Farmers' Kitchen—Breakfast Pie
Walden Heights Nursery & Orchard
Written onOctober 25 , 2012
“You know what I could go for?” our 10-year-old son asked this morning. “A warm slice of apple pie.” He knows that apple pie is the only dessert he is allowed to have for breakfast. And those breakfast pies are always a treat, filled with apples that are a mixture of new varieties and century old heirlooms, all grown on our farm and harvested at the exact moment of perfection.
We’re a small family operation in Walden Heights, in the Northeast Kingdom. We grow a great diversity of fruit species—apples, grapes, currants, gooseberries, cherries, blueberries, pears, raspberries, blackberries, and more—using organic methods and hand tools. When we considered our mission at the farm, we decided on one that reflected what our culture and family needed and deserved: choices and independence.
Choices? In 1900, a national survey estimated the number of apple varieties (trees available at U.S. nurseries) at approximately 14,000. That is not a typo—14,000! Compare that with the paucity of choices at the contemporary grocer.
And independence? Growing your own food is one of the most healthy and independent acts you can perform. And when you choose an heirloom tree, you’re providing an already ancient part of our culture a place in the future.
Now back to baking an apple pie. It begins for us by walking through our heirloom orchard and arboretum of more than 400 apple varieties and selecting different varieties for our breakfast pie. It’s early August as we write this, and the Yellow Transparents, Norlands, and Duchess of Oldenburgs are ready. In a few weeks our choices will include Beacon, Alexander, and Walden Golden. Fall brings Haralson, Wolf River, and Sweet 16.
When you bake this recipe (at right)—our favorite—you may not be able to start by picking apples from your own orchard, but if you want your pie to be special, varieties you might try include: Haralson or Northern Spy, which keep their shape when cooked; Wolf River and Macoun, which turn soft when cooked and add body to a pie; Lodi and Duchess, which add tartness; Sweet 16, which offers a cherry flavor; and/or Beacon, which brings a hint of anise flavor.
And remember that all pies began with the planting of a tree.