Reprieve for Gould Hill Orchard
The long-established heirloom apple orchard in Contoocook NH has a new lease on life. The owners, the Leadbetter family, decided to get out of the business a few years ago and much of the property was for sale. The year-to-year future of the orchard was uncertain but now it has been leased to a young family, the Bassetts, who are restructuring the retail area and adding refreshments like fresh-baked donuts. They have full-time jobs and 2 young children but are being mentored by the Leadbetters. With enough work and luck, the orchard will continue to flourish.
Although it's a one-hour drive, I go at least once every fall, for apples that are not grown anywhere else in the area.
Great reminder. This is a very special apple orchard and any kind of farming is tough business. They have an amazing variety of apples and a wonderful view, a treat for all visitors. DH's family grew the typical apples macs, cortlands, baldwins so we are both unfamiliar with the different varieties. It was fun to buy a couple of each to taste test although that's not fair to the cooking varieties. When we get fresh local apples I think about how lucky we are to have people still growing apples.
Greygarious - do you have some favorite varieties to recommend?
Some years ago I bought 3 of everything, one for tasting, one for a tartlet, and one for a bake apple. Some highlights:
LIBERTY - Macoun X (better keeper than Macoun), juicy, good in tart and eating
YELLOW NEWTOWN PIPPIN - Granny Smith-like, very firm, keeps well, excellent in tart
HONEYCRISP - Macoun X, superb crisp, juicy eating, holds shape when baked
HAMPSHIRE - native to Gould Hill, stays white when cut, holds shape when bake. Crisp and juicy but mild in flavor; pretty good in tart
BLUE PEARMAIN - very large, tough skin and fairly dry texture make for excellent baked apple
WEALTHY - good in tart but too perfumy for eating out of hand
ESOPHUS SPITZENBERG - crisp, semi-tart, good in tart
NORTHERN SPY - large, crisp, good eating apple; great in tart
BALDWIN - large, firm, good eating, excellent tart but poor keeper
EMPIRE - great in tart and for eating
MACOUN - great fflavor but mushy in tart, great eating, tart, crisp, poor keeper
SHEEPNOSE - gorgeous shape but bland, dry, mild, poor eaten, baked, tart
These varieties, individually bagged, kept for 5 months in a cooler on the porch over a mild Massachusetts winter. They were not fit for eating, but no rot and fine for sauce:
Yellow Newtown Pippin, Pomme Gris, Granny Smoth, Wagener, Roxbury Russet, Golden Russet.
Tiny eating apples: Pomme Gris has brown skin like a Bosc pear, and a pear-like flavor, dry and crunchy. Chestnut Crabapple is crunchy and richly flavored, like that rare bird, a GOOD Re Delicious. They are great.