Multiples of years ago, I attended a cooking class in Cambridge. The teacher, Nick Malgieri, sang the praises of the Northern Spy apple. I suppose I was clueless about the rarity of this cultivar. I scoured the local supermarkets for years on the chance I would find some.
Fast forward to the Farmer's Market, 2013. The guy who sells us the wonderful fruit (gooseberries, pluots, plums, nectarines, peaches, raspberries) is a taciturn New England farmer. I chatted him up because we saw him every week for months, and that is just my way.
Mr. E watched me search his baskets in October, and wanted to know if I had found what I was looking for. Nope. Mr. FarmerMan listened in, and volunteered that he had two Northern Spy trees, and he would be picking that next weekend.
A week passed, and we called, left a message. No answer. The fall foliage was good enough to justify the trip out to the wilds of Massachusetts. He was driving his tractor at the farmstand, recognized us. How many did we want? He motored out to the orchard and picked them for us, seven of the big, fat, ripe beauties. They were HUGE.
I dug out my Mom's recipe for apple pie. I would share it with you, but really? Everyone thinks THEIR Mom's apple pie is the best. We went whole hog with the crust and made our first lard crust. (Another local farmer sells pig lard. I could hear my coronaries screaming, and I didn't care.)
The crust was shatteringly crisp. My innards weren't happy for days after that, so I don't think I will try that again. Mom used Crisco for hers. Next one I try will have a butter/Crisco combo.
Four apples filled the pie plate. I cut them into wedges, laid the bottom tier. The good stuff (spices, sugar, flour) was scattered on this, then the top tier laid in. More stuff spooned on, then dotted with butter. (Potholder from Ann Brauer Quilts, Shelburne Falls, MA)
It was the best pie I have ever eaten. The apples softened without melting out of shape. The fork cut through them cleanly, easily, so that the more liquid part of the pie mixed perfectly with the fruit. The apples were a perfect kind of sweetness. You knew you were eating ripe apples, with just that squirt of piquant acid hiding in with the natural sugars. The pie reheated perfectly, too.
The last three apples went to an apple crisp. Same deal: integrity, sweetness, balancing acidity.
Mr. FarmerMan told me he would sell me an apple tree seedling next year. I just might do that.