ONE OF THE BEST early season apples is a relatively new one, Ginger Gold. It was discovered in 1969 in Lovingston, Virginia, in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. With the 2014 New England fresh apple harvest just underway, it will not be long before these beauties are ready for picking — as early as this weekend in some locations.
Ginger Gold has crisp, juicy, white flesh, with outstanding flavor, sweet with a little tartness. It is medium to large in size, round to conical in shape, and has a green-yellow skin, often with a light pink blush.
Ginger Gold is good for both cooking and fresh eating, especially in salads, as its flesh browns slowly when sliced. Its season is short, beginning in mid- to late August; like most early season apples, it does not store as well as many later varieties.
Ginger Gold was a chance seedling discovered in the orchard of Clyde and Ginger Harvey. Clyde originally proposed naming the apple “Harveylicious.” Fortunately, wiser heads prevailed, and Clyde was persuaded to use his wife’s first name instead. Ginger Gold’s parentage is not known, but its color, flavor, and other traits suggest that it may include both Golden Delicious and Albemarle Pippin.
To find out where Ginger Gold is grown, visit New England Apples and click on “Find An Apple Orchard.” Be sure to call ahead to learn the ripening dates at the orchard you intend to visit, as they vary some according to location.
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NEXT TUESDAY, August 19, is Savior of the Apple Feast Day, an Eastern Slavic holiday of pre-Christian origin associated with harvesting of ripe fruits, especially apples. Sometime after the 10th century, it became celebrated by Russian Orthodox Christians in conjunction with the New Testament narrative of the Transfiguration of Jesus.
On Savior of the Apple Feast Day, people from Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine eat apples, apple pies, and other apple dishes — even if they are not Orthodox Christians. Churches across the countries bless the new harvest. According to one tradition, a person making a wish while eating an apple on Savior of the Apple Feast Day will have it come true.
Here is an account of a 2011 Savior of the Apple Feast Day from Margaret McKibbon, president of American Friends of Russian Folklore, excerpted from the Historic Hostess website:
“At a church in Belarus, every family brought a basket lined with a colorful woven or embroidered towel and filled with apples and other fruit, usually what was growing in their own gardens at home. The baskets were tucked out of the way until the end of the liturgy, when the parishioners drew back to leave a central aisle clear with baskets on the floor lining it on both sides.
“The priest then advanced down the aisle, repeating a blessing as he flicked blessed water over the baskets and people. After a closing prayer everybody picked up their baskets and headed for home, old ladies serenely pedaling their bicycles down the road.
“At home, our hostess carefully divided up the blessed fruit into portions for her friends and relatives who had not been at the service. Much of the rest of the day was spent in paying visits and distributing the fruit, which was always received with reverence and gratitude.”
Closer to home but a bit later, New England Apple Day will officially launch the local apple harvest Wednesday, September 3, as the commissioners of agriculture in the six New England states make appearances at a number of orchards throughout the region. Details to follow as the date nears.
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FOR THE NEXT FEW WEEKS, ripe apples will overlap with green tomatoes. Ruth Griggs of Northampton, Massachusetts, supplied us with a recipe that combines the two:
“I wrote this down in the early 1970s as told to me by Louise Leu, who looked over our family farm, Stone Farm, in Chesterfield, New Hampshire. Louise was of German heritage and moved next door in the early 1960s from Queens, New York, when her husband, an accomplished violinist named Lou Leu, became ill.
“Louise tended our huge vegetable garden and put up all the vegetables come harvest — both freezing and canning — plus she made jams, pickles, sauerkraut, and the like. She was also a very good cook. I suspect this is a very old recipe, as the pie is served with ‘rich cream’ — perhaps before ice cream was invented?”
Green Tomato and Apple Pie
Brush bottom and sides of a pastry-lined pie with unbeaten egg white and cover with a layer of small green tomatoes, thinly sliced. Sprinkle with a little salt mixed with a little cinnamon and nutmeg and dot with 1 T butter creamed with 1 T brown sugar.
Cover with a layer of thinly sliced, tart apples and repeat the seasoning and sugar. Add another layer of green tomatoes and two of apples, each layer seasoned and sugared. Round the filling in the center and pour in 1/3 cup apple cider.
Adjust the top crust, make a few slashes, and brush with milk. Bake in a moderate oven for 40 minutes, or until the crust is delicately browned. Serve warm or cold with rich cream.