Sunday, November 6, 2016


     October is true apple season here and this year it seemed like the world has been overtaken by Honeycrisp apples.  Now, I do like Honeycrisp apples very much.  There's nothing not to like. Crisp, juicy, sweet, you hear a good solid crack when you take a bite, they don't change color after being exposed to the air.  What's not to like?  It's a manufactured variety of a cross between the Macoun and Honeygold apple.  In the past couple of years they have just exploded the market.  Now I have always been someone who likes to do things different than everyone else and this year I decide to go looking for the Heirloom apples.  The ones that have been around for so long it's hard to believe they are still viable.  When I told my cousin I bought an apple dated to 1790 ( it was Thomas Jefferson's favorite - and I bought Benjamin Franklin's favorite, too)  he laughed at me. Didn't believe me.
     But I did go searching and found just a couple of places geographically near enough that still grow the old ones.  One orchard is very close and one about two hours away.  I came away with 16 of the more than 250 varieties available.  When choosing I asked for the oldest.  What I was looking for was taste.
     Here are just a small sampling of some I chose, ate and cooked with.

 This is Ashmead's Kernel.  It dates to about 1700.  The mottled russet skin looks a bit like a pear and the flesh is a little yellowish.  It has a great crisp bite, it's a little tart and a little dry, kind of like a nice wine.  I really liked this apple because I favor tart over sweet.

 This is called Snow, it is believed to come from Canada's Lake Champlain area and dates to about 1730.  The skin looks like a Macintosh apple and the flesh is pure white.  I didn't care for it much because it was a soft fleshed apple and a little mealy, very like a Macintosh, and I don't like the Macintosh apple. 

 This one is Pitmaston Pineapple and it has that russet skin like Ashmead's Kernel. This one dates to about 1785  It's very small but so very sweet.  I can see it surrounding a roasted pig in the king's palace. And what a dessert!

 This one was the most intriguing.  It's a Polish apple, the name is a mouthful: Niedzwetzkyana.  It dates from the 1800s.  The skin is very, very red, almost purple.  The leaves on the tree are even veined deep red.  You know when you see this one in the field that it's a different apple.
 Look inside! This is the juiciest, slurpiest apple I've had in years.  You have to laugh when you bite into it and see the flesh and wipe the juice off your chin.  The grower told me his little grand-daughter uses it to color her lips pretending it's lipstick!  He said it's also a favorite with people for making applesauce for the holidays because the sauce is definitely red!  Absolutely delicious.

So today I made a pie and sauce.  Unless I make it myself, apple pie is my least favorite pie.  I find them much too sweet and when I see people drizzle caramel over the top besides, it just makes my teeth hurt to think about it.  My grandma always said, "Spies for pies."  Northern Spy apples are the only thing she used and she put in lemon juice besides.  Her pies were my favorite and now I make them.  But they aren't sweet.
The apple sauce is a combination of all sixteen apples (except the Polish variety, I ate those!).  No sugar, no spices, just cooked down apples.  Because the apples are all different, some cooked down to mush and some kept their shape so the sauce is chunky. Just the way we like it.

The apple experiment is ongoing.  I plan to go back to the orchard near here this week and get more apples and information and I hope, hope, hope, more of the Polish apple. 


  1. That's wonderful investigational work there Denice! I can only rattle off a few names of apples and one wonders whether their roots come from the same as your apples. I think Australia can claim the "Granny Smith" a very green skinned apple with white flesh and almost always used for cooking here. They can be eaten but they almost always gave me a bellyache, they taste almost unripe. Then we have Jonathan's, Golden Delicious and Red Delicious and Pippins and Fujis and they all taste the best fresh from the tree.

  2. I am probably the only Honey Crisp hater in the world! Too big, flat taste, watery juice, not juicy juice. I know, I know ... they're SO good. Nope--and I've been so disappointed at the market that it's all Honey Crisp and hybrids. I found one stall who had McIntosh, those oldies from my childhood. Here's what the grower said (don't know if it's accurate) when I asked why more growers didn't have varieties that were popular thirty years ago: the hybrid trees are smaller--easier to pick--no ladders--no special insurance needed; the older trees need ladders--insurance--workers don't want to climb and pick anymore. Really?!