Long have I sought to pair these two English apples. Cox's is legendary, and Ribston, also known as Glory of York, is widely supposed to be Cox's parent.
Despite a family resemblance, the Ribston Pippin is redder (versus an orange tint) and wears larger and more prominent spots.
Cox's Orange Pippin is just a little more blocky and oblate. My Ribston is glossier, suggesting more natural cuticle wax.
The underlying yellow color of the peel is greener for Ribston. Ribston's calyx is quite open, but Cox's is only slightly so.
Both are handsome, even mouthwatering specimens.
Ribston's flesh is yielding, an off-white creamy yellow, medium grained. Flavors for this mostly well balanced variety include a jolt of pineapple and a sort of cultured vanilla (I almost said curdled, but that sounds unpleasant, and it's not) and malt.
There's a kind of nutty quality that peeps out, too, or maybe that's just the malt. The flavors dance around.
Cox's Orange Pippin is also on the soft side, but otherwise very different. The medium-grained flesh is a deeper yellow and greets me with flavors of orange juice tempered with faint vanilla notes.
This is perhaps not the best Cox's I have ever had. Not all the flavors are clearly present, but there are also suggestions of mango and cinnamon. Compared to the Ribston it is also a little juicier.
Ribston is a bit more tart. Returning to it from Cox emphasizes a fine vanilla caramel flavor; switching to Cox's evokes the greater complexity and succulence of that variety.
Oh, and I see that the Ribston is oxidizing—turning brown—much faster and to a greater degree than Cox's.
For Ribston, I found some different and more distinct flavors (and more acidity) in my 2008 tasting. In that year I also made some off-the-cuff comparisions of these two apples based only on memory, and my notes. (These are in my Cox's review.)
Today's dual tasting only confirms my sense in 2008 that Ribston offers an unruly, if worthy, basket of flavors while Cox's provides an outstanding gustatory experience that is exceptionally harmonious. As the Yorkshire-based website Orange Pippin puts it:
In our opinion, comparing the two apples side by side, the hallmarks of Cox's Orange Pippin are certainly present in the flavour of Ribston Pippin, but more as a signpost of greatness to come—Ribston Pippin is a good apple, but not a great one.
It's worth reading Orange Pippin's evocative descriptions of Ribston and Cox's, varieties that obviously lie close to the heart of the webmaster and creator of that site.
For my part, I have a feast of outstanding apples to finish.