Classic Heirlooms: Baldwin and Northern Spy

Beyond the apple-laden trees, Mount Ascutney looms in the distance at Wellwood Orchards, Springfield, Vermont. (Bar Lois Weeks)
Beyond the apple-laden trees, Mount Ascutney looms in the distance at Wellwood Orchards, Springfield, Vermont. (Bar Lois Weeks)

THEY NO LONGER dominate the New England apple industry, but Baldwin and Northern Spy are two delicious heirlooms that remain in demand.

These two large, late-season, all-purpose apples are also beautiful, Baldwin with its wine-red tones and prominent lenticels, or pores, and Northern Spy with a distinctive pinkish-red hue.

Baldwin apple. (Bar Lois Weeks photo)
Baldwin apple                    (Bar Lois Weeks)

For more than a century Baldwin was New England’s premier apple, and among the most popular varieties in the nation. A deep freeze during the winter of 1933-1934 killed off thousands of New England’s Baldwin trees, though, and they were never replanted in significant numbers, replaced by the more reliable and hardier McIntosh and Cortland, among others.

Despite its horticultural flaws, Baldwin remains an outstanding apple for both fresh eating and cooking. Watch this one-minute video to learn more about its history and best uses:


Northern Spy apple (Bar Lois Weeks)
Northern Spy apple         (Bar Lois Weeks)

While not quite as popular as Baldwin, Northern Spy has experienced a similar trajectory, from one of the nation’s leading apples in the early 1900s to treasured heirloom. The apple is still grown in quantity in states like Michigan, although much of it is for processing.

Like Baldwin, Northern Spy is equally good eaten fresh or cooked, with complex flavor. For many bakers, it is a favorite pie apple. Watch this one-minute video to learn more:

A testament to Baldwin’s and Northern Spy’s enduring popularity is that they are still grown at more than 25 New England orchards. Visit the Apple Finder at, click on the variety, and follow the link that lists orchards that grow them.

As ripening dates vary, be sure to call the orchard ahead of time to make sure the variety you seek is available for sale or picking.


THIS RECIPE for Apple Spice Cake was sent to us by Agnes Mark, co-owner of Wellwood Orchards in Springfield, Vermont, who says that any New England apple like Baldwin or Northern Spy works well in it.

“This is a great recipe to pull out when you know company’s coming,” she writes.

Even better, she adds, wait until they arrive, and let them cut and core the apples “while they unpeel from the stress of daily living to relax where time stands still: in the kitchen, among kindred hearts!”

It makes a great brunch treat, too.

Apple Spice Cake for Friends

3 c flour (blend white and whole wheat)

1 T cinnamon

1 t baking soda

1 t salt

Lori Thoin’s secret ingredient: ½ t nutmeg (oh yes!)

1⅓ c applesauce or vegetable oil

2 c sugar

3 eggs

3-4 (3 c) New England apples, cored and cut into ½” pieces

1 c chopped nuts, such as pecans or walnuts

1 t vanilla

caramel sauce

Preheat oven 350 °F. Spray 12-cup Bundt pan with cooking spray and set aside.

Working over a large sheet of parchment paper, sift together flour, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, and secret ingredient and set aside.

In bowl of electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment, combine applesauce or vegetable oil, sugar, and eggs; mix on high speed until lemon yellow.

Fold reserved parchment in half lengthwise; with mixer on medium speed, gradually shake in dry ingredients until just incorporated.

Stir in apples, nuts, and vanilla.

Pour batter into prepared pan, and bake 75-90 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool 10 minutes in pan on a wire rack, then invert cake onto rack; turn cake right-side up to cool completely.

Serve drizzled with caramel sauce.


Wellwood Orchards

529 Wellwood Orchards Road

Springfield, VT 05156


Open 9 – 5 through November 1. Extended hours until the day before Thanksgiving to pick up baked goods and ordered Fresh Turkeys!


2019 New England Apples calendar is full of information about this region’s unique apples and orchards, including many health benefits of this extraordinary fruit.

Each month features a different apple variety and New England orchard, with photography by        Bar Lois Weeks and Russell Steven Powell.

Calendars are $10 each, which includes shipping. Email us at to use PayPal, or mail a check to:

New England Apple Association

PO Box 41

Hatfield, MA 01038


Baldwin apples, Pine Hill Orchards, Colrain, Massachusetts (Russell Steven Powell)
Baldwin apples, Pine Hill Orchards, Colrain, Massachusetts (Russell Steven Powell)


Related apples (sweet to tart)

Sweet Tart

Related orchards