With fall leaves whirling in the outdoor blender that is today’s weather, I realized it was past time to peel and slice a bag of beautiful homegrown Wealthy apples my parents grew on their northeast Iowa farm.
Few people seem to know Wealthy apples these days, and although I look for them at farmer’s markets and in stores, I never spot them. But they are the secret to my mother’s outstanding pie.
Wealthys, like their newer and absolutely wonderful cousins, Honeycrisp apples, were developed in Minnesota. The Honeycrisp, introduced in 1991, is the a cross of Macoun and Honeygold made by the University of Minnesota research team.
The Wealthy apple was selected about 1868 by horticulturist Peter Gideon, near Excelsior. “It was acclaimed as Grand Champion at a number of state fairs around the country and eventually became one of the five most-produced apples in all of America,” according to Minnesota Harvest. DNA testing showed it is, in fact, one of the parents of the great Haralson apple.
An obituary for Mr. Gideon states he named the apple in honor of his wife, whose maiden name was Wealthy Hull.
I found a mail-order source for Wealthy apple trees from Grandpa’s Orchard in Coloma, Missouri. The website says Red Wealthy “is a compact tree that bears very early and prolifically. It can tend to be biennial, so thinning early and vigorously to reduce an excessive crop will help with the next years. It blooms over a along period, so it is often used as a pollinator for other varieties.” All of that is true for my parents’ tree, which I believe must be at least 50 years old, if not older.
The flavor is sweet with a hint of tartness, and the apples bake down nicely into a just-mushy-enough consistency to be recognizable but not quite applesauce.
If you can find Wealthys, slice up some Wealthys and follow my mom’s pie recipe, shown here exactly as she gave it to me. And make the crust from scratch, please. You cannot make a better pie apple.
Orla Wiley’s Apple Pie
I really don`t have a recipe as such–just about a cup of sugar, about 1/3 cup of flour, cinnamon–probably at least a teaspoon and mix it all with the apples. After they are in the pan I put some pieces of butter scattered over the apples and put the crust on. I usually sprinkle some sugar on top and bake at 425 degrees for about 15 min. then reduce to 375 degrees for about 45 min.
Or take the easy way out as I did today: Make apple crisp.
Either way, you’ll garner a wealth of compliments.