Me and my Sugar Pie pumpkin: I wear it proudly (well, at least inside the house).
Hi, my name is Tom and I’m a bona fide pumpkinhead. Yes, I admit it; I’m a man who loves the genus Cucurbita. Whether pepo, moschato, or maxima, they’re all pumpkins to me.
Boz, protector of pie pumpkins, when not treating them as chew toys. (I need a taller wheelbarrow or a shorter dog.)
Food for the body, sustenance for the soul, candy for the eye, pumpkins and winter squash pack a culinary and visual punch few veggies can boast. (Apologies to rutabagas and beets.) The versatile and stunning orbs have always captured my imagination in the kitchen, on the table and in the fields. Stay tuned for my latest list of tendrilled lovelies, my pageant of pumpkin-awesomeness and some of my favorite winter squash, all of which I grow, cook with and savor.
Sneak peek: Amish Pie pumpkin and Sweet Meat winter squash share a wheelbarrow bath after a Northwest shower.
A word of caution: if you wish to join the brotherhood and sisterhood of pumpkin lovers, choose your pumpkin wisely. No one wants to be mistaken for a butt-head.
Tags: pumpkins · Seasons | Autumn · Veggies
Fruity, doughy, buttery goodness on a plate…
When I first moved to Seattle in the early 80s, I may have taken up residence in Pioneer Square, but I ate in Pike Place Market. A quick trip on the free-zone bus would land me at First and Pike, and a mere brioche’s throw from my favorite bakery: Au Gavorche. It was there that I first discovered Pomme Gavorche, a crust-entombed apple the size of a slow-pitch softball stuffed with raisins, spices and custard. I marveled that the young cashier could lift it over the counter without a winch.
Years later, and an island away, I came up with an apple dumpling recipe that’s easy to make (and lift) and equally delicious.
Recipe: Apple Dumplings With Pie Crust Caps | serves 6
- Crust for one pie (or ready-made)
- 6 tart medium size apples
- e.g., Bramleys, Belle de Boskoop, Granny Smith
- golden raisins (optional)
- walnuts (optional)
- maple syrup
- Preheat oven to 425° F
- Make a pie crust (or use a ready-made)
- Crust instructions
- Peel and core whole apples
- Mix raisins, walnuts and jam
- Mix cinnamon and sugar
- Rub pie plate with butter
- Place and separate apples on pie plate
- Stuff core space with jam mixture and a dot of butter, drizzle with maple syrup
- Sprinkle heaping teaspoon of cinnamon sugar over each apple (photo 2)
- Cut pie dough into six discs, (I use a large biscuit cutter)
- Place a dough ‘chapeau’ atop the apple (photo 3)
- Dough cap will cover the apple’s top half
- Brush dough with egg wash (beaten egg, a wee bit of milk or water)
- Sprinkle remaining cinnamon sugar over apples
- Bake dumplings at 425° F for 10 minutes
- Reduce heat to 350° F for 25-30 minutes, until top crust is crisp, juice is bubbling (above photo)
- Serve with ice cream or my favorite, Creme Anglaise.
Delicious byproduct: Should you have leftover dough, dot it with butter, sprinkle with cinnamon sugar, and spread jam on one side. Roll it up like a log, cut into wheels and bake!
Update: My Favorite Seattle Bakeries, all amazingly good!
Tags: Apples · Recipes
Boz the apple connoisseur at an impromptu tasting.
Great Apple Trees for Western Washington
While my pear and peach trees have forsaken me, my apple trees continue to bloom with promise. And after a year of promising, the goods are in. The following apple varieties seem well suited to our cool maritime climate and produce great apples without the use of pesticides or fussy growing techniques or protocols.
Of all the lovely blossoms that decorate the trees,
And shower down their petals with every breath of breeze,
There is nothing so sweet or fair to me,
As the delicate blooms of the apple tree.
Plant the Right Variety for Your Climate
Abraham Lincoln once said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” These are words to live by when planting fruit trees. Do your research, and find the best choice for your site, climate, and subsequent care. This is really important if you grow organically; apples (like people) can be temperamental. Err on the side of vigor. Check your local extensions, fruit clubs and garden forums for pertinent and timely information.
Not One Bad Apple
The following beauty pageant of pommes is by no means comprehensive and merely represents my most recent and respectable harvest of apples from relatively young trees (4-7 years old). Here’s my list of standouts for 2011.
Belle de Boskoop apple: I would have planted this tree merely for its name (pronounced Bell-da-boss-k0e), lucky for me it’s a all-around great and heavy producing apple with lots of personality. Wonderfully tart, the flavor is unique as if you spritzed lemon juice on it. Belle de Boskoop bakes and cooks well, and is perfect for chunky applesauce, sturdy pies, bubbling crisps, and juicy grunts. Learn more.
- Beni Shogun Fuji apple is one of my favorite fresh eating apples. Because Fuji needs a long growing season, and I live west of the Cascades where long summers rarely vacation, I was in search of a sport of Fuji that was better suited for cooler climates. I found Beni Shogun Fuji and I’m happy to report old Beni is a champ, weathering our cool growing season admirably and ripening about a month earlier than the standard fuji. The apples were glowing red and firm as an unripe pear. A few weeks in the fridge and they mellowed into juicy little sugar bombs.
Bramley’s Seedling apple is handsdown my favorite baking apple. It’s a tree that says stand back, I’m ready to grow some great cooking apples and plenty of them. Such a very heavy producer, Bramley’s Seedling usually requires support stakes to keep the overloaded limbs from breaking. Apples are big, firm, crisp and flavorful–spirited for sure, and perfect for cooking or eating fresh though on the uber-tart side when first picked. Learn more.
- Cameo apple had me at hello. I was willing to take a chance on this apple, not sure how well it would grow in Western Washington. You should be able to find Cameo in your produce section, so give it a try. It is a juicy, crisp fresh eating apple suitable simply for dessert with a little aged cheddar. Normally cameos are more red than yellow; perhaps their light blush is in response to my fondness toward them.
Honeycrisp, an apple that shares the unlikely combination of sweetness and crunch, lives up to its name. When first picked, the apple is wonderfully tart, but a stay in the fridge for a week or two renders it succulent and sweet. While my tree was slow to produce, taking four years to harvest a decent crop, I feel it was certainly worth the wait. Honeycrisp is a real dazzler in the orchard and in the kitchen and my best apple for 2011 (actually it shares the title with Bramley’s Seedling). Learn more.
- Jonagold apple is an amazingly good all-purpose apple in my orchard. In fact, if I could only plant a couple apple trees, Jonagold would top the list. As a cross between a Gold Delicious and Jonathan, it brings a lot of flavor to the table. It is super sweet but finishes off with a very nice tartness. Fresh eating or cooking up a storm, this is my prize pick for best apple in 2010. More from WSU extension.
- Delicious sweet-tart snacking gem, Liberty apples are a great choice for the home and organic gardener. Known for disease resistance, reliability and excellent quality, the Liberty shines on all levels and performs well in our cool climate. Learn more.
- York apple is one of those apples that tastes like it has a history (and it does). Discovered in 1830 in York, Pennsylvania, the apple enjoys a subtle flavor and appealing, firm texture. While not overly sweet, York is an apple I could eat everyday, whether or not it actually did keep the doctor away. Big and lop-sided usually, it’s also a very good baking apple and is sometimes called York Imperial. Learn more.
- Wickson crabapples are a standard apple’s mini-me. They are small, tasty, not overly sour, and well suited to both fresh eating and cider making. I also like to pickle them. Another advantage, Wickson crabapples prove prolific bloom producers and awesome cross- pollinators in the orchard.
- Learn more.
And as always, keep your eye on the pie, make that apple pie, please!
Each year I list my favorite and best performing apples. 2012 should be a good year as most of my apple trees will be reaching fruiting maturity.