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Mnookin: Apple Abundance

This has been a boom year for apples in Vermont. Following on the heels of a light crop last year, apples have been abundant in orchards, on family farms, and in backyards. Even crabapple trees were heavily weighted with a bounty of small fruits. It seems that any way you turn, you’ll be rewarded with the bounty of apples.

My family belongs to a coveted apple CSA through Scott Farm in Dummerston, and they provide us with weekly half-peck samples of two of their 110 apple varieties, most of them heirlooms. A few days before the apples are available for pick-up, we receive an email describing their origins, flavors, and uses. Sometimes, the message also includes a poem, a link to a recent newspaper article, or a tantalizing recipe — like apples softened in butter and maple syrup.

Every part of the description of these apples is enticing. Their names: Ananas Reinette, Ashmead’s Kernel, Maiden’s Blush, Wolf River. Their colors: yellow-skinned, rosy, deep red. Their textures: crisp, coarse, juicy, soft. Their tastes: from tart to sweet, likened to pineapples, crunchy lemons, ripe pears, guava, or even vanilla.

Some apples taste best eaten out of hand, while others are intended for sauce or pies. We’re told the Belle du Boskoop is “the only apple considered suitable for making authentic strudel.”

Each heirloom apple has its own lore. The Lady Apple, we are told, “…was popular during the Renaissance, when ladies would keep one tucked away in their bosom and take it out to freshen their breath.” The Dolgo Crabapple came from Kazakhstan several hundred years ago. Henry David Thoreau wrote about his preference for the Blue Pearmain in his journal.

With this abundance of apples, I’ve turned some into sauce, pressed some into cider, and dehydrated others in rings for my young daughter to enjoy as a snack. I’ve eaten more than my fair share of cider donuts.

Still, one of my favorite ways to use apples is to bake them into a crisp, drawing on my mom’s oral recipe: Fill a baking dish with sliced apples. Mix one part each butter, sugar, and flour; add two parts oats. Spread topping, bake until crisp, and enjoy!

Though apples may embody autumn, they now also remind me of summer. My wife and I were married in the hills of southern Vermont amidst the apple trees at Scott Farm. Before the ceremony began, we savored a private moment in the shade of the trees, sampling their tart, August fruits, and their sweet promise.