This time of year it’s all about the apples for me.
And butternut squash, and maple syrup, and braised meats. But that’s another post, or three.
A few weeks ago, I made a trip back to my hometown of Hopkinton, New Hampshire and visited Gould Hill Farm.
Gould Hill is where I got my very first job. After a terrible day at the register, in which I charged someone $347.50 for a 1/2 peck of apples – among other egregious accounting errors – I was demoted to apple sorting, and relinquished to the back of the barn. Anyone who knows me can attest to my utter lack of understanding the most basic arithmetic (I’m looking at you 9th grade math teacher, Mr. Brizard). I took it hard for a few days, but under the supervision of a sweet and wickedly funny blond West Virginian named “Little Sue”, I struck up a rhythm – sizing, sorting, and eating the broken melt-in-your mouth shortbread cookies that were unsellable, but no less delicious than the perfect rounds that sold like hot cakes out of a big glass jar up front.
I could never hope to be as lightning fast as Little Sue, who would lap me at the sizing ring while telling tales about her grand-baby down south, and discouraging greedy children from taking too many of the free kids apples from an ancient wooden crate. “Eat too many,” she’d say with a solemn look, “and you’ll get the green apple-quick step,” before turning to me and doubling over with a howl.
Some things have changed since my tenure 12 years ago. The tough-as-nails couple who owned the Orchard, finally decided it was time to quit climbing trees, and managing dozens of seasonal workers, and sold the farm to a new generation of entrepreneurs. While the interior of the apple barn has lost a little of its rustic charm, the new owners have made up for it, by frying the most delicious cider donuts. It’s not easy to keep an agricultural business afloat these days, and they have done a fine job of expanding the retail space and making it something of a tourist destination.
Thankfully, my favorite thing about Gould Hill hasn’t changed- the cider. They sell an unpasteurized version which is just the freshest, crispest, most un-messed-with apple nectar you’ll find anywhere.
I’ve searched, and I cannot find unpasteurized cider in the Boston area.
Just one more reason I love the Granite State.
Live Free or Die.
New Hampshire, for damn sure.
I met up with some fellow Hopkinton Hawks, Vicky, Allan and Shawn, on this sun-soaked morning.
After loading up with goodies from the shop, we headed to the pick-your-own orchard.
Vicky and Allan are two of my all-time favorite people, and they just got engaged!
With a little cajoling, we convinced Allan to let me snap some photos to commemorate the occasion
And then, much too quickly, it was time to pack up the Prius and head back to Hipsterville.
But seriously, I love Somerville, my new hometown.
Right here in Union Square, I learned what to do with the bounty of my Hopkinton Harvest.
Make apple sauce.
Not the watery bland stuff that comes in a plastic cup, I’m talking about a rustic compote, you can flavor with anything you choose.
A healthy and delicious topper for fruit and yogurt parfaits, the perfect accompaniment to roasted pork or crispy latkes, and delicious right out of the jar.
I learned to make this sauce when I took a canning class at Relish Center for Urban Agriculture, the recipe is adapted from my canning-wizard teacher Sam Musher, of the League of Urban Canners, and it’s perfectly suited for canning.
Apparently, here in Massachusetts we need leagues and centers to teach us things my mom, and other more hard-core New Englander’s have always known how to do.
The class was great, I might add.
Relish holds workshops on everything from bee-keeping and backyard chicken raising, to beer brewing and composting.
To learn more, check out the article I wrote about Relish for The Boston Globe here.
If you aren’t up for canning, don’t fret, it keeps well in the fridge, or you can freeze it!
If you’re looking for more apple recipes, I highly recommend this Apple Crostata from The Boston Globe. I can’t stop making it, and it’s really improved my baking confidence. Double the pastry recipe, and stash one in the freezer, you’ll thank me later.
Hope you are enjoying the fall and all kinds of tasty apple treats.
I’d love to hear what you’re cooking up!
Rosemary apple sauce -
Makes 12 cups, enough for 6 pint jars
This recipe is big enough to support a modest canning session or stock your freezer. You can easily halve the recipe if you would like a smaller yield, which will keep in the refrigerator for about 2 weeks. Because apples contain a good amount of acidity, applesauce can be safely home-canned without the addition of lemon juice or another acid. Canning guru Sam Musher, who prefers a more savory sauce, suggests adjusting the amount of sweetener to taste – whether you choose sugar, maple syrup, molasses etc. She also recommends experimenting with flavorings beyond traditional cinnamon – here we use rosemary, she also suggests mole powder, rum, and thyme as substitutes.
9 pounds of apples, a mix of Cortland and McIntosh work well.
1 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3 sprigs rosemary
- Peel the apples if you prefer a skinless sauce, or leave them unpeeled for a more rustic compote. Cut into 1-inch slices.
- Combine the apples, water, sugar, and salt in a large, heavy bottomed pot with a tight-fitting lid.
- Cover the apples and simmer over medium-low heat for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching, and breaking up the mixture.
- Taste for seasoning, adding more sweetener if you like, and discard rosemary. The sauce can be processed for home canning, and freezes well.
RECIPE ADAPTED FROM SAM MUSHER, LEAGUE OF URBAN CANNERS