Saturday, November 29, 2008

Taking Stock, Stocking Up

By Thanksgiving week, the trees are bare and most growers have packed it in. A few will be open until Christmas.

Even though it is the end of November, there are good Macs, Macouns, and Empires in the supermarkets. By stocking up on some of the late varieties I can have varied choices through the end of the year.

I had to travel to in Greenfield, about 90 miles west of my home, last Monday, so I took the opportunity to make some end-of-season visits.

First stop was Phil's in Harvard (map), for some unpasteurized cider. Phil presses two varieties, a blend and a varietal, and was offering samples of both. I preferred the cider made from McIntosh apples, but unfortunately Phil only had the blend for sale that day. I took half a gallon. (Update: It is really good stuff!)

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Black Twig *

This is an old Southern apple, reputed by some to have been Andrew Jackson's favorite. And it has a name like a medieval pestilence (or a second-tier superhero.)

But what can we say about the Black Twig in person?

A medium-large apple, very firm in the hand, that has a patchy red blush over a green yellow skin.

The apple is decorated with small lenticels that are light inside the blush and green elsewhere. Its calyx is closed, and my sample bears one scar from the July 2 hail storm. The unbroken fruit has a rich cider smell.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Orleans Reinette **

My photograph fails to do justice to this understated Vermeer of an apple, with its deep orange red blush peeping though a painterly coating of rusty brown.

These russets are medium-small and well-formed with a hint of ribbing. The russet covers most of the skin, which is silvery green except for the blush. Large irregular lenticels are most prominent in the unblushed areas and match the skin. There are also smooth orange patches in the russet, though it's hard to say in which layer the source of that color lies.

Click on the photo for a close-up.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Marks of character

No verbal airbrushing here. My descriptions of apple varieties include, to the best of my skill, an account of the fruits' cosmetic imperfections.

I hope you are not put off by apple russet, or those little black speckles, or even the large dark indentations I've found on some varieties. I'm not. But I do wonder: What are they?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Gold Rush (Goldrush) **

Gold Rush originated at the Purdue Horticulture Research Farm in West Lafayette, Indiana, where it was named "GoldRush" in honor of (1) its color, (2) a purported "rush" of flavor, and (3) some goofy marketing theory that says if you jam two words together and capitalize letters in the middle, more people will buy the apple.

Sorry guys, but nobody calls it that, and it is a tribute to the actual qualities of this variety, not your marketing acumen, that people like it enough to reinterpret the name back into English.

Gold Rush is a medium-sized ribbed apple with waxy yellow skin--tinged with green--flecked with dark lenticels. A light bronze blush shows where the sun has been.

The flesh is yellow, firm, and crisp, still on the coarse side but more fine-grained than that of many yellow apples. Its flavor has the honeyed sweetness of a Golden Delicious, wedded to a pleasing tartness with a touch of acidity. The tension between these flavors is just right and there are fleeting hints of pear, citrus, and spice to keep things interesting. Plus a little metalic fizz on the tip of the tongue.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Imperfect French

The web logs for this site (no personal data) show that yesterday a vistor using a French internet-service provider requested a translation of my Melrouge review via Google Translate, an automated online translator.

This is another freebie from Google, and you do get what you pay for.

There is something charming about reading one's prose rendered in French. At least, if one doesn't look too closely. See for yourself.

To get some idea of the quality of this translation, I fed it backwards through Google Translate, French to English.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Mystery Russet

This may be a Golden Russet, as advertised when I bought it. Or it may be something else. (Any theories, anyone?) In any case it is not a representative sample, as I later discovered when I bought a second batch of Golden Russet apples from Red Apple Farm in Phillipston.

That story is here and the true Golden Russet review is here.

My original review follows.

This russet variety runs medium-small--a bit large for this kind of apple. Patches of rusty-brown russet sit atop the Golden Russet's spring-green skin, small continents and archipelagos of vegetation upon some fantastic planetoid. The russetting does not cover everything but is present in the brown lenticels.

My sample is unfortunately a little mealy, though yet toothsome. It still manages to be reasonably firm. Its flesh is creamy white with yellow highlights and coarse.

The flavor is mellow and sweet, with accents of pear and a little citrus. Its skin is on the chewy side and the finish leaves a lingering spirit of cream soda.

Variously recommended for eating, cooking, and cider, Golden Russet has been grown in New England for two hundred years.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Newtown Pippin (Newton Pippin) *

What is the name of this apple?

Red Apple Farm sold it to me at Lexington's farmers market under the name "Yellow Newton Pippin."

Wikipedia tells us, "Green and yellow varieties are sometimes distinguished but it is not clear that they are in fact distinct cultivars," and lists it as the Newtown Pippin (and a parent of Gingergold).
As "Albemarle Pippin" Vintage Virginia calls it "the most famous of Virginia apples" and dates it back to 1700.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Searching for well-kept fruit

This is the time of year I find myself asking, Who has good Macouns? The season for them is quite over and they are not great keepers generally, but if properly stored they can be very good.

So at farm stands and supermarkets I buy them in small quantities, to avoid paying for a week's supply of mushy apples. Today I bought three Macouns at the farmers' market in Davis Square, Somerville. The Arlington market has closed until June, but two of Arlington's three apple growers are hanging in there in Davis Square until the season ends the day before before Thanksgiving.

Happily the fruit is good--definitely late-season Macouns, mellower and with less assertive crackle than at peak, but still satisfyingly rich, juicy, and crisp.

I also got some Baldwins, a late-season favorite of mine and, just for grins, a Brock. All of which I'll share here, along with a bunch of other varieties. Tune in tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


Phil's, in hilly Harvard Massachusetts (map), is one of my favorite places for unpasteurized cider.

Just some apple trees on a hillside, and a shed with a cider press, Phil's is the anti - Shelburne Farm (or Honey Pot Hill, or other orchard that sweetens its offerings with hay rides, a moon bounce, a corn maze, donuts, or Morris dancers).

No one was home when I stopped by midweek, but the orchard was open for business on the honor system.

The bare-bones approach is appealing and means that on sunny October weekends a trip to Phil's will dodge the mobs of families. Kids who do come by on weekends can help operate the cider press, which is not motorized.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Northern Spy *

A famous cooking apple, sometimes called "Northern Pie," this heirloom is also great for eating and is still enjoyed across the Northeast.

Northern Spy is large, very ribbed, and a little gnarly. A streaky red blush mostly covers yellow-green (actually more yellow than green).

My example has a small patch of tiny black russet spots, a wen-like extrudence, and numerous small dents and bruises.

Most of these are probably from my own ham-handling, but they suggest a sensitive vulnerability.

So, no beauty queen, but a right stout-looking apple. It smells faintly, and sweetly, of cider.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Cox's Orange Pippin ***

A famous, fabled apple that many feel is simply the best. And, yes, it is fabulous.

Cox's Orange Pippin runs medium to medium-large and is round, oblate, and ribbed. The blush is indeed an orange-red, sometimes uneven, over yellow green and with considerable russetting.

Brown lenticels freckle the whole surface, which is matte, not glossy. Cox's sits firm in the hand and smells slightly mossy or grassy.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Picked. Over.

On Halloween I pedaled out to Littleton for another visit to Nagog Hill Farm. There were no apples left on the trees.

Compare the photo at right to the one I took back in July (as told here):

All in all two bookends to the season.

Monday, November 3, 2008


Jonathan + Golden Delicious = Jonagold (at least sometimes, see below). The fruit is is medium large, round and regular with slight ribbing. Its skin is a light yellow-green (not gold) spotted with darker green lenticels. An orangish-red blush, streaky in places, covers about half the surface; there the lenticels appear light tan. The unbroken apple smells mellow and sweet, very like I remember a Golden Delicious.

(My apple also has small patches of tiny black stipples. At some point I will find out what that is. In any case it does not put me off in the least when I see it, which is often.)

The flesh is very juicy, also crisp, firm, yellow, and coarse-grained. The apple is evenly sweet and mellow with some acidity but only a little balancing tartness. The flavor, like the smell, reminds me of Golden Delicious (but more lively, and the texture is better), though it has been years since I sampled one. A little pear, perhaps, and honey.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Shelburne Farm

Heading west from Boston, apple country begins in the Town of Stow, blessed with many orchards. A cheerful example is Shelburne Farm, north of the center of town on the road to West Acton.

Shelburne is one of those pick-your-own places that caters to families. Besides the basic picking experience, there is a hay ride, ponies, a moon bounce, kettle corn, cheddar cheese, and such warm goodies as apple crisp, mulled cider, apple turnovers, and cider donuts.

(The farm offers still other ancillary blandishments in season and can frankly be quite a mob scene on weekends. They even had a Morris dancing team out this year.)

I was riding my bicycle down the road and just had to stop--you could smell those donuts a quarter of a mile away. (They're selling the baked goods from the little stall at the right of the photo above.)

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Rhode Island Greening *

Various sources date Rhode Island Greening to 1650, making it one of the oldest New England varieties still enjoyed today.

This fruit is generally medium-sized, though my test apple is a little bigger than that. It is lopsided, ribbed, and a yellow-green with darker green blotches.

A light orange-red blush covers perhaps a quarter of its skin, which has large brown lenticels, also similar brown russet spots radiating from the base.

(Other photographs of the Greening show light lenticels, so perhaps the brown I observed is really more russetting, in this case of the fruit's pores.)