, I complained about being sick of pie — well, I'm over it. I love to eat pie, I love to bake pie, it's time for pie. Last night I baked my first apple pie of the fall because my mother, and bakery founder, Gwen Bassetti, made her annual trip to town yesterday with a truckload of her big bumpy "Basssetti" apples. Grand Central Bakers will use these unique apples in pies, tarts, and cakes, but I could not resist taking a few home to make dessert.
Everybody brings some baggage to a marriage, especially when it's the third time around for both parties. Fred Bassetti brought an unidentified heirloom apple strain that he casually had named "the Bassetti." More than 80 years ago, the mother of the trees that produced these apples was producing apples in front of the house where he grew up in Foster, ten miles south of Seattle. Fred had propagated a few trees from the original and the apples were popular with a loyal few, until a friend in the orchard business convinced my mom and Fred to graft scions from the old tree and plant an orchard where she had once grown shallots. Today there are 75 trees that produce 6-8 tons of apples a year.
For years, the apples remained unidentified... and the Bassetti name stuck. Both my Mom and Fred believed them to be a "sport" (essentially a happenstance). However, last year at the Seattle Fruit Society fall show, the mystery was solved when a panel of experts decided that it must be a "Spokane Beauty."
The apple's story goes something like this. In 1859, Stephen Maxson, Sr. came west on the Oregon Trail, bringing a bag of apple seeds. He settled about six miles east of Walla Walla, and planted the seeds. One of them grew into a tree that produced particularly fine apples. He named it a Spokane Beauty. One nursery catalog described them as follows: "Largest apple known, a prodigy for size; of extraordinary beauty... crisp, juicy, rich with a delicious, high flavor. Unsurpassed for cooking and drying; a very long keeper..." While they never caught on commercially, probably due to inconsistent yields and its unwieldy size, the Spokane Beauty lives on at our farm in Goldendale and in many of the apple-filled treats you can find at Grand Central this fall.