MANY NEW ENGLAND ORCHARDS offer spectacular views of the surrounding countryside. Situated atop hills, overlooking valleys, or nestled in among the region’s mountains, they offer stunning backgrounds to the fruit at hand.
Yet however magnificent, these views struggle to compete with the foreground: row after perfumed row of trees glittering with red, green, or golden apples.
No matter how you look at it, it is an intoxicating vision.
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THIS IS THE WEEKEND apple lovers have been dreaming about all year. The weather will be fall-like, sunny but cool, adding color to the apples. Mid-season favorites Cortland, Gala, Honeycrisp, and McIntosh are available for picking or sale at most orchards.
Early season apples like Ginger Gold are still being picked at some places, and a few orchards have even begun harvesting late-season varieties Empire and Macoun.
The cider blends are gaining in complexity, the bins are filled with pumpkins, gourds, and winter squash, and the fall raspberries are in.
The sweet fragrance of apples wafting from the trees fills the air.
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YOU CAN’T JUDGE an apple by its color.
An apple is not always ripe when it is red, for example.
Fortune apples could almost be mistaken for Golden Delicious now, yellow with a pink blush. With the aid of cool nights, they will turn their customary red by the time they are ready to pick in October. Liberty apples are already deep red. But they, too, will not be ready for harvest for another few weeks.
Some visitors to pick-your-own orchards seem not to notice or care, sneaking beneath roped-off blocks of trees to pick apples before their time.
“I don’t understand it,” said one grower recently. “We are in the business of selling fruit at its peak ripeness. Why would we keep people away from apples that are ready to pick?”
If you see varieties marked not ready for picking, it is because the grower knows that it’s not yet time to get their best size, juiciness, and flavor.
One indicator of ripeness? The seeds, or pips. They should be dark brown, almost black, when the apple is ripe.
If the pips are yellow or green, the apple has been picked too soon. It may still have good flavor, but will likely be smaller, less juicy, and more tart than the real thing.
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THIS RECIPE for Peg’s Apple Squares is one of our favorites.
Peg’s Apple Squares
These are simple, but exquisite. The cornflakes give the squares body and texture, and the hint of almond extract in the glaze contrasts nicely with the apple flavor.
2-1/2 c flour
1 c corn flakes
1 c butter
3/4 c sugar
4-6 apples, cored and sliced
1 egg yolk
1 t cinnamon
1 c confectioners’ sugar
Preheat oven to 375°F.
Beat egg yolk in measuring cup and add enough milk to make 2/3 cup liquid.
Mix flour and salt, and cut in butter with a pastry blender.
Mix wet and dry ingredients together until it forms a dough. Divide in half.
Roll out half the dough to fit into a 15-1/2” cookie sheet, pressing it into bottom and sides. Sprinkle with corn flakes. Top with apples.
Combine sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle over apples.
Roll out remaining dough and place on top of apples. Seal edges. Cut holes in dough to let steam escape.
Bake for 50-60 minutes, until crust is brown and apples are soft.
Mix confectioners’ sugar with 3 T milk and a few drops of almond extract. Drizzle over warm squares.