Sunday, January 4, 2009

Esopus Spitzenberg **

This variety is old, revered, and hard to find. I've never tasted one before.

This medium-sized fruit has an orange-tinged red blush that is streaky on the shaded side and speckled with many light lenticels of varying sizes. It is noticeably ribbed and has a sweet smell of cider and pears.

The flesh of my Esopus Spitzenberg is yellow, coarse, and firm, still reasonably crisp but tender. Its taste is nicely balanced and has pronounced acidity. This is a flavorful old-style apple after the manner of a Ribston or Cox's. The peel is thick and adds some sharpness to the finish. There are floral notes and hints of peach and something citrus, pineapple perhaps.

Esopus originated around 1700 near the town of that name in New York's Hudson valley. Many online sources repeat the claim that this variety was Thomas Jefferson's favorite apple--without citing any authority (although E. Spitz is mentioned in a charming story about Jefferson in the Twinleaf Journal). Esopus also gets respectful treatment in Orange Pippin.

My samples reached me a month (at least) past picking. They were very good but if I get a better sample next year I will revisit this variety. (If, that is, I take this blog into a second season.)

Update: Some clearer flavors from fresher samples of this excellent apple are here.

In the mean time, if you are so lucky as to find this apple, take my advice and do not pass it by.

14 comments:

  1. Adam: Thanks for putting together a blog that really serves helps me understand the dizzying variety of heirloom apples. I'm planting my first orchard here in Santa Fe NM, and I'm wondering how the Spitzenberg stores. It sounds like a tasty apple, and it's sure pretty. Many thanks, Pamela

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  2. E. Spitzenberg is supposed to be a good winter apple. Unfortunately I've never had enough of them to see for myself.

    Best of luck with your orchard!

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  3. You can pick them at Smolak Farm in Andover MA. I picked some this year and they where great. I have read they improve greatly in storage. I have some in the fridge and am saving them until Thanksgiving to find out if this is true.

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  4. Smolak?

    I am very grateful for this information, thank you! This is one hard-to-find variety, at least around here.

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  5. Well be trying October ripened spitzes this fall! Can't wait.

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  6. Smolak is actually in North Andover where I used to live. had no idea they had spitzenberg.....or anything good for that matter although they do plant q lot of new stuff.

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  8. I live near Gould Hill...let me know if you'd like me to send you any of their apples. Esopus looks to be a late October apple there.
    Planning any review of Wolf River? Nobody will believe they're really THAT big!

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  9. I have never had the pleasure of Wolf River, so I may need to take advantage of your kind offer. It is getting harder to find "new" (to me) varieties to taste and wrote up.

    However, I hope to get to Gould Hill myself in the next few weeks. It is a wonderful place.

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  10. I just had my first esopus spitzenberg; it was a beautiful little apple that I picked up by South Station in Boston at a farmstand. The flavor was excellent: complex and balanced, just the right blend of sweet, tart and tannic. But the texture was horrible. Dry and mealy as the day is long. The texture was so bad I considered the apple a "spitter". So was that just a poor sample or is that common with the variety?

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    1. That'a too bad, Shelah! I've eat a fair number of these and would say NO, this is not typical,

      Any apple can be "off" for any number of reasons, but I have never encountered a mealy Esopus and I do not think of it as an apple that has a texture problem.

      I hope you can find some better examples sometime!

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  11. I just happened upon your blog, and I'm thrilled to pieces to find this entry about the "E-Spitz"!!! I live in Ulster County, where the Town of Esopus is located. It is an area rife with history, and has a deeply embedded farming culture that is coming back to life after a long decline. In spite of my location, I have yet to taste this truly locally sourced apple variety, and because of that I'm thinking of ordering and planting a few trees of my own. This is a terrific blog, and I will be visiting here often....it might have something to do with the fact that you gave my all-time favorite apple, the Northern Spy, a lovely review - not a single apple in the world can beat it in pies...or eating a sliver whilst peeling and slicing when making the pie! Thanks so much, and keep writing!

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    1. The connection with history and the stories of the apples is half the charm.

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    2. The other half is in the eating!

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