By Lindsay Courcelle
It’s my favorite time of year, when the hillsides are mottled with red and gold and the weather has finally shifted to include cool, rainy days and chilly nights. Don’t get me wrong. I love summer: the tomatoes, the red peppers, and swimming in crystal clear lakes. But, then comes the time when we are “swimming” in tomatoes and peppers, canning salsa and freezing pepper slices day in and day out. It’s not a terrible problem to have, and it is common among local farmers. Nonetheless, there comes a time when the change of season is very much desired.
This year, we patiently watched as the local apple trees grew heavy with fruits of all colors. Now, it’s time to feast. While some wild apples are too tart and make your cheeks pucker, there are just as many that are worthy of a grocery store, with perfectly balanced flavors. Even better, there is no upkeep for the wild apple trees besides sunshine, rain, and the bees, meaning no chemical pesticides.
Though I love the wild fruits, we have some excellent apple growers in the Rutland region. Charlie Brown of Brown’s Orchard is a staple figure at the Rutland Farmers Market and is sure to have sold or given away thousands of apples in his 37 years as a vendor at the market. Many smiling children leave his stand with an apple in hand; parents leave holding a jug of fresh cider, a bag of cider doughnuts, homemade apple pies, or all of the above.
Mendon Mountain Orchard brings not only their fresh apples but also baked goodies like apple turnovers and pies to the farmers market. Market-goers can also get a cup of cider to drink on the spot for one dollar.
Relative newcomer to the farmers market, Outback Orchard of Florence, brings Honeycrisp, Honey Gold, and New England classics like Cortlands and Macs. Unlike the historic orchards of Brown’s and Mendon Mountain, Outback grows their apples on dwarf rootstock in a high density system, meaning trees are planted only three feet apart and trellised. Through this method, they are able to increase yields dramatically.
Yoder Farm brings their fresh pressed, unpasteurized cider as well as apple cider vinegar, apple butter, and applesauce. The cider has just the right amount of tart and sweet, and Yoder Farm also offers custom pressing for customers with their own supply of apples. Owner Ryan Yoder was recently featured in a fascinating article in Boston Magazine about the hunt for the elusive Tinmouth apple, a variety highly sought after for hard cider making.
To celebrate the amazing crop of apples this year, the obvious baked treats like pies and crisps are sure to hit the spot. If you want to try a savory dish with apples, the below recipe is super simple and satisfying, especially on a crisp fall night. I made this recipe with wild apples picked near our farm field in Shrewsbury, and it was divine.
Baked Apples with Sausage
- 6 locally grown apples
- 1 cup sausage
- maple syrup, optional
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Core the apples and scoop out the pulp leaving ¾ inch-thick shells. Chop the removed apple pulp into bits. Mix diced apple with sausage. Stuff sausage mixture into tops of apples until heaping. Bake uncovered until the apples are tender but still hold their shape, about 30-40 minutes.
Lindsay and her husband Scott own Alchemy Gardens, a vegetable farm business in Shrewsbury. Learn more at www.AlchemyGardensVT.com