AS A CERTIFIED nurse assistant, I have developed many close relationships with clients and their families. A good example is Esther, a recent widow in her early 90s.
One afternoon she wanted me to be her eyes, to organize her voluminous recipe file though she no longer cooks. It took far longer than one day, in part because Esther recalled many family stories, some humorous and some tinged with sadness, that she associated with certain recipes. Her storytelling was the far more important part of the project to me — it gave me greater insight into this good-natured, generous lady.
Here is one of the apple recipes that her mother handed down to her. I’ve seen modern versions of this recipe made with store-bought rolls or pastry crust, but I wanted to substitute the white flour with a mix of graham and almond flour, giving it greater flavor and nutritional value.
I chose Baldwins this time, but many New England apples will work. For this particular recipe, I would avoid McIntosh, only because it will ooze right out of the crust.
— Bar Lois Weeks
If you need a tried-and-true pie crust recipe, visit: Apple pie, part II: making a perfect pie crust
Preheat oven to 425°F.
Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
In a small bowl, combine:
1/3 c sugar
2 t cinnamon
Roll out a single pastry crust dough to an 8”-long rectangle, butter lightly, and sprinkle sugar/cinnamon mix over it. Cut pastry dough into 1″x 8″ strips.
2 New England apples, like Baldwin, Honeycrisp, or Cortland, cored and cut into 8 wedges.
Wrap each piece of apple with a strip of pastry dough, buttery/sugary side in, and place on prepared cookie sheet. If desired, brush tops of “pies” with melted butter and sprinkle with a little sugar/cinnamon mix.
Bake at 425° for 15 minutes or until crust is golden brown and apple is fully baked.
McINTOSH has dominated the New England apple industry for nearly a century now, with good reason: its distinctive sweet-tart flavor, rich aroma, culinary versatility, and reliability — including the ability of the trees to withstand New England’s harsh winters.
Before McIntosh rose to prominence in the early 1900s, Baldwin was New England’s quintessential apple.
Baldwin, like McIntosh, is an outstanding apple, good for all uses. Its spicy, sweet-tart flavor is great for fresh eating. Its cream-colored flesh is crisp, aromatic, and juicy.
Baldwin is excellent for baking and in pies, too, for its flavor and aroma and because it holds its shape when cooked. A late-season apple, Baldwin keeps well in storage, which no doubt contributed to its popularity before refrigeration.
A large, beautiful apple, Baldwin is slightly conical in shape, with rich crimson color over a coppery green skin. It can be all or mostly red, with prominent white pores, or lenticels.
Baldwin is a Massachusetts apple, discovered in Wilmington in 1740. Like many heirlooms, it was a chance seedling of undetermined parentage, and it has had several names.
The original tree grew along a lane between the house and barn of landowner John Ball. At first its apples were called Woodpecker because the trees were popular with those birds. It was also called Ball, for the owner; and Butters, for William Butters, who later purchased the land. It has been known by several other names, including Steele’s Red Winter.
The celebrated Revolutionary War war veteran, civil servant, and engineer Colonel Loammi Baldwin (1744-1807) gave the apple its permanent name. His engineering feats included construction of the Middlesex Canal connecting the Merrimack River to Boston Harbor, beginning in 1794.
The project took nine years, and while he was working on it, Baldwin obtained scion wood from the original Woodpecker tree on the Butters farm. Using these, he planted a row of the trees near his home in Woburn, and eventually gave scions to friends.
Introduced commercially around 1784, by 1850 Baldwin was the Northeast’s most popular apple, more widely grown in the United States than any other variety. In The Fruits of America (1852), Charles Mason Hovey wrote, “Considering the hardiness, vigor, productiveness, and adaptation to all soils of the Baldwin, and its size, beauty, long keeping and superior flavor, it must be ranked among the very finest apples which this country has yet produced.”
It remained so well into the 20th century. In the classic work Apples of New York, Volume I (1905), S. A. Beach wrote that Baldwin “is preeminently the leading variety in the commercial orchards in New York, New England, certain regions of Southern Canada, in the southern peninsula of Michigan and on the clay soils of Northern Ohio.”
Baldwin’s production peaked in New England in the 1910s and 1920s. By 1930, it still comprised nearly 40 percent of the region’s apple crop.
But the variety is susceptible to severe cold. Baldwin suffered significant losses during severe winters in the 1830s and 1850s. A deep freeze during the winter of 1934 wiped out more than half its numbers — more than 300,000 Baldwin trees in Maine alone. It never recovered as a commercial apple. In recent years, though, it has been making a comeback as a valued heirloom.
To find out who grows Baldwin apples in New England, visit the Apple Finder at newenglandapples.org. Click on the image of the apple for information about its history and uses, and scroll down for a link to a list of orchards that grow the variety.