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The perfect pick

Versatile and flavourful, local apples are a favourite in East Coast kitchens

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Recipes Featured In This Article

Crab apple jelly

Makes about 10 or 11 250-ml portions, for less adjust the apples to sugar ratio accordingl...

Apples grow nearly everywhere except for Antarctica. Yet the Maritime Provinces are what Barry Balsom calls a, “hotbed for apple growing.”

Balsom and his family have run Arlington Orchards in Arlington, P.E.I. since 1993. Their orchard came to be when they noticed wild apple trees dot their property. After some research, they realized they had a good chance of having apple trees flourish.

When it comes to picking apples for yourself, Balsom recommends following an old French poem’s advice. “When the apple is born the blossom faces the sun,” he says. “So when it is time to pick the apple turn the blossom to the sun,”, meaning if the apple is ripe it will roll off into your hand. Another way to tell if an apple is ripe is by cutting it in half and seeing if the seeds are brown.

Yet some people like unripe apples, Balsom says people eat certain apples way before he would. “Experiment and find out what you like,” he advises. “Don’t be told what is good but find out what your taste is like and go for it.”

Due to the abundance of local apples, stores carry a wide variety. Honeycrisp, Gala, Ginger Gold, Melbas, and Cortland are among the apples that grow well on the East Coast. If you are looking for a tasty spread or a sweet dessert, check out Arlington Orchards’ crab apple jelly or apple crisp recipe.

When baking with apples, Guy Gautreau of Verger Belliveau Orchard recommends using an apple with more acidity. “Acidity in my view makes apples much more interesting in any sort of cooking and baking because it will help balance out the sugars,” says Gautreau. “We see a lot of differences in preferences among age groups but most people prefer sweeter apples.”

Verger Belliveau Orchard was established in 1932 in Memramcock, New Brunswick. The business has been operated by the same family for most of its 80 years of operation. What started as 100 apple trees has now grown to over 70,000.

To avoid bruising your apples, Gautreau recommends treating the apple carefully. It is also good to note that some lower pressure apples, like MacIntoshes, bruise more easily.

For the orchard’s U-pick, Gautreau is able to plant some wackier varieties of apples, kinds grocery stores don’t often have room for. Yet when it comes to picking what kind of apples he will grow, it’s a gamble. “The trees are there for decades, so you need to figure out what people want to eat for years and years and years,” says Gautreau. “It is not like choosing a variety of carrot you might want to test and if you get it wrong the consequences aren’t huge. You can just change it the next year.”

They currently have 25 different varieties of apples, some which they use for cider and wine. To make your own apple beverage, try the Nova Scotia Food Grower Association’s recipe for hot mulled cider.

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