In addition to the delightful recipes, “The New England Orchard Cookbook” provides a guide to New England orchards. Writer Linda Beaulieu divides the book, a hardcover, into sections by state, compiling information on the thousands of acres in the region devoted to the cultivation of fruit trees.

Each section starts with a history of the apples and other orchard fruits and incorporates interesting farm and fruit facts. Through words and photographs, Beaulieu celebrates orchards and the beauty of the New England land that bears this fruit.

To write the book, she spent six months traveling around the region visiting orchards and collecting recipes, which range from savory dishes to sweet desserts. In keeping with New England tradition, for the most part, the recipes are simple and rely on readily available ingredients – if they are not already in your pantry. (One exception, which made me abandon it as a possible test recipe, was the Crepes with Boiled Cider Sauce. That recipe called for apple brandy – not a common item in my house nor the average supermarket.)

The instructions in “The New England Orchard Cookbook” are written in a minimalist, straightforward style, one that assumes the cook has some knowledge of baking.

Though the dessert recipes are plentiful and enticing, after much perusing and family discussion, I opted for a savory dish, the Apple-Onion-Cheese Gratin, which had an unusual combination of some of my family’s favorite foods. The resulting dish was a satisfying meal and a tasty fall treat.



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Apple-Onion-Cheese Gratin

I skipped the optional brown sugar and found that the onions provided plenty of sweetness.

Makes 6 servings

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon unbleached white flour

1 cup milk, scalded


1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Pinch of ground cloves

4 cups peeled and sliced apples

1 cup chopped onions

2 tablespoons brown sugar, optional


2 cups grated cheddar

1 cup chopped walnuts

1 cup bread crumbs

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease an 11-by-7-inch baking dish.

In a pot, melt the butter and whisk in the flour to make a roux. Slowly add the scalded milk, whisking continuously until the sauce starts to thicken. Add the salt, nutmeg and cloves, and stir for 1 minute or until thick.

Remove from the heat and set aside.

Spread the apples and onions evenly in the prepared baking dish. For a sweeter gratin, mix in the brown sugar.

Sprinkle the grated cheese over the apples and onions, and pour the sauce on top.

Scatter the walnuts and bread crumbs over everything. Bake uncovered for 45 minutes, or until top is golden and crisp.

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