon, followed by a rush of fruity wine and finishing with lingering floral notes

Another favorite with bakers, the Belle de Boskoop apple originated in the Netherlands and is a commonly used dessert apple. The slightly tart flavor and firm, crisp texture hold up exceptionally well under heat. This variety makes fantastic apple strudel as well as other sweet treats

Books for the Would-Be, Backyard Orchardist …

The Best Apples to Buy And Grow (BBG)The Best Apples to Buy and Grow (Brooklyn Botanic Garden All-Region Guide Beth Hanson

Growing Fruit RHS Harry BakerGrowing Fruit (RHS Encyclopedia of Practical Gardening Harry Baker

the Backyard Orchardist stella ottoThe Backyard Orchardist: A Complete Guide to Growing Fruit Trees in the Home Garden Stella Otto

The Apple Grower, Michael PhillipsThe Apple Grower: Guide for the Organic Orchardist Michael Phillips

Photographs and Text ⓒ Michaela Medina/The Gardener’s Eden. All photos, articles and content on this site (with noted exceptions) are the original, copyrighted property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be reposted, reproduced or used in any way without prior written consent. Contact information is in the left side bar. Thank you!

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Dorie Greenspan’s Simply Delicious French Cake with Heirloom Apples …

October 17th, 2011 § 7 comments § permalink

Marie-Hélène’s Apple Cake from Dorie Greespan’s Wonderful Book of Recipes, Around My French Table

I awoke this past Sunday morning with a kitchen full of heirloom apples from Scott Farm Orchard and nothing more important to do than brew a pot of coffee and bake a special birthday cake. No problem, right? Well, I suppose it would have been, were I not the easily distracted type. But of course, that’s exactly how I am. First, I noticed that the light in the garden was incredible, so I had to throw on a bathrobe and tip-toe across the lawn to take a few pictures. This inevitably led to squirrel watching, alpine strawberry picking, pumpkin collecting and hydrangea blossom gathering. Then, back inside, there was a flurry of flower arranging and spontaneous tabletop decorating. You know how one thing will lead another … 

Heirloom Fruit on the Sun-Striped Kitchen Table (iPhone Photo)

Suddenly I remembered that I needed to reschedule an afternoon appointment, and so began the emails. When I glanced up —startled by a squawking trio of blue jays as they hopped about the golden foliage outside my window— I noticed it was nearly eleven o’clock. In the modern world, this sort of behavior might be diagnosed as attention deficit disorder. I call it relaxing, and it was really quite wonderful. It’s been weeks since I’ve had an unscheduled day like this —free to follow each and every whim— and I totally loved it. When I finally settled down on my kitchen stool —leafing through Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table— sunlight had warmed the tabletop, and the sweet scent of ripe fruit filled the air. What a delightful way to spend an October morning …

Beech Leaves Turning Copper (Fagus grandifolia & Tsuga canadensis)

And Blushing Hydrangea Blossoms (H. paniculata ‘Limelight’)

And Blue Jays in Golden Halesia (H. tetraptera, the Mountain Silverbell)

My friend Jennifer has been raving about Marie-Hélène’s Apple Cake —from Dorie Greespan’s wonderful book of recipes, Around My French Table— for nearly a year now. And just last week, Jen reminded me of Dorie’s recipe again when she happened to mention that she’d baked this delicious dessert to share with her husband on their anniversary. I love Dorie Greenspan’s books —as well as her fantastic blog, which you can visit by clicking here— and I’ve been wanting to give this recipe a try since  Around My French Table arrived on my doorstep last fall. But the cake specifically calls for four divers apples (Dorie’s French friend, Marie-Hélène’s way of saying different kinds), so I waited until autumn arrived again to try it with fresh, heirloom apples. And this weekend, with a special birthday cake to bake and Scott Farm apples in season, I finally found the perfect opportunity to use one Calville Blanc d’Hiver, one Belle de Boskoop, one Ashmead’s Kernel and one Bramley’s Seedling heirloom apple  …

Fruit in the Kitchen and Passing Showers in the Garden

I Love Looking Outside While I Play Around in the Kitchen. Sometimes, At This Time of Year,  I’ll Spot Foraging Turkey or a Red Fox on the Hunt, But Most of the Time, I just Admire the Autumn Colors …. 

Apple Cake, Ready for Baking!

Fresh from the Oven: Golden, Warm, Fragrant Apple Cake. I Wish Your Screen Could be Scratch and Sniff

Marie-Hélène’s Apple Cake from Dorie Greenspan’s Cookbook Around My French Table

Ingredients:

¾ cup all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon baking powder
A pinch of salt
4 large heirloom apples (different kinds)
2 large eggs
¾ cup sugar
3 tablespoons rum (dark)
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
8 tablespoons melted butter, cooled

Directions:

Set oven rack to center brackets. Preheat oven to 350° F and butter an 8 or 9 inch round, spring-form pan.

In a small bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together until blended.

Peel and core four apples of different kinds, and cut them into chunks roughly 1-2″ in size.

Whisk eggs in a medium bowl until they foam. Slowly add sugar and whisk a bit longer until well blended. Add the vanilla and the rum and whisk some more. While continuing to whisk, slowly add half of the dry ingredients. When absorbed into the batter, add half the melted butter. Repeat until all butter and flour mixture are smooth and well blended. Slowly fold in the apples using a spatula. Be sure all apples are completely coated with bater.

Push the apple batter (it will be very thick) into the buttered pan,

Place the pan on the center rack and bake approximately one hour, checking the cake toward the end of the baking time. Remove when the top is golden brown, and when an inserted knife pulls clean from the cake.

Cool for five minutes, then loosen the cake from the sides of a pan with a butter knife. Slowly open the form and let the cake cool to room temperature before serving. You can use a spatula to release the bottom of the cake from the form, or use a wax string. Place a serving dish on top of the cake and carefully invert.

Serve with homemade whipped cream or ice cream.

A Delightfully Unusual, Autumn Birthday Cake

All Heirloom Apples in This Post are from Scott Farm Orchard, Vermont. Stay Tuned for More Heirloom Orchard Mania this Week, Including Heirloom Apples for Cooking and Eating, Unusual Fruit, and Recommended Fruit Trees for Home Gardens

Photographs and Text ⓒ Michaela Medina/The Gardener’s Eden. All photos, articles and content on this site (with noted exceptions) are the original, copyrighted property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be reposted, reproduced or used in any way without prior written consent. Contact information is in the left side bar. Thank you!

Do you enjoy The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through affiliate links. A small percentage of each sale will be paid to this site, helping to cover web hosting and maintenance costs. Thank you so much for your support!

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Original Sin? Getting My Fill of Old World Temptations and Pleasures in the Apple Orchard at Scott Farm…

November 9th, 2009 § 10 comments § permalink

Heirloom apples from Scott Farm, Vermont

Apples. They certainly are beautiful and tempting. But sinful? Hardly. Although, to tell the truth, I’ve always had a secret, flirtatious ‘thing’ for orchards. Maybe it all started with those stories about wickedness and pleasure in the Garden of Eden. You know, forbidden fruit and all that? Who knows how my mind works. All I can tell you is that somewhere along the line apple groves became mighty seductive to me. And I suspect I am not alone. Old orchards are just plain romantic, and heirloom apples are as alluring as a fruit can get.

I grew up around orchards, and some of my earliest memories are of apple-blossom petal-blizzards and the sweet, earthy smell of mashed fruit wafting from the cider house up the hill. As a child, I remember being held up to a tree and plucking shiny, red fruit from the branches while the old orchard-keeper’s brown, leathery hands held me safe and secure. Later on, I lured my suitors to the orchard on ‘picnics’, where we would spread out a blanket and gaze at the moonrise or watch the Fourth of July fireworks in the valley below. And although none of those romances worked out, my love affair with the orchard is still going strong…

Apple orchards are invariably beautiful. Positioned at high altitudes to take advantage of air flow on chilly nights at either end of the growing season, most orchards have spectacular views. New England is well known for its beautiful fruit farms, however Scott Farm in Dummerston, Vermont, is quite simply the prettiest apple orchard I have ever seen. You may know it too, even if you live far away, because Scott farm was used as the main set location for the 1999 film, The Cider House Rules, based on John Irving’s novel of the same name. Lucky for me, this glorious place is just a short drive from my house…

Scott Farm belongs to the Landmark Trust USA, an organization dedicated to the preservation of historic places. It is a 626 acre property inclusive of the 571 acre historic orchard and buildings pictured here. Some of the buildings on the large property, including the Dutton Farmhouse overlooking Scott Farm, and Naulakha, (Rudyard Kipling’s former home), and Scott Farm Sugarhouse are available for holiday rental, or in the case of the larger spaces, for gatherings such as conferences and weddings.

Scott Farm itself is a working, for-profit business. In cultivation since 1791, the farm is listed on the National Register of Historic places. Zeke Goodband manages the orchard, and how fortunate for Scott Farm, for there is no finer orchard keeper, and no one more knowledgeable about heirloom apples. When Zeke first arrived at Scott Farm, McIntosh apples made up nearly 100% of the orchard. Today, the farm harvests many kinds of fruit, and more than 70 varieties of unusual apples; most of them heirlooms grafted from Zeke’s own, personal collection of cuttings gathered from throughout New England. The apples at Scott Farm are all certified, ecologically raised and hand picked beginning in August and continuing through early November. In addition to growing and selling apples, other fruit and orchard products, the farm also offers fruit trees and lilacs for sale in spring and it conducts annual pruning and grafting workshops.

I thought I was passionate about plants, but what I am discovering now is a another deeper, and far more intense level of hortimania – the world of the heirloom apple collector. With so many beautiful trees and bushel upon bushel of fragrant, mouthwatering fruit – it’s hard not to consider planting a small orchard of my own. Perched on a 1800′ hilltop, my property has a protected, easterly facing slope. I am at once excited and frightened by the possibilities racing through my mind. Yes orchards are beautiful, but raising apples is not for the faint of heart; there are deer, there are insect pests, and there are diseases. And as if that’s not enough, every few years apple crops are wiped out by late frosts – delicate blossoms nipped in the bud.

Still, in spite of the obstacles, there is the siren song. The temptation. Orleans Reinette; Blue Pearmain; Belle de Boskoop; Ananas Reinette; Black Gilliflower; Wolf River… the list goes on and on. Have a look at the possibilities. Do you grow heirloom apples, or are you thinking of planting a few fruit trees of your own? I am certainly considering a small orchard, and I couldn’t keep it under wraps. So I will take you along with me on the apple tour this week. They say Eve tempted Adam with an apple. But I don’t think she needed to do much persuading if she was holding one of these heirloom beauties in her hands…

Hudson’s Golden Gem is an American apple from the early 1900’s, grown from a chance seedling. This variety has crisp, sweet flesh with a slight, ripe-pear flavor. The color is extraordinary…

Blue Pearmain is a New England apple from 1700’s. It is excellent for baking or for eating fresh. Henry David Thoreau wrote about this, one of his favorite apples, in his journals…

Ananas Reinette is an apple first grown in France in the 1500’s. Small and yellow-skinned, it has a hint of pineapple and zesty citrus to its tender flesh. This beautiful apple is suitable for baking or just for eating as a snack…

Black Gilliflower apples are another old New England variety. This apple has an intense aroma, it is a traditional and favorite cooking apple…

Calville Blanc d’Hiver is a French apple with a long history dating back to the 15th century. It has a sweet, bright flavor, reminiscent of champagne. This is one of the best French cooking apples as it maintains an excellent texture in baked goods…

Wolf River is originally from Wisconsin, but it quickly became a popular baking apple in New England, where it was once widely grown. This apple dates back to the mid 1800’s, and is excellent in pies and other baked goods…

Orleans Reinette is a gorgeous apple. This beauty has been grown in France for hundreds of years. An excellent cooking apple, the flavor of this apple is citrus-like, with a rich nuttiness…

This popular heirloom apple dates back to 1803 in Nottinghamshire, England. Bramley’s seedling is an excellent choice for baking, and it is frequently used in pies and crisps…

Belle de Boskoop is the tart flavored fruit used in authentic apple strudel. It comes from the Netherlands…

Zabergau Reinette comes from the Zaber River region of Germany. This apple is used in baking, cooking and sauces, as well as for eating…

Historic, culinary and varietal information is courtesy of Zeke Goodband at Scott Farm Orchard, Vermont

Stay tuned for more apple-mania this week. In the meantime, here are some tasty links:

Some Delicious Heirloom – Apple Recipe Links…

Appelschnitte, (apple pastry w/ iced sheeps milk) at Chocolate and Zucchini (Uses Boskoop and Reinette apples)

Tarte Tatin with Salted Butter Caramel, also at Chocolate and Zucchini

Chocolate and Zucchini is a lovely food blog written by Parisian Clotilde Dusoulier. In addition to being a great recipe source, it is also well written and a good read.

Photographs & excerpts from this photo have been reprinted, with permission, by Grist.org. Click here for the story.

Article and photographs copyright 2009, Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without express permission. Inspired by something you see here? It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams… 

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