THE DAY BEGAN damp and dreary, but Bolton Orchards in Bolton, Massachusetts, was beautiful nonetheless on Sunday, with a few late-season apples providing stark contrast in a landscape being slowly drained of green. Beneath the clouds and mist, the distant backdrop of fall foliage looked brighter than if the sun had been out.
The clouds dispersed by mid-afternoon, slowly exposing the long views afforded by the orchard’s hilltop location.
AS WITH the parentage of many heirloom apples, the origin of this antique recipe for Hermits is a little cloudy. Most likely the Hermit cookie dates back to 1880 from two sources: Plattsburgh, New York, in the Champlain Valley, and Boston.
The main difference in the two recipes is the New York recipe was made with brown sugar and no eggs, while the New England recipe called for white sugar and 3 eggs. Our version uses 2 eggs and molasses.
The origin of the cookie name “Hermit” is also unclear. Some believe the oblong hermit looks like the brown robe of an ascetic hermit. Others say the cookie’s flavor improves after they are “secluded” for a few days.
Apple Hermit Cookies
1/2 c butter
3/4 c brown sugar
1/4 c molasses
1-3/4 c flour (half whole-grain wheat flour)
1/2 c old-fashioned oats
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t cinnamon
1/4 t nutmeg
1/8 t cloves
1/8 t ginger
1/4 t salt
1 c New England apples, chopped
1 c dates, chopped (or try dried cranberries, currants, or raisins)
1/2 c walnuts, chopped
Preheat oven to 350°F. Cream together butter and brown sugar, then beat in molasses and eggs. Combine and stir in dry ingredients. Add fruit and nuts.
Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto greased cookie sheet. Bake 12 minutes or until almost no imprint remains when lightly touched. Careful not to overbake!
The hard-cover volume features nearly 50 full-color photographs by Bar Lois Weeks, plus a photographic index of 120 apple varieties grown in the United States. A paperback version, identical except for the photographic index, is available for $19.95.
To learn more, including how to order, visit America’s Apple.
THIS WEEKEND the 28th Annual AppleFest will be held at Mount Wachusett in Princeton, Massachusetts. Red Apple Farm, as always, will have apples, fresh cider, cider donuts, and other baked goods from its Phillipston store and orchard. On Saturday, October 20, Russell and Bar will sign books from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., and at 2 p.m. they will serve as judges in the 3rd Annual New England Apple Pie Contest.
Russell will give a talk about apples at the Goodwin Memorial Library in Hadley, Massachusetts, next Wednesday, October 24, at 6 p.m., and at the Merrick Public Library in Brookfield, Massachusetts, Tuesday, November 13 at 7 p.m.