Scenes From a New England Orchard (and Apple Hermits)

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Late-season apples at Bolton Orchards, Bolton, Massachusetts. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Late-season apples at Bolton Orchards, Bolton, Massachusetts. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Bolton Orchards, Bolton, Massachusetts. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Bolton Orchards, Bolton, Massachusetts. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

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.
View from Bolton Orchards, Bolton, Massachusetts. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

View from Bolton Orchards, Bolton, Massachusetts. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

The clouds dispersed by mid-afternoon, slowly exposing the long views afforded by the orchard’s hilltop location.
Bolton Orchards, Bolton, Massachusetts. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Bolton Orchards, Bolton, Massachusetts. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

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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.
Late-season apple at Bolton Orchards, Bolton, Massachusetts. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Late-season apple at Bolton Orchards, Bolton, Massachusetts. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Apple Hermit Cookies

1/2 c butter 3/4 c brown sugar 1/4 c molasses 2 eggs 1-3/4 c flour (half whole-grain wheat flour) 1/2 c old-fashioned oats 1/2 t baking soda
Apple tree trunk at Bolton Orchards, Bolton, Massachusetts. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Apple tree trunk at Bolton Orchards, Bolton, Massachusetts. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

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!
Late afternoon sun on apples at Bolton Orchards, Bolton, Massachusetts. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Late afternoon sun on apples at Bolton Orchards, Bolton, Massachusetts. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

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America's Apple coverAMERICA’S APPLE, a new book about apple growing in the United States by Russell Steven Powell, looks at apples as horticulture, food, cultural icons, and agricultural commodity. Powell, who has worked in the apple industry for the past 16 years, visited more than 50 orchards across the country gathering information for the book, and interviewed some of the nation’s leading apple researchers.

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.

Upcoming events

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.
One of the more imaginative entries from last year's 2nd Annual New England Apple Pie Contest. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

One of the more imaginative entries from last year’s 2nd Annual New England Apple Pie Contest. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

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