Friday, October 22, 2010

Smokehouse *

An unexpected perquisite of this blog is that sometimes people send me apples to try. (Okay, twice. But a man can dream.)

Today's variety is just such a gift, picked and mailed in early October.

Smokehouse, named for the proximity of its ur-tree to a Pennsylvania smokehouse, ranges from medium to large.

The streaky blush of this round apple includes some dark red stripes. Large tan lenticels set off the blush handsomely, presenting as dark green in the yellow-green unblushed peel.

Smokehouse has a sweet cider aroma and feels hard and firm. Nonetheless, it is a good thing that Christina, who grew these apples in her garden near upstate New York, sent me several, because the first sample was regrettably mealy, though still crisp.

This apple seems to have a short eating window, but other samples were better, with coarse yellow flesh that is crisp and creamy yellow-white with only a little crumble.

This is sweet, balanced, and mild, with some understated but rich flavors: spicy and vinous (but mildly so), and a very pleasing hint of malt. The harmony of these tastes is first rate, and I regret that I was not able to enjoy this fragile variety right off the tree. It reminds me a little of American Beauty, another antique.

New York Magazine flagged Smokehouse as a top pick in its recent review of apples for sale at the Union Square Green Market. It's nice to know this elegant old variety is still being sold and appreciated today. I'd certainly buy some more if I could.

Christina says that eaten at the right moment these are her favorite: "Firm and heavy and intensely flavored with no grainy soft texture." I can believe it.

It's always the #1 THEFT TREE when it comes to neighbors and animals. I've seen strangers standing under the tree frantically filling bushel baskets and hoping nobody catches them, and most days it is not unusual to see deer, rabbits, and woodchucks all munching away and cleaning the ground beneath it bare. This is while the apples from the other 2 trees just sit there and rot!

Also known as English Vandevere and Mill Creek, among other variations. And Christina says it's great for pies.

16 comments:

  1. Christina here, the apple sender. You've done a fine job describing this apple! Especially the malt flavor, which is very intense when it's fresh.I would like to add that the short window of perfection for Smokehouse hopefully won't deter anyone from it... that is absolutely the blessing AND the curse of a lot of these old heirloom varieties- but picking one off your own tree when they can give you their very best sort of makes supermarket apples a non-entity. No comparison!

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  2. Christina, thank you for sharing this fine old apple--and your own comments about it.

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  3. This was interesting finding your information on the Smoke house apple. We bought a ranch in South West Oregon in 1972 and it had two old apple trees in a small pasture east of the house. It had the most delicious apples on it. One bite and the delicious juice ran down your chin. A neighbor who was a old timer from the early 1900's told me they were Old Smokehouse apples. We sold the ranch several years ago but were back to visit this summer and the new owners have grafted the old tree to more root stock. It is great to see the old trees still growing. I have a old cider press, probably as old as the trees and have made lots of cider over the years. The Gravenstein is the closest I have found to such great taste. I wonder if they would grow here in Nebraska?

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  4. Beverly, I think I share your tastes--Gravenstein is the star of August. Just one caution: it is possible that Smokehouse and "Old Smokehouse" are two different varieties (though I think they probably are the same).

    You could probably get a very good answer to your question about what will grow in Nebraska form the Cooperative Extension Service at U Nebraska in Lincoln.

    Of course Kevin Hauser, over at Apples and Oranges, has been getting all kinds of apples to grow in his unlikely climate. I guess you never really know how an apple tree will do until you plant one.

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  5. I grew up on a 100 acre orchard in Pennsylvania which was started by my great-grandfather. His daughter (my grandmother) always prefers Smokehouse when making pies or apple sauce. Only when we have run out of this variety will she switch to Staymen, Empire, or Rome for her baking needs. I have tried several variety for baking, but have acquired my grandmother's preference and will always look for a Smokehouse first. Really enjoyed looking at your reviews!

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  6. Jaime, I am jealous. Where do you live that you can find this apple easily--Pennsylvania? New York?

    Thanks for stopping by!

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  7. I am in Pennsylvania, east of Lancaster County. Most people that come to the orchard have never heard of Smokehouse, but once we suggest it, they come back for more! Would like to share our apple cider with you. I am sure i am biased, but it is by far the best out there! Happy Harvest

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  8. If you had to choose between Smokehouse and Esopus Spitzenberg, which would it be and why? Also, has anyone tasted Smith's Cider, an old apple from Bucks County, Pennsylvania? I would be grateful for your comments.

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  9. @Anonymous above: I would never say no to Esopus, an apple of the highest rank.

    But since my own experience with Smokehouse so far has been compromised by less-than-perfect samples, I really can't compare these very fine varieties.

    (Also: Why choose? If so lucky as to have both, I mean!)

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  10. Can someone tell me where I can buy smokehouse apples? I live in NJ but will travel to Pennsylvania - these are undoubtedly the best baking apple!

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    1. I'd like to find a source here in New England, too. I was glad to get these but suspect that my review may not do this variety justice.

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    2. Brecknock Orchard in Lancaster County has them.

      http://www.brecknockorchard.com/

      You might also try Kauffman's Fruit Farm also in Lancaster County

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  11. Strites Orchard in Harrisburg carries Smokehouse. Grabbed some for an Apple Butter recipe I plan to try.

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  12. I found some at Tendercrop Farm in Newburyport, Massachusetts last weekend!

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    1. That's the place with the bison, right? I had no idea they grew their own apples. And I was just up that way last weekend!

      Thanks for this information.

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    2. Yes! I didn't know either...I think they have apple picking as well.

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