Friday, November 25, 2016

Russell Orchards

On the north shore of Massachusetts, on the road to Crane Beach, is an apple orchard with an impressive selection of fruit and other good things.

Map of Russell Orchards

Russell Orchards is a big place, with hundreds of trees. It's the sort of family-oriented orchard that has apple picking, farm animals, and hay rides. For older folks, Russell also bottles their own fruit wines, ciders, and perries. Their sweet cider is unpasturized.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Bottom of the Bin

The very last apples in wooden crates

The apple crop ends here, at the Copley Square (Boston) Farmers Market the Tuesday before Thanksgiving.

The apples have been picked over leaving only these sorry bruised remains. See you next year!

Monday, November 21, 2016

Tremlett's Bitter (Geneva Tremlett's)

Beware any apple called Bitter. It will not be good to eat.

The virtues of Tremlett's Bitter live in cider, not eating. But cider apples are interesting. They may be spitters but their potent flavors show the heights and depths this fruit can reach.

I have three of these small apples, gnarly and fragrant. One is particularly knobby and ribbed, but on all the blush is a streaky red so dark that some vertical smears run nearly black, hinting at tannic riches. The underlying peel is probably yellow.

They are round and oblate with tiny clenched calyxes in the base. The peel ranges from matte to semigloss.

Anyway, here goes, spitkerchief at the ready.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Oceans of apple butter

There were “oceans” of apple-butter and great loaves of snow-white bread that “took the cake” over anything that came within the range of my experience.... A slice cut from one of them and smeared thick with that delicious apple-butter, was a feast fit for gods or men.

The quote is from a 1908 book by a Mr. James Harvey Kidd, but it is located in a small ocean of research about old-fashioned apple butter curated by Steven Edholm on his blog, Skillcult.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Pound Sweet (Pumpkin Sweet)

Somewhere between large and enormous, this round, ribbed, pale green apple wears a small translucent orange blush on the sunward side. Most samples are unblushed.

Small lenticels, a slightly darker green, are nearly invisible even on close inspection. The peel is smooth and shiny.

There is a splash of russet around the stem area, suggesting that this apple hung heavily enough on the bough that the stem well likely filled with rainwater at times.

Pound Sweet has a sweet smell that includes a whiff of corn.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

America Golden Pippin

I got two of these heritage apples while at Cider Days. But it's not completely clear what that heritage is, since there are more than one variety bearing the name American Golden Pippin.

One of my apples is well colored, with a streaky blush covering some 80% of the spring green peel.

The blush includes a particularly dark and saturated crimson spot about the size of the quarter. There's a bit of flyspeck and other defects.

My other sample is mostly green, marked with faint pink streaks and a translucent pink patch on the sunward side.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Shinsei (Shin-ste) *

You wouldn't expect French apples to taste of Camembert, or English fruit to hint at tea and crumpets. But this surprising Asian variety—well, you'll see.

Don't you think this pale yellow-green apple is very pretty? Made more so by subtle green-on-green accents from some some darker streaks and lenticels. Mine run medium to large.

They are round and oblate without much ribbing, though one sample has some lobe-y bulges. Another, shown, has a small pale blush.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Canadian Strawberry **

Why could say no to a pretty Canadian Strawberry? Even though it's (a) not a strawberry and (b) not from Canada.

The Strawberry's cheerful striped blush comprises varying shades of orange over yellow. Tiny light lenticels are easy to miss.

The apple has a classical conical shape with slight ribbing, and my two samples are medium sized and on the small side of that. That's no indication of how big this apple can get however. Their calyxes are partially open and they smell like sweet cider.

They don't look especially like strawberries, which raises the question: how do they taste?

Friday, November 11, 2016

Pretty boy

Just had to share this gorgeous Cox's Orange Pippin, one of my last of the year.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

A juicy scandal

Giants bestride the apple world, gripping the wholesale exchange, ruling the supermarkets, and limiting supplies of select varieties.

They dance far above a shadowed forest of small farms growing old and lesser-known varieties.

Earlier this year a group of New England growers sought to promote the Jonagold apple, borrowing marketing strategies from the big boys, only the be kicked to the curb.

The whole story is told by apple expert Russell Powell, writing last month in the blog of the New England Apple Association.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Winecrisp **

Today's handsome apple blushes a deep rich crimson accented with purple and decorated with many tan lenticels. The color seems solid and saturated at first glance but upon closer inspection resolves into streaky bands.

The color is more attenuated on the reverse side but even there covers 100% of the peel, which appears to be a green yellow.

I have three Winecrisps of varying sizes, round and slightly ribbed. A faint smokey bloom cuts the visual volume a notch, but vigorous rubbing reveals a naturally glossy peel. The stem well has the usual russet star.

The apple is rock hard and dense and has a sweet grassy smell. I can't wait to bite in.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Cider Days

Bottles of cider
Bottles of cider from West County gleam in the sun.
I spent yesterday afternoon at my state's premier apple event of the year, Franklin County Cider Days.

My trip to the western part of Massachusetts only scratched the surface of this two-day, three-ring collection of tastings, tours, meals, and workshops.

Note: yes, it's Cider Days, but where cider leads, apples are never far behind.

Thursday, November 3, 2016


The name for this apple seems to promise a boatload o' sugar.

Thankfully, Sweetie's glucose level is moderate.

But you have to wonder why the marketing strategy of hyping the sweet stuff is so often the first resort for a genus of fruit that can be spicy, bracing, and wine-dark.

I have a bag of Sweeties, medium to large and so elongated that it is almost a silly-putty parody of the classical conical apple.

(Read further for an even thinner example.)

Most of these are also lopsided. The apple in the above photo leans so far towards the camera that it masks some of Sweetie's stretched-out length. Many of the samples just topple over.