Sunday, October 22, 2017

Leathercoat feast

Ashmead's Kernel, Roxbury Russet, and Golden Russett. When you see these three gentlemen, you know that the heart of the harvest has arrived.

Join me for a taste.


Above at left is Ashmead's Kernel, at peak one of the finest varieties I have ever tasted. Its russet weskit is more mustard than the others', but this beguiling fruit often has an orange blush under the russet, running sometimes to a deeper, redder shade.

Beneath the blush, meanwhile, lies a sage green peel. It's a multilayered look for an apple with many depths.

Roxbury Russet, in the middle, is the least russeted, sometimes (though not in the photo at top) for a piebald effect. I had to take these apples into direct sunshine to distinguish Roxbury from Golden Russet, at right.

As the photo suggests, Roxbury (also known as the Roz) is greener, Golden more coppery.

Roxbury also has the largest and most prominent lenticels, off-white spots that decorate the green suede. They are visible in the other varieties too, though, if you look: much smaller for both, and nearly indistinguishable on Ashmead's peel.

These russets are similar in shape: round, barely tapered and ribbed, and a little blocky. Roxbury has a slightly thicker stem.


Roxbury Russet
I am going to start these in order of least greatness, based on my own experience. That means the Roz, which I rated with one star ("worth choosing") goes first.

Its flesh is a very light yellow with green highlights, suggesting perhaps an early picking.

Not all of its flavors are present, but there is pear, cane sugar, and citrus. The texture is more fine than medium-grained, and it is wonderfully crisp and refreshing.

Golden Russett
I gave two stars ("worth seeking") to Golden Russet, which has already bested Roxbury in an earlier head-to-head.

Despite similar texture, Golden is more assertive (and tart) and with clearer flavors of lemon, sugar, pear, and vanilla.

There is also a nutty note that is quite fine.

Backtracking from Golden to Roxbury shows the latter's sweetness, including a flavor suggesting table grapes.

Ashmead's Kernel
The best for last. Marvelous Ashmead's Kernel (three stars, "worth a quest"), is softer and more yellow inside. It brings with it a wonderful savory note along with lemon and vanilla, along with sugar and a little pear and nutmeg.

All are breaking crisp.

By contrast, the Roxbury is still good, but far less complex; the Golden Russett is lemony tart. Of the three, Golden oxidizes fastest, starting from the rough edges left by my teeth.

Roxbury is the sweetest of the three. You can see why Colonial farmers valued it for cider, as the yeast converts sugar to alcohol in cider making.

These are three splendid eating companions. I wish you such good company this fall.


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