The foothills of the western Maine mountains overlooking the Kennebec River offer the ideal conditions for raising superior quality apples. This is where two generations of the Dimock family cultivate over 30 acres of trees on their farm named North Star Orchards. Using the ecologically sustainable techniques of integrated crop management, the Dimocks grow some of the finest apples in New England.
Among the many varieties they cultivate, McIntosh apples comprise almost two-thirds of their annual harvest of 20,000+/- bushels. “Macs” are a beloved variety because of their just-right flavor – not too sweet, slightly tart, and very “apple-y.” If you’ve ever bitten into one picked right off the tree, you know the taste is amazing.
The history of the popular McIntosh apple can be traced to a single tree discovered in 1811 by John McIntosh. While clearing land on his farm near Morrisburg, in Ontario, Canada, he stumbled upon the tree in the midst of 20 apple seedlings.
McIntosh transplanted the seedlings and nurtured them, but by 1830 only one of those trees remained, surviving until 1906. Other well-known apple varieties that can trace their ancestry to the McIntosh include Macouns, Spartans, Cortlands, Empires, and Paula Reds.
At North Star Orchards picking begins in mid-August when the early varieties start to mature. The peak of the harvest season is mid-September to early October when the much-anticipated McIntosh apples are ready. Depending on Mother Nature, the entire harvest is usually complete by mid- to late-October.
The Dimock family preserves some of their annual McIntosh harvest to share with apple lovers far and wide by making exceptional jams, jellies, and other fabulous products under the name McIntosh Farm. (Their Apple Pie Jam is one of my favorites – awesome on vanilla ice cream.)
In my retail store I stock nearly all the McIntosh Farm “spreadables,” from rich Apple Butter to savory Apple Garlic Jam. Each flavor is made in small batches by the orchard owners themselves, with lots of their prized Mac apples. And all are absolutely, positively delicious.
I frequently host “tasting events” at the store where customers can sample food products and discover quick, simple ways to enjoy these items. Here are just a couple ways my wife and I have used McIntosh Farm jams and jellies to tantalize the taste buds:
- Apple Ginger Jam. Roast or grill a pork tenderloin. One or two minutes before removing from heat, spread 3-4 tablespoons of this jam over the pork. It makes a wonderful glaze that blends with the meat juices when you slice the tenderloin. Serve some extra jam as a condiment with the sliced pork. Heavenly!
- Apple Garlic Jam. Cut a baguette or similar crusty bread in half lengthwise. Spread with a thin layer of softened butter, then top the bread with ⅛-inch thick slices of mild cheddar. Pop into a 375F oven until the cheese is melted. Remove from oven and drop a few spoonfuls of the jam on the cheese and spread evenly. Return to the hot oven for the jam and cheese to get bubbly. Cool slightly and cut into pieces for a scrumptious appetizer.
Of course, McIntosh Farm jams and jellies are equally fabulous on toast, muffins, bagels…or all by themselves by the spoonful right out of the jar.