Monday, October 31, 2011

Lamb Abbey Pearmain

I have two of these, quite small, one crabapple-sized. Will they be enough?

These are classically shaped with barely detectable ribbing and a streaky red blush over yellow-green.

The lenticels show light against the blush and faintly green on the naked peel.

One sample, shown, has a crown of russet radiating about its stem well. The aroma is sweet and complex, but I can't isolate scents.

Friday, October 28, 2011

The apple harvest takes a bow

Yesterday, Volante Farms in Needham, Mass. was selling an astounding 28 varieties of apples, while they last. If you live in eastern Massachusetts, go there now.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Not with a bang

"We're freezing out here."--Overheard today at farmers market.

It didn't snow, but the last day of farmers market in Belmont was bleak and raw.

Belmont followed the end of Arlington, which followed Lexington for the year this week.

Paw Paw *

A fruit named, seemingly, for another fruit.

I have two examples of Paw Paw, and while the one in my photo is less round and more blushed, both are medium-sized apples with a streaky red blush and many large light lenticels.

The red streaks are deep and dark in places, a quality my camera just will not capture. The peel has a glossy finish and the unblushed part is spring green.

The flesh of one sample is dense and fine grained, white noticeably tinted with green. It's crisp, nearly breaking, and is mild and well-balanced with no acidity.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Season's greetings

Nothing to say today, but had to share these seasonably dark and lovely Sisters of Fortune.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Red Canada *

Red Canada is round with some ribbing and a deep stem well. A thin red blush covers about two thirds of otherwise spring green, and many large green lenticels cover the surface. The apple has a sweet aroma.

(A second sample, shown, is smaller and more oblate, with a blush that is stronger, deeper, and more complete.)

Red has fine-grained white flesh tinged with green, crisp though not quite breaking. It is pleasantly balanced and mild with cane sugar, kiwi, and a little light caramel note. The peel adds a chewy vegetable touch at the end of each bite. This is an agreeable apple that anyone should be able to enjoy.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Granite Beauty *

This October apple is a large medium, slightly ribbed and slightly conical, with a streakey red blush that mostly covers spring green. On one sample the small light lenticels have rusetted over and are prominent, but not on the other.

Inside, the Granite Beauty has crisp (but not breaking) snow-white flesh with green highlights, and its taste is correspondingly balanced, with some tart accents. Flavors feature some spicy floral notes and a vinous quality, and there is an echo of cream soda towards the end.

Friday, October 21, 2011

The season turns

The past fortnight has been tremendous for apples. At Farmers Market you can choose from more than a score varieties, and many unexpected heirlooms have cropped up in the hinterlands.

Some choices at the Belmont market yesterday
This week there were 23 different apples for sale at the Arlington Farmers Market, 26 in Belmont.

But this sustained, ecstatic crescendo masks a profound shift. In a week most of the harvest will be in and these markets will have folded their tabernacles for the year.

The haul in Belmont yesterday: Baldwin, Cameo, Cortland, Empire, FujiGala, Gingergold, Golden Delicious, Golden Russet, Granny SmithHoneycrisp, Jonagold, Jonathan, Liberty, Macoun, McIntosh, Melrouge, Mutsu, Paula Red, Red Delicious, Shamrock, Sister of FortuneSpencer, Stayman, and Swiss Gourmet.

Get them while you can.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Deacon Jones *

Tower Hill (which conserves this heirloom variety) describes Deacon Jones as medium-sized, but my sample is larger than that. It's elongated, even conical, and just a little ribbed.

The Deacon's green peel is half covered with a brick-red blush decorated with many tan lenticels that are all but invisible in the unblushed green.

The skin is matt rather than glossy and the fruit has a staid beauty, quite solid in hand, with a sweet aroma of cut grass.

The flesh of this fruit is dense and fine-grained, white, and crisp but a little yielding. The peel is chewy and dominates the end of each bite perhaps a bit too much. Deacon's flavors are mild and sweet and pleasant, with no acidity. There is a little melon and seedless grapes, and a third flavor that is something like this.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


Tower Hill asserts that this antique apple is named for the famous Civil War general, but that seems unlikely.

My two samples are a medium and a large medium, each with a red blush (translucent to saturated) that almost entirely covers a light yellow. The fruit smells sweetly of cider.

McLellan's flesh, white and fine-grained, has a soft crunch with light cantaloupe flavors, vinous highlights, and a hint of honey. Its delicacy is overwhelmed by a chewy peel. Overall, nicely balanced, though the crunch could be more assertive.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Wolf River

After hearing about this variety for years, I am pleased finally to sample one. Wolf River is big, in more ways than one. Will it prove more than I can chew?
It's a hefty apple. My sample's 12-inch waist line nears King Luscious proportions, though the round, slightly ribbed fruit is somewhat squat and thus less massive than if perfectly spherical.

Wolf River has an attractive red blush that is streaky over a light greenish yellow; the streaks are quite dark in places. The surface is decorated with many light tan lenticels that vary in size.

Friday, October 14, 2011


This variety only grows at Gould Hill Farm in Hopkinton, New Hampshire, where it originates.

The large and slightly blocky apple is ribbed, with a streaky red blush over perhaps a third of its otherwise spring-green surface. Green lenticels are not prominent but show as light against the blush and dark elsewhere. Its calyx is quite clenched, and it smells pleasantly sweet-tart.

Kearsarge's flesh is somewhat yielding, a light creamy yellow, medium-grained and reasonably juicy. It has mild balanced flavors: sweet cider and a faint hint of pear. A very small amount of acidity and a weak bitter note (perhaps from the peel) are enlivening and confer a little spicy character.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Twenty-four apples at one farmers market

No photo today, just a quick report (with lovingly hand-crafted links) of all the apples for sale at the Arlington (Mass.) Farmers market:

Baldwin, Blushing Golden, Cameo, Cortland, Empire, Gala, Gingergold, Golden Delicious, Golden Russet, Honeycrisp, Jonagold, Jonathan, Liberty, Macoun, McIntosh, Melrouge, Mutsu, Paula Red, Red Delicious, Roxbury Russet, Shamrock, Spencer, Stayman, and (pant pant) Swiss Gourmet.

And that's not counting the Asian Pears.

There will probably be even more varieties at Belmont's market tomorrow afternoon.

What a great time of year. Get out there and eat!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Jonafree *

The blush of this small medium-sized apple runs from streaky to saturated, where it can be a true deep red. It is round with some ribbing and small light lenticels that are widely spaced.

Jonafree's flesh is satisfyingly crunchy and juicy, a coarse-grained yellow. It is firm and crisp enough to break off into delightful chunks. The flavor is sweet with balancing tartness showcasing simple rich fruity flavors with perhaps hints of cane sugar, pineapple, and, briefly early on in the chew, bananas.

Monday, October 10, 2011

A feast for the eyes

Toronto apple enthusiast Suzanne Long has a wonderful set of photos from an apple tasting in Dobbington, Ontario last weekend (the Canadian thanksgiving).

Suzanne writes she is

still reeling from Saturday's road trip to a new-to-me grower's tasting. An almost overwhelming list of old varieties I'd only read about.

Update: Suzanne writes

the tasting was at O'Keefe Grange, owned by Bill and Lyn O'Keefe, the wonderful hosts of the annual Thanksgiving apple tasting.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Honeycrisp vs. Topaz smackdown

Two modern varieties, products of breeding programs rather than chance.

At left towers Honeycrisp, the popular sugar bomb that is taking the market by storm. The much-less-well-known challenger at right is Topaz, David to Honeycrisp's Goliath.

I pit them against each other because both bring outstandingly crisp, juicy flesh--and fundamentally different flavors.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Priscilla *

This large ribbed apple sports a blush that runs to a deep brick red where saturated. Her small lenticels are pink; you must look closely to find them at all.

My sample, besides the usual cosmetic belemishes, is not in the best shape, with a few bruises and soft spots that are perhaps souvenirs of Tropical Storm Irene. Indeed my first bite was mealy, but fortunately not representative. Priscilla's calyx is closed and the fruit has a faint cidery smell.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Hard apple cider American style

Bon Apetite's Andrew Knowlton sampled 50 American hard ciders and picks four tasty favorites.

Cider used to be at least as big a deal here as in the United Kingdom but never recovered from Prohibition. Today in the States the word "cider" refers to the sweet unfermented version as it comes from the cider press.

I've enjoyed some French ciders (and poiré (perry), pressed from pears), but have been underwhelmed by domestic brews. Of course, it helps to know what to drink.

These are welcome signposts to new-world cider, from Oregon to Michigan to New York to New Hampshire.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Sweet Sixteen **

This medium-sized apple is mostly round with just a hint of ribbing. Its pretty red blush, streaky for the most part, is faintly marked with light lenticels that vary in size; the unblushed peel is a pale yellow tinted with green. Its calyx is clenched shut.

Sweet Sixteen's flesh, coarse-grained and dripping with juice, is a light apricot yellow. Its flavors are mild, generally sweet with a little tempering tartness. Lush fruity cider flavors and cane sugar predominate, with the merest hint of spice and wine around the edges.

Although Sixteen is sweet, there is enough going on that it does not cloy as so many modern varieties do.

The extreme juiciness of the coarse-grained flesh and the striking orange-yellow color, which suggest a stone fruit, are unusual and attractive. One corespondent finds a hint of anise in the flavor mix, but for whatever reason I could not.

Update: I tasted Sweet Sixteen again in 2018.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Mcintosh vs. Honeycrisp Smackdown

Left to right: McIntosh, Honeycrisp. Click photo for close-up.
On the left, "the Mac," McIntosh, an Ontario foundling, for decades the preeminent apple of the Northeast, successor to Baldwin, sire (and mother) of many varieties, vinous, sweet, and tart.

And looming large at right, from the breeding program of the Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station, surging in popularity, the younger, bigger, and much much sweeter Honeycrisp.

Of all my pairings, this head-to-head must be my most antagonistic. Not only is upstart Honeycrisp stealing market share from the venerable Mac, but the Province of Nova Scotia has deployed the big guy as a pomicidal weapon, paying farmers to rip out McIntosh trees and plant Honeycrisp.

This is a real grudge match.