A basket of Northern Spy Apples is not a pretty sight. My son asked why I had purchased drops when they were sitting next to bright, red Melrose and bright, clear yellow Gold Supremes. The Northern Spies were indeed number ones like the others.
Just as you can’t judge a book by its cover, you can’t judge an apple by its peel. Northern Spies are of the old world orchards, coming from south of Rochester, New York, about the beginning of the 19th century. It is believed that the Wagener apple is one of the parents of Northern Spies. And children sometimes do make their parents proud.
Northern Spy apples have a sweet-tart taste. That’s one reason so many love them in spite of their appearance. Their look is certainly old world. Sometimes appearing squat in stature and short-stemmed, they can present a challenge when picking. You have to give a little twist to the fruit as you pull them off the branches.
Red, gold and green in dull hues encircle the apples. The pattern of brown-gold lines which splatter the peel remind me of the brocade patterns of sitting-parlor wallpaper. The riper the apple, the more red on the outside, the more yellow the flesh. Inside a creamy, crisp texture holds shape when baked sometimes, depending on the weather and moisture content of the apple.
Although Northern Spy apples are not seen often, many wonderful varieties are available. If you want to try some new varieties, here’s a suggestion: Using a 13 x 9-inch baking dish (we use Pyrex) quarter and core three kinds of apples. Give each one its own space in the dish. Stacking the quarters helps keep each variety together. It will take about four to five apples of each variety to fill the dish. You can leave the peel on if you want to.
Sprinkle only a little sugar over the apples. Perhaps a light dusting of cinnamon. Not too much. You want the apple taste to come through loud and clear. Cover and bake at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes or until juices bubble and apples are tender. Cool. Enjoy the taste test.
Ours turned out to be a surprise. Although we love Northern Spies and the Melrose are a wonderful Ohio apple, the Gold Supreme came in first.
Whether you are looking for pie apples, apple butter or sauce varieties, a jug of freshly pressed cider or just an hour or two in the cool autumn air, I highly recommend a visit to one of your local orchards. You will be carried back to the old orchard times, times of good eating and a sense of worthy harvest.
1940 Apple Griddle Cakes
• 1-1/2 cups flour
• 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 1 tablespoon sugar
• 1 egg, beaten
• 1 cup milk
• 2 tablespoons melted butter
• 2 cups finely chopped apples, peeled, cored
1. Sift dry ingredients together in large mixing bowl. Combine egg, milk and butter in small bowl. Add wet ingredients to dry and stir only until batter is smooth. Fold in apples.
2. Drop spoonfuls onto a hot, greased griddle (or nonstick skillet). Cook slowly until surface is covered with bubbles. Turn and cook until browned. Serve hot with butter, maple syrup or sprinkled with cinnamon and confectioners’ sugar.