Apples That Don’t Need Upgrades

Apple Orchard 2011 042

Photograph from Flickr user Nellie76

When the Huffington Post, National Public Radio, CBS News and Businessweek report on the apple crop in the Northeast you know there’s something brewing. Nationwide the 2012 harvest is expected to be the worst in more than 25 years. In Michigan, ranked third among the nation’s top 10 apple growing states, production is a minuscule fraction of their typical 23 million bushels. Western New York and the Hudson Valley also expect diminished yield, and New York is second to Washington in apple production.

Sultry summer weather—in March—forced trees into early bloom, and a hard frost in April killed off blossoms in many regions. A prolonged drought  hindered fruit formation. Hail caused damage too. For many commercial orchards this meant fewer and smaller apples to pick or less-than-perfect specimens to sell. But North Country growers are not nearly as stressed as those in the Midwest.

Hicks Orchard, in Middle Granville, was so affected by quirky temperatures and scant precipitation that pick-your-own hours have been reduced to weekends only in September. The place has been a u-pick destination since 1905, depending on families and school groups to boost orchard income.

Bob Rulf, of Rulf’s Orchards, in Peru, says this about the Champlain Valley harvest: “Everybody here is happy. There are very few apples in the Eastern Seaboard. But we have apples here. Prices are up by one-third to a half.” His place is 50 acres and picks about 25,000 bushels of apples—17 varieties—each fall.

Our local agribusiness powerhouse is McIntosh, which thrives in the cool climate of northern New York. Forrence Orchards has more than 1,200 acres of apple trees and picks about 25 million pounds of apples a year. McIntosh are popular, according to Rulf, because they “are so versatile. Many varieties are strictly for eating out of hand.”

Without doubt the juicy, crunchy, tart and sweet Honeycrisp is challenging the popularity of old-line apples. “We can’t plant them fast enough,” says Rulf. “There’s a huge demand” and prices reflect that, with Honeycrisp significantly higher than Cortland, Macoun, Golden Delicious and other standbys.

SweeTango, developed in Minnesota, is a rare and delicious newcomer that may sway even hard-core Honeycrisp fans. The apple—a cross between Honeycrisp and Zestar!—is nearly impossible to find far from the Land of 10,000 Lakes and the Next Big Thing coop, which controls the supply of this 2009 introduction, but Chazy Orchards is harvesting SweeTango now.

Regardless of your preference, North Country orchards are well-stocked this season. Many have corn mazes, pumpkin patches and bakeries. For a statewide list check out

The following recipe for fruit leather can be found, along with lots of other delicious seasonal dishes, in Northern Comfort: Fall and Winter Recipes from Adirondack Life, available in the Adirondack Life store.

Adirondack Apple Leather
by Elaine Priest, Eagle Bay, NY
A wonderful way to preserve the season’s bounty, apple leather takes virtually no effort and makes a healthful snack. The recipe’s author says that she doesn’t even need an oven to make the fruit leather—“Living in the North Country, we usually have a wood stove burning, and I put some kind of flame-tamer between the cookie sheet and stove surface.”
6–8 McIntosh apples
Pam cooking spray
Spray Pam on a nonstick cookie sheet or jelly roll pan with raised edges. Peel and core apples and run through blender until they are the consistency of runny applesauce. Spread blended apples on cookie sheet and place on a moderately warm surface to dry or bake about 45 minutes at 275 degrees F, checking frequently. When dry, tear or cut into strips and eat.







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