Apple Thanksgiving

Steere Orchard, Greenville, Rhode Island. (Carlin Carr)
Rome Beauty, a late-season apple found at many New England orchards, is an excellent baking apple. (Russell Steven Powell)

APPLE ORCHARDS are a central, iconic, ever-evolving feature of the New England landscape, the living past.

Apple trees change with the seasons, but they command our attention year-round.

In this diverse, six-state region, apples, present and past, are something we all have in common. 

It is no wonder, then, that apples feature prominently in New England Thanksgivings. The fall harvest is just completed, and this was an exceptionally good year. It is time to relax, celebrate, and enjoy the fruits of growers’ labor. 

There are always exceptions in an area with as many microclimates as New England, but growers from around the region had their biggest and best apple crops in years. New England-grown apples will be plentiful, with good size and outstanding flavor throughout the holidays and into the new year.

Jonagold, one of the finest fresh-eating apples, Blue Hills Orchard, Wallingford, Connecticut. (Carlin Carr)

Pick-your-own orchards have closed for the season, and more will close after Thanksgiving. Many orchards, though, now turn their attention to managing their farm stores and supplying New England’s grocery stores with locally grown apples for the months ahead.

Visit our Orchard Finder to see who has apples or is making cider, fresh or hard.

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THE SHORTER DAYS and colder nights have people moving indoors, with more time and opportunity to cook, and a desire to stay warm. What better time than Thanksgiving to toast a tall glass of cider around the fire, or slice into an apple pie fresh from the oven?

It’s hard to imagine a New England Thanksgiving without apple pie. Here are five outstanding recipes to choose from, including a pair of award winners:

Grandmother’s Famous Baldwin Apple Pie

Lori Meiners’ Apple Pie

Julie Piragis’ First Place Apple Pie

For two more great pie recipes and the stories behind them, read The Apple Pies of Our Eyes.

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Maple Apple Roasted Turkey was featured at Brandeis University’s apple-themed dinner. (Russell Steven Powell)

THIS CREATIVE, healthy, three-course menu, courtesy of Nolan Reese, dietitian for Brandeis University Dining Services, makes an unusual Thanksgiving dinner. The recipes were served as part of an apple-themed evening in Brandeis’s dining commons in October. 

The meal begins with Harvest Apple Beet Salad.

The main course is Maple Apple Roasted Turkey, with Braised Apple Cabbage on the side. Reese suggests garnishing the turkey with slices of fresh apple. 

In lieu of pie, the dessert is a fresh take on apple crisp with Quinoa, Apple, and Oat Crisp. It was a big hit with Brandeis students.

The salad bar at Brandeis University was all apples on October 13. (Russell Steven Powell)

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Family Favorite Apple Stuffing. (Russell Steven Powell)

A DELICIOUS WAY to add apple flavor to the main Thanksgiving meal is Family Favorite 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

1 onion

2 stalks celery

1 c pecans or walnuts

10 dried apricots

2 carrots

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.