Apple Varieties: A Small Selection
GOLDEN RUSSET: DESSERT, CULINARY, CIDER Rich, sweet, aromatic, gently tart, and so pretty, this may be the all-time most popular of American russets. Originated in the 1700’s, known to George Washington and his fellow citizens, by the late 19th century Golden Russets traveled from Northeastern growers to the South, the Northwest, and abroad. It was justly prized for eating raw, cooking, cellar-keeping, and making hard cider. Fermented for FH ciders, it makes a versatile base, rich in basic flavor elements. Golden Russet quietly ensures that many of our cider blends will outclass the sum of their parts. Flavor: Sweet, fruity, aromatic Flesh: Grainy, yellow, firm Appearance: Golden with orange blush, fully russeted, mid-size (2-1/4″ to 2-3/4″.) Harvest: Mid-October Peak Quality: October-February
WICKSON: DESSERT, CULINARY, CIDER This lovely little apple is tart and aromatic, with unique herbal and spicy flavors. Wickson was first developed in the 1800s for (hard) cidermaking, and named for a distinguished California pomologist of the day. Though it tastes delightful, its small size meant that few commercial growers would plant it. Wickson is an accidental taste treat, and beautiful in a fruit bowl. Fun to bake, too. Wickson also ferments into a supremely useful, super-acid cider which might cause internal injury if drunk by itself. A little Wickson brings aromatic sharpness to FH blended ciders. When the FH cider crew taste through the pre-blend elements, we can see the Wickson samples coming: a Wickson sample looks like water amongst the shades of gold in other flasks, but it ain’t water. Flavor: Extra tart, aromatic, with herbal and spicy qualities. Flesh: Fine-grained, crisp, white, juicy. Appearance: Brilliant red over yellow, smooth, tiny (1-1/4″ to 1-3/4″) Harvest: Early October Peak Quality: October-December
ASHMEAD’S KERNEL: DESSERT, CULINARY, CIDER Its vigorous sweet-tart spicy flavor made this old English favorite a celebrated name. Three centuries ago a certain Dr. Ashmead raised it from seed in his orchard near Gloucester. It went on to win many taste competitions, including several at the Royal Horticultural Society, and was first introduced to North America in the early 1700s. We find our Ashmeads “cross over” brilliantly into fermented cidermaking. When we have enough, an Ashmeads fermentation batch will give vivid acidity and mad rich florals to FHC blends. Once in a great while we can make a single-variety Ashmead’s cider, something nobody else seems to have done but oh, it’s a delicious trip to that fine line between pleasure and pain. Sounds silly till you try it, which at the moment nobody can do. Flavor: Strong, spicy, tart with sweet note Flesh: Grainy, crisp, yellowish Appearance: Copper-reddish gold, with variable russeting; mid-size (2-1/4 to 2-3/4²) Harvest: Mid October Peak Quality: October-December
HUDSON’S GOLDEN GEM: DESSERT An intensely sweet, hard, aromatic, tall blond apple. Sometime in the 1930’s, an apple seed dropped in an Oregon hedgerow produced the first Hudson’s Golden Gem tree. The apple has been propagated by various fruit fanatics ever since. We find this elongate, conical russet grows beautifully here. Its intensely sweet flavor and glowing complexion make it a favorite at our taste trials. (We did try fermenting Hudson’s juice, back when we were trying everything. Like many other delicious-tasting apples, Hudson’s made a horrid fermented beverage for us. Other cidermakers seem to use it successfuly in their blends, though. Flavor: Extremely sweet, aromatic Flesh: Grainy, crisp, yellow, juicy Appearance: Gold over green, usually fully russeted, conical, mid-to large size ( 2-1/2″ to 3″) Harvest: Early October Peak Quality: October-November.
ESOPUS SPITZENBERG: DESSERT, CULINARY, CIDER Sweet, tart, full of complex fruity and spicy flavors, with the dense, hard flesh of the old-fashioned keepers. Reputed to be Thomas Jefferson’s favorite apple, Esopus Spitzenberg was planted at Monticello when the variety was quite new. Unfortunately, being a northern apple that needs serious winters, it died in Virginia. First discovered in the mid-1700s near Esopus, New York, in one of the orchards planted by Low Dutch settlers in the area. On the cider side, it’s historically an eating apple that we consider essential to Farnum Hill Ciders. The juice ferments out to a hyper-acidic blend element, with a different set of flowery, fruity aromas and flavors from Wickson’s, our other acidic standby. Flavor: Intensely sweet-acid, spicy Flesh: Fine-grained, dense, crisp, near-white Appearance: Red-orange over yellow, smooth, often lobed, mid-sized (2-1/4″ to 2-3/4″ ) Harvest: Late September, early October Peak Quality: October-December.
CALVILLE BLANC D’HIVER: DESSERT, CULINARY. Pure-white dense-grained acidic flesh make this a cooker deluxe and divine. Cool green skin and lobed shape make it so chic! (Granny Whatsername looks dumpy next to a well-grown Calville Blanc d’hiver, if you ask us.) Sour-apple fans prize it for fresh eating, too. French orcharding boasts several ‘Calville’ varieties; writings on cuisine and horticulture start mentioning this ‘Winter White Calville’ about 400 years ago. Here in 21st-century New Hampshire it grows magnificently. Flesh: Extra-fine-grained, dense, crisp, very white Appearance: Apple-green, smooth, distinctly lobed, occasional pink blush, upper-mid-sized (2-1/2″ to 3″ ) Harvest: Early October, normally Peak Quality: October-December.
POMME GRISE (French for ‘Grey Apple’) DESSERT This sweet, nutty-flavored little flat apple came south to the U.S. from the St. Lawrence Valley, where it has been grown for over 150 years for local and specialty markets. A virtually identical apple remains popular in France, under the name ‘Pomme Canada’ (“Canada Apple”.) Some pomologists (apple specialists) link it closely with a lost French variety, Reinette Grise; if correct, this link brings us a taste of King Louis XIV’s time. On the cider side, it obeys the general rule that really nice eating apples make really disturbing fermented ciders, at least it did for us. Flavor: Rich, nutty, aromatic Flesh: Fine-grained, firm, slight green-yellow tinge, small (1-1/2″-2″) Appearance: Green-gold, slight orange blush, variably russetted Harvest: September Peak Quality: September-October
ASHTON BITTER: CIDER Juice low-acid, medium tannin, high sugar. Seedling from a Dabinett/Stoke Red cross by Mr. G.T.Spinks, Fruit Breeder at Long Ashton, 1947.
BRAMTOT: CIDER Juice low-acid, high-tannin, high sugar. French seedling of mid-1800’s, reputedly from the old variety Martin Fessar; taken to England by the Woolhope Naturalists’ Field Club in 1884.
CHISEL JERSEY: CIDER Juice bittersweet, very astringent. English. An old variety, concentrated around Martock, central Somerset.
DABINETT: CIDER Juice bittersweet, very astringent. English. Reputedly a seedling of Chisel Jersey, probably found in the Martock area of central Somerset , mid-1800’s. Still widely planted for today’s U..K. cider industry, thanks to its potent bittersweet juice and manageable growth and fruiting habits. This apple is an FHC mainstay, probably for the same reasons.
ELLIS BITTER: CIDER Juice low-acid, mildly astringent, bitter. English. Devon variety, origin uncertain.
HARRY MASTERS’ JERSEY: CIDER Juice low acidity, medium tannin. English. An old variety, perhaps more properly named Port Wine, as it still is called around Glastonbury in Somerset.
MAJOR: CIDER Full bittersweet. English. Common in old farm orchards of Devon and south Somerset.
MEDAILLE D’OR: CIDER
MICHELIN: CIDER Juice low-acid, medium tannin. Like Bramtot, a highly-rated French variety introduced to England by the Woolhope Club in the late 1800’s. In England , and here, it produces useful but undistinguished juice.
NEHOU: CIDER Juice of pronounced bittersweet character; excellent quality. A French variety introduced into Herefordshire early 20th century.
SOMERSET REDSTREAK: CIDER Juice bittersweet, excellent quality. Named after the original Redstreak promoted by a Lord Scudamore in the 17th century. Around 1920, Somerset Redstreak appeared as a “rogue” at the Long Ashton research station.
YARLINGTON MILL: CIDER Juice low-acid, medium tannin. An old variety common in farm orchards of central Somerset.
FOXWHELP: CIDER Juice high-tannin, high-acid, and highly valued in by many cider growers, though here it’s not brilliant. Mentioned in print 1664, origin earlier, in Herefordshire or Gloucestershire.
KINGSTON BLACK: CIDER Juice high-tannin, high-acid. Sugar content also high in good seasons (here it often ferments out to 8.5% abv.) Distinctive flavor and excellent quality. Known for magnificent single-variety ciders. We make still FH Kingston Black cider s, in small amounts, after superior growing seasons.
STOKE RED: CIDER Sugar content above average, good aroma and fruity flavor, excellent vintage quality.
SWEET ALFORD: Sugar content above average, good juice yield, one of the most valuable all-round vintage varieties.
BROWN’S APPLE: Juice acidic, little astringency, good quality. A South Devon cider apple, probably from the village of Staverton.