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.