WITH THIS FALL’S EARLY HARVEST, mid-season apples like Empire and Jonathan are already available at farm stands and stores. There will be plenty of apples throughout the fall, but if you want to pick your own, you should plan to go this weekend or next, at the latest, except for parts of northern New England (call the orchard to see what is being picked).
The Empire apple is a cross between McIntosh and Eastern Red Delicious. The result is a variety whose flavor is sweeter and less tart than a McIntosh. Empire has juicy, firm white flesh that does not easily bruise. It is a high-quality dessert apple and good for all culinary uses. It has a deep red skin brushed with gold and green.
Empire is a newer variety, raised by R.D. Way in 1945, and introduced commercially in 1966 by the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, New York.
Jonathan is a popular cooking apple, with a spicy, tangy flavor. Its flesh is crisp and juicy, and it has a deep red skin. Applesauce made with Jonathans turns a rich pink from the brilliant red skin color.
Two cautionary notes about Jonathan are that it has a relatively short storage life, and it is not considered especially good for baked apples.
From Ulster County, New York, the Jonathan dates back to the mid-1800s, from an Esopus Spitzenburg seedling.
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THIS RECIPE for Juniper and Apple Soup comes from Massachusetts native Bea Ruggles Dobyan, now living in Missouri, via Michigan (she found it at a Spice Merchants shop in Ann Arbor).
“It sounded different,” Bea writes, “and that’s the kind of cooking I like.” She will serve it as the first course at a dinner party this weekend, and says it is a great opener for a fall day.
“You can take the girl out of New England, but you can’t take New England out of the girl,” says Bea, who grew up in the central Massachusetts town of Brookfield. “I’m crazy about using herbs and spices in my cooking. That is what I’m known for here in the Midwest.”
Juniper and Apple Soup
1 T juniper berries (cracked)
4 cardamom pods
3 whole allspice
1 cinnamon stick
1 bunch fresh parsley
2 T olive oil
3 New England apples, peeled, cored and diced, such as McIntosh, Empire, and Jonathan
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
2 shallots, chopped
1 inch piece of fresh ginger root, finely chopped
4 c chicken or vegetable stock
1 c apple cider
1 c cream
3 T Armagnac or apricot brandy (optional)
salt and pepper to taste
chopped fresh parsley to garnish
Put juniper berries, cardamom pods, allspice, and cinnamon stick in a piece of cheesecloth and tie together with string. Tie the parsley together with a string.
Heat oil in a pan, add apples, celery, shallots, and ginger. Season with salt and pepper. Cover the pan, and cook gently for 10 minutes.
Add the stock and apple cider and stir well. Add the spices and parsley. Bring slowly to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 40 minutes. Remove the spices and parsley.
Pour the soup into a blender and purée. Then pass it through a sieve (strainer) into a clean pan. Bring to a boil and add the cream and the Armagnac/brandy. Add salt and pepper if necessary. Serve hot, garnish with fresh parsley.
Optionally, you can add cooked ham and crispy bacon, as well.
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