This last fall Sparky and I went apple picking. We traveled into Michigan to the Tree-Mendous fruit farm. That is the only place we have found that grows Mutsu apples in these parts. Not only do we get Mutsu but also Cortland, Empire and a slew of other lesser known varieties of apples. The result is that son#1 is an apple snob. From an early age he has had a discerning palate when it comes to apples. He won’t eat a Red Delicious apple unless someone has a gun to his head. He loves a good Empire, Jazz or Pink Lady apple but his all time favorite is the Mutsu. We picked a half bushel for him and he managed to eat them all within 3 weeks – an apple a day. And they were big apples! At the time we were picking there were very few people around. We thought it was due to going in the middle of the week but found out that it was mostly due to fear. You see the owner/manager of the orchard was hospitalized with Eastern Equine Encephalitis and it was uncertain if he was going to make it. People were afraid they would be exposed picking the apples. We picked lots of apples and even giving son#1 his cut left us with a lot more than I could use in a couple of weeks. Having done this before I set to sorting and storing the apples.
1. Use only perfect apples and sort from largest to smallest.
2. Wrap each apple individually in newspaper.
3. Place the apples in a box or basket (we use a milk crate) putting the smallest on the bottom.
4. Store the box in a cool basement, garage, fruit cellar or refrigerator. Apples will freeze if the temperature dips below 30°; and will ripen quickly, if the temperature goes above 40°.
That said I’ve had wonderful apples for pies at Thanksgiving and Christmas. Now that we’ve moved into February my supply is dwindling. The newspaper announced that due to the age of the owner and his health, coupled with no one to carry on the business, Tree-Mendous had closed permanently Dec. 31, 2019. It was news that was a huge blow to our family traditions. I am savoring these last late apples.
Apples just ripe and warm from the sun
Crisp and crunchy with lingering tang
September glow a blush on each one
Their flavor and texture virtues I sang
To a February apple they can’t compare
Cocooned in paper and kept cool
Treasured and hoarded, I reluctantly share
In tarts and pies and apple fool
Peel changes from thick to thin
Green-yellow to a translucent gold
From smooth to soft wrinkled skin
A fresh faced girl to a beauty old
These apples of snow and dark
Are not for eating out of hand
A contrast to cold winters stark
They speak of sky and summers grand
When ice and blizzard snow is spun
With the golden orb my tongue enthralled
Releasing my memories of sun
In pan or skillet life’s sweetness recalled