As American as Apples

As I walked around Sioux and J.D. Rodgers’ apple orchard I was in awe as to the different types of heirloom apples on his property.  J.D. describes his orchard as a “hobby that got out of control”.  How lucky for all of us who live in the Rogue Valley!   I learned that most of the apple trees on their property which are Semi-Dwarf won’t start producing apples for at least 3-7 years and most of the heirloom varieties Sioux and JD raise only produce every other year.  This is why you won’t find these varieties in your local mega-mart grocery store.  These heirloom apples are available at Fox Run Farms in Medford, or you can call the farm directly at (541) 846-7736 and Sioux or JD will let you know which varieties are available and what is ready now.  The following is a list of the apples we sampled and took home to test in our kitchen.  I have to tell you, I tried baking a Summer Rambo which is a French Heirloom apple from the 1500’s and it was so dense that it exploded into apple sauce.  So if your apple farmer tells you the apples are for saucing, it means when heat is applied they will disintegrate into a sauce.  Not so good for baked apples, but wonderful for sauces.  This is usually a way to test what an apple will do.  I bake any variety I am unfamiliar with to see how it behaves when heat is applied.  The worst case scenario is you end up with really good tasting apple sauce and the best case is you know the apples to use in pies and tarts that won’t turn to mush.  Ask the grower the best way to prepare any fruits or vegetables you are not familiar with.  Basically, if you don’t know your apples, know your apple farmer.

If you get a chance to visit an apple orchard, usually the grower will allow you to taste the apples.  That is how JD was able to tell which apples were ready by picking one off the tree and biting into it.  When he was done, he just tossed it onto the ground for the turkeys and chickens they raise.  Nothing went to waste.

The following are the apples we got to try and the applications for them:

  • Summer Rambo – A French Heirloom from the 1500’s and good for making sauce.  This also is very dense and works well just eaten out of hand.
  • Winter Banana – From Cass County Indiana 1876, this is a firm apple that we used in our pie.   Supposedly this apple has a hint of banana flavor.
  • Snow-   Also known as The Fameuse Apple.  From 1700 thought to be grown from French apple seeds brought to Canada.  The insides of this apple is snow white.  This apple also does not turn brown as quickly as other apples.  Crisp in texture would work well for pies or tarts.
  • Davy – This apple is from a seedling of the Macintosh apple from 1928.  The Davy is an all-purpose apple.  Good for baking, making pies or tarts, or eating.
  • Roxbury Russet – An American Heirloom from the 1600’s.  This apple came over to Roxbury, Massachusettes about 20 years after the Pilgrims.  Roxbury Russet is a very tart, green, crisp apple.  Good in pies and the one I use in the crab salad because of the tartness.
  • Crow Eggs –  From New England in the early 1800’s.  A very small apple about the size of a crow’s egg.  This apple would work well for baking if the skin is left on.  Would also work well as a garnish due to the petite size.

In our home we have used apples in apple pies, tarts, apple cakes, baked apples and a crab salad that uses apples and curry for a unique twist on a familiar theme.

Crab and Apple Salad

3/4 cup cleaned crab

½ block cream cheese – room temperature

4 ounces crème fraiche

¼ tsp sea salt

¼ tsp cracked pepper

1 green onion – minced

½ cucumber- peeled, seeded and cut into dice

1 medium tart apple, peeled, cut into dice

1 tsp. curry

1 tsp. fresh herbs chopped

1 tsp. tomato powder for garnish

Mix all the ingredients except the tomato powder together.  Place in the refrigerator for an hour to allow the flavors to mesh.  To serve: Place the crab mix in a mold (I use a PVC pipe) and press down.  Remove the mold and sprinkle with tomato powder (or if you have mushroom powder use it) sprinkle with chives and serve.  We like to have this with a local sparkling wine from Longsword vineyards in the Applegate valley.

So if you find yourself wanting to go beyond the ordinary grocery store apples, be sure to visit Fox Run Farms or Call Sioux and JD and they might be able to give you a tour and sell you some amazing apples to cook with.

Want to grow your own heirlooms?  There are several nurseries that specialize in heirloom apples.  Be aware heirlooms take more effort to keep bug free than other varieties that have been changed over the years.

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