The Best Apple Pie Recipe Ever: Pick 'Em Like Maine Pomologist John Bunker

Categories: Ask an Expert
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Nicole Danna
A fresh-picked New York Macintosh apple.
Nutting Bumpuses. Northern Spy. Newt Grindles. These are just a few of the unique names given to a variety of rare, heirloom apples found on John Bunker's Super Chilly Farm in Palermo, Maine.

Bunker, a self-appointed Maine preservation pomologist, has without a doubt the most knowledge of apples in North America. After all, he's spent the past 40 years studying the unique varieties of apple that grow on his 100-acre farm, about 200 heirloom types. They are apples you have (probably) never heard of, and the apples you (most likely) have never tasted. They grow in odd shapes and unusual sizes. And, sadly, they are apples that will never grow here in South Florida. Still, that doesn't mean you can't have a taste for yourself.

For tips on where to buy the best New England apples, and how to bake the best apple pie you've ever had, keep reading:

If you're from New England, chances are you had a family member or two that would send a box of Florida oranges and grapefruit north in the dead of winter -- a reminder that the sunny South has a year-round supply of the fruit ripe for the picking. Here, it's the other way around. While grocery stores and farmers markets across New York, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Vermont and Massachusetts are inundated with apples of all kinds, we in South Florida are stuck with bags of boring, mushy McIntosh or over-ripe Red Delicious. 

It's too bad, because the thousands of apple varieties, in a range of colors and textures, can be used for so many different things, starting with baking and juicing, but also pressing into ciders, boiling into syrup, fermenting into alcohol and vinegar. The cores and peels? Use them to feed your garden, or feed them to the farm animals (in other words, save them for a hot local farmer). 

OK, so how do you find them in Broward and Palm Beach Counties? Well, you don't. You simply have them shipped to you. Although New England's apple-picking season began in late August, the best time to place apples is during the final harvest, typically the entire month of November. Even though we Floridians can't do any picking ourselves, that doesn't mean we can't have the best of the best brought directly to our doorstep. 

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The Northern Spy apple.

Here, we've compiled a short list of New England farms that do the apple picking for you, then box them up and ship them to your door. The list below highlights a few that still have varieties available that do best for baking -- like Granny Smith, Jonagold, Braeburn, Rome Beauty and Northern Spy -- especially for that apple pie recipe coming up.

Belltown Hill Orchards in South Glastonberry, Connecticut
Hickory Hill Orchards in Cheshire, Connecticut
Lyman Orchards in Middlefield, Connecticut
Bolton Orchards in Bolton, Massachusetts
Carlson Orchards in Harvard, Massachusetts
Mack's Apples in Londonberry, New Hampshire
Lakeside Orchards in Manchester, Maine
McDougal Orchards in Springvale, Maine


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