Traverse City Record-Eagle

Feature Columnists

October 31, 2013

Intentional Minimalist: Mutsu apples make great butter

Fall apple season brings with it childhood memories of baking apple crisp, eating apple cider donuts, drinking hot apple cider and picking out our family pumpkin at the local pumpkin patch.

Now I look forward to visiting the farmers market each fall to try new varieties of childhood comfort produce. This season at the farmers market, I was introduced to the Mutsu apple by farmer Tom Brodhagen of Maple Ridge Orchards in Honor. Tom is an heirloom orchardist who farms more than 2,000 trees that produce 30 varieties of apples.

The Mutsu apple (also known as a Crispin apple) was first developed in the Mutsu Province of Japan in 1930. New apple varieties are created by joining together seedlings from different apple trees. The Mutsu apple was created by joining together a Golden Delicious seedling with a Japanese Indo seedling yielding a crisp, juicy and refreshing apple that is excellent for eating raw as well as for cooking in sauces, soups, baking, drying and freezing.

The Mutsu apple is one of Tom’s favorite heirloom varieties. He likes to harvest the crop during the early green stage when it is very crisp and tart.

“The Mutsu apple is quite difficult to grow as the tree is susceptible to fire blight and the fruit can easily develop a spotted surface which prevents its long term storage,” Brodhagen said. Tom likens the Mutsu apple to a Granny Smith but with a slightly sweeter taste.

When at the farmers market, look for heavy apples that are firm, brightly colored and that have no bruises or soft skin. Apples keep well in dry cold storage or in the refrigerator crisper drawer. If storing apples in dry cold storage, wrap each apple individually in newspaper to prevent contact with other apples.

Homemade apple butter is traditionally slathered on bread. In my kitchen, I use apple butter as a base for conserves, chutneys, soups, marinades, dressings, BBQ sauce, to glaze meats with and as a gourmet condiment added to baked goods, pizza, omelettes, oatmeal, sandwiches, smoothies and I admit to eating it straight out of the jar with a spoon standing at my kitchen sink, if need be.

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