THE APPLES ARE IN (except for a few stragglers), and now our attention shifts from the orchard to the supermarkets, farm stands, and orchard stores where delicious, nutritious New England apples will be found in the months ahead. Despite a smaller-than-normal 2020 crop, there will be plentiful supplies of locally grown apples in most places throughout winter and spring.
Pick-your-own season is over, and many orchards are now closed to the public. But apple trees keep on giving throughout the year.
In winter, the trees form sculptural gardens of immense proportion and contrast, their unpredictable limbs, shaped by human hands, on symmetrical rows and grids.
For two weeks in May the orchard is alive with honeybees and other pollinators visiting a sea of pink-and-white blossoms. In summer, the orchard turns lush and verdant as the fruit grows.
Fall, of course, is the peak of the fresh harvest, an experience not to be missed, when the trees are loaded with ripe apples and the air is fragrant with their perfume. This was one of the busiest pick-your-own seasons in years as people flocked to the serenity of the orchard during the pandemic.
WHEN THE TREES have been picked clean, they pass through another brief, beautiful phase before winter. When people think New England fall foliage, they usually mean maples. But the apple trees — not to mention peaches and blueberry bushes — are just as colorful. The maples make a magnificent backdrop.
Many orchard stores remain open through the holidays, and some are year-round. Consult our Orchard Finder to see who grows what, and where to find your favorite apples.
With Thanksgiving approaching, here’s a recipe for Apple Stuffing.
Family Favorite Apple Stuffing
The recipe for Family Favorite Apple Stuffing was sent to us by reader Jan Ruby Crystal of Northampton, Massachusetts, who also provided us with Sunday Morning Apple Omelet. The stuffing is so flavorful it will be delicious made with any New England-grown apple.
Cornbread stuffing (or make your own cornbread and crumble into large pieces when cool)
2 Fuji, Honeycrisp, Pink Lady, or other New England apples
2 stalks celery
1 c pecans or walnuts
10 dried apricots
1 stick butter
2 T olive oil
1 c apple cider
Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a three-quart casserole dish.
Core apples and chop apples into 1/4″ chunks. Chop onion, celery, apricots, carrots. and nuts into 1/8″ pieces.
Toast nuts in a frying pan or toaster oven for several minutes, till fragrant. Watch closely, as they can easily burn.
In large frying pan or dutch oven, sauté onion and apple in 2 T olive oil and 1 T butter over medium-low heat until soft, about 10 minutes.
Add carrots and celery. Cook for 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Melt remaining 7 T butter and add to vegetables with cornbread or stuffing. Stir occasionally for a few more minutes.
Add cider and stir. Add nuts and apricots and stir. Transfer to casserole dish.
Bake for one hour.
Stuffing can also be placed in cleaned cavity of a chicken or turkey. Cooking time varies with size of bird.