Two Indignant Chefs: On Apples

P1030465Chefs Justine and Esteban spend their days asking what’s happening to good food. They rail against the loss of seasonality, foodies who treat food as too precious, and taste buds that don’t remember simple, elegant flavors.

It’s apple season, and what an abundant year we’ve had in Vermont. Neighbors are calling neighbors, begging anyone to come pick before all the branches on their trees break off. Hordes of Vermonters are visiting their local orchards, with ladders and bags in hand. Recipes are everywhere for everything from pies to butter. Vermont’s apple heritage is well known. Our climate is perfect for growing many different varieties of heirloom apples. In fact, 100 years ago, Vermont had more than 50 different varieties, from Macoun to Baldwin to Rhode Island Greening. Today, you’d be hard pressed (pun intended) to find more than four types – Macintosh, Empire, Delicious, and Gala in your local grocery store. Not sure why, but just like everything else, maybe too much variety complicates the distribution system.

Which brings us to the day’s query: “What is it about the Red Delicious that’s made it so damn popular?”

A couple of weeks ago, while doing some quick grocery shopping in a big grocery chain in Burlington, there was a large display of Red Delicious apples in the produce section. Seriously, when you think about it, it’s an icon, featured on the teacher’s desk, taunting Adam in the Garden of Eden, and pictured in the adage, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” Bemoaning this bland, mealy apple as we approached the display, we went from quiet grumbling to sputtering outrage. To our surprise, these tasteless Vermont Red Delicious were not from Vermont at all. Instead, this mountain of reds, featured so prominently, were from – Washington State!

Come on, really? Why on earth would this store buy apples from clear across the country, when they are literally falling off the trees here? Perhaps it’s just like the tomato situation in our last blog, meaning maybe they’re just cheaper. Or are the purchasers too lazy to source locally? Or do people not care or notice?

We’re not buying it. Maybe there are certain foods that Vermonters couldn’t care less about, but surely not Vermont apples. We say eat Vermont apples – all different kinds like Tompkin County King, Northern Spy, Fameuse/Snow, and Esopus Spitzenberg – and swear off Washington reds, Granny Smiths, and any other apple that doesn’t come from here. Go apple picking or visit your local farmer’s market and make the recipe below with this wonderful mix of apples from our local orchards.

Apple Crisp (Serves 6)


4 C Vermont Cortland apples or a mix of any other VT crisp, medium tart apple), peeled, cored and sliced

¾ C dark brown sugar

½ C King Arthur – all-purpose flour

½ C VT quick-cooked oats

1/3 C VT butter, softened

¾ t ground cinnamon

¼ t ground nutmeg

VT whipped cream or ice cream for topping, if desired


  1. Pre-heat oven to 375ºF. Butter the bottom and sides of an 8-inch square pan.
  2. Spread sliced apples on the bottom of the pan.
  3. Stir remaining ingredients until well mixed and spread over apples
  4. Bake for 30 minutes or until the topping is caramelized and apples are tender when pierced with a fork.
  5. Serve warm with cream or ice cream.
Posted in: Economic, Environmental, Health, Recipe, UVM.