This weekend, Vermont is full of Harvest Festivals . . . and most of them celebrate apples. Apples are, after all, Vermont’s state fruit (named in 1999) and the apple pie is our state pie. We have about 4,000 acres in apple production. Plus, the apple diversity you can find in our state is increasing every year - as we bring back old varieties and products that had fallen out of fashion over the generations, and invent new ones.
First, there's the varieties of apples themselves, like the collection of over 90 different heirlooms being celebrated at Scott Farm in Dummerston on Sunday, with names like Sheep's Nose, Hidden Rose, and D'Arcy Spice and descriptions like "often said to look more like a potato than an apple, an irregular, uneven surface overlaid with rough gray and black russet and distinctive knobs and welts" (but it tastes good, this describes the Knobbed Russet)
We may build our collection of old apples even more with the Lost Apple Project, recently launched by Colin David and David Dolginow. As 7 Days reported on 10/9/13, this duo in Addison County is mapping forgotten apple trees - growing on field edges, for example, or alongside country roads - to find unusual apples with promising characteristics that they might save from disappearing. They’ve identified 60 individual trees so far, and as an example of the unusual flavors they’ve discovered mention that one tastes just like lemonade. The project is currently seeking Kickstarter funding. Having diverse apple varieties goes hand in hand with having diverse uses for apples.
The apple that’s best for eating might not be best for pie baking or for making applesauce. The best apple for applesauce, by the way, is Yellow Transparent. And Wolf River apples are so large you only need a few to make a pie. This weekend, cider presses will be going at festivals and open houses across the state. Commercial kitchens and home cooks both will be prepping pies, apples sauces, and apple butters. Apple Cider Jelly Sorbet, as shared in an earlier DigInVT blog post. On Saturday, The Inn at Weathersfield will have a cooking class on how to make their heirloom cider pie (I don’t know their recipe, but mine involves boiled cider - which adds tang to both dessert pies and savory meats - read more about this product at the Wood’s Cider Mill site.
A relatively new product that keeps a traditional spirit of slow production and intense flavor is ice cider. The Eden Ice Cider company in West Charleston, VT, has brought ice cider to our state from where it began in southern Quebec. It’s a sweet wine, made through a freezing and melting process that concentrates the natural sugars in an apple’s juice. You can read a short description of the process at the Eden Ice Cider website and you can taste different varieties of ice ciders at the Northeast Kingdom Tasting Center in downtown Newport, open daily from 10 am - 8 pm. And, of course, there are all the standard apples we know - the MacIntoshs, Cortlands, and Honeycrisp - available at orchards, farmstands and U-Picks around the state.
You can find more writing by Helen Labun Jordan at www.discoveringflavor.com