Saturday, September 11, 2010


By Head Chef Orlo Coots

Here in the North Country, except for the fall foliage, nothing says autumn more than a crisp fresh apple picked right from the tree. A perfect apple mirrors a perfect fall day — cool and crisp.

Apples are one of the easiest fruits to pick. The trees grow low to the ground with the riper apples on the outside of the trees. This enables the entire family to enjoy the fun of apple picking. With numerous pick-your-own orchards throughout the state, there is no reason not to have a supply of locally grown apples in your kitchen. New Hampshire’s climate is perfect for many apple types. While not every apple is perfect for all occasions, the variety available covers the range of uses — eating, cooking, baking, storing or cooking into sauce.

When you are picking apples, do not judge ripeness by color. Different varieties ripen to different colors. Check with the orchard to learn what is ripe and the best apples for your needs. Ripeness is calculated from the days since the trees flowered. The apple farmer calculates this very carefully and will tell you where the ripe trees are. It is just as important to him as it is to you to know which trees are ripe and which ones are not.

When picking, carefully place the apples into your basket to prevent bruising. Do not wash the apples until you are going to use them, as moisture will increase the chance of spoilage. Keep the apples cool in your basement or the vegetable drawer of your refrigerator. Many apples will last for weeks properly stored, but not all. Make sure to ask which ones store well.

There are many different varieties here in New Hampshire that are available to pick now or in the next couple of weeks:

Early McIntosh — good for eating and baking. Empire — high quality apple for many culinary uses. Gala — a sweet eating apple. Ida Red — excellent for all uses. Jersey Mac — good for eating and baking. Jonagold — good for salads as well as cooking and baking. July Red — a nice eating apple. Honeycrisp — a nice crisp eating apple. McIntosh — great for eating, pies and applesauce. Macoun — good sweet eating apple. Paula Red — good for eating and baking. Pippin — best for cooking and baking. Puritan — good for eating and baking. Quini — good for eating and baking. Redcort — a nice eating apple.

While this list is by no means totally comprehensive, it is a good guide to determine what you can pick locally in September. Go to your orchard, pick some beautiful local apples and eat, bake or make into applesauce and enjoy the true flavor of fall in the North Country.

Try this recipe for a flavorful applesauce.

The first step is to choose apples that are naturally sweet, like Red Delicious, Gala, Fuji, Winesap, McIntosh, Yellow Delicious, and Mutsu, and always use a mixture — never just one type. If buying your apples at an orchard, ask for “seconds," "culls" or "drops." These are smaller apples, sometimes odd shapes or with imperfect appearance. They are perfect for applesauce and cost one-third to one-half the price of the top grade apples. Ask at the counter for them as they may be kept out back.

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