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Posts Tagged ‘Pomme Grise apple’

The view from Lyman Orchards, Middlefield, Connecticut (Russell Steven Powell photo)

The view from Lyman Orchards, Middlefield, Connecticut. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

IF McINTOSH were its sole contribution, Canada would occupy a special place among producers of New England apples. McIntosh has thrived in New England’s soil and climate ever since Dr. Thomas H. Hoskins of Newport, Vermont, planted the first McIntosh sapling in the United States, purchased from the John McIntosh family nursery in Dundela, Ontario, in 1868.

McIntosh apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

McIntosh apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Macs rapidly gained in popularity due to their unbeatable combination of outstanding flavor and hardiness. McIntosh has been New England’s leading apple variety since the 1940s, and still account for about two-thirds of the region’s crop.

A round, medium-sized apple with splashes of green and red on a thin skin, McIntosh is ready for picking in most locations soon after Labor Day. It has white, juicy flesh, is highly aromatic, and more tart than sweet in flavor. It is outstanding for both fresh eating and cooking. Its flavor is superb in pies and other baked goods, and it is often mixed with varieties with denser flesh for a firmer texture, as its tender flesh breaks down when cooked.

McIntosh needs New England’s cool nights of late summer and early fall to produce apples with the greatest color and flavor, accounting for its success here.

McIntosh’s influence can be tasted throughout the season, as a parent to such popular New England varieties as Cortland, Empire, and Macoun, and redder strains like Marshall McIntosh, Rogers Red McIntosh, and RubyMac.

While no other apple can come close to matching McIntosh’s far-reaching influence, Canada has produced a number of other varieties that have developed a niche in New England. These include the heirloom Melba (1898), and newer varieties like Chinook (2000) and Nova (1986).

Silken apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Silken apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Silken is an early season apple, medium-sized, conical in shape, pale yellow in color with an occasional pink blush or light russeting around the stem. Its tender, cream-colored flesh is aromatic and juicy, and it has mild, sweet flavor. Like many early season apples, it is best eaten fresh, as it has a short storage life.

Silken is a cross between another Canadian apple, Sunrise, and Honeygold, a variety from Minnesota. Both of Silken’s parent apples include Golden Delicious in their lineage, accounting for Silken’s sweetness and color (Sunrise’s other parent, incidentally, is McIntosh).

Silken was developed in 1982 by W.D. Lane and R.A. MacDonald at Canada’s Pacific Agri-Food Research Centre in Summerland, British Columbia, and released commercially in 1998.

Shamrock apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Shamrock apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Shamrock is another new apple developed at the Pacific Agri-Food Research Centre. It is a round, green apple, medium to large in size, mostly solid green in color with an occasional pink blush. A mid-season apple, its tender, cream-colored flesh is more tart than sweet when first picked, with a finish hinting of honey or butterscotch.

Like many apples, Shamrock’s flavor improves in storage, becoming progressively sweeter, spicier, and juicier for several weeks, but its storage life is relatively short. It is a 1992 cross of a Spur McIntosh and Spur Golden Delicious (a spur variety results when an apple branch develops outstanding characteristics that differ in some significant way from its parent tree).

Due to its green color and initial tartness, Shamrock has been promoted as an East Coast alternative to Granny Smith, which requires a longer growing season, or the heirloom Rhode Island Greening, which is difficult to grow. But it has yet to develop a strong following in New England.

Creston apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Creston apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Creston is even newer than Shamrock, released in 1998. It is a large, conical apple, yellow with a red blush or stripes. Its yellow flesh is crisp, juicy, and more sweet than tart. It is a late-season apple that has been compared to Jonagold in flavor, texture, and appearance. But while some say it stores better than Jonagold, others contend that it can become greasy or soft in storage.

A cross between Golden Delicious and an unnamed seedling, Creston was developed at the Pacific Agri-Food Research Centre.

In addition to these recent entries, Canada’s apple-breeding program has been developing varieties that have been grown in New England for nearly a century.

Spartan apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Spartan apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Spartan was discovered in 1926 and released a decade later. It has dark, plum-red color, and tender, aromatic white flesh beneath a somewhat tough skin. Its flavor is more sweet than tart, with hints of strawberry and spice. A late-season apple, it is moderately juicy. It is best as a fresh-eating apple, and it stores well.

Spartan was developed by R. C. Palmer at the Pacific Agri-food Research Centre, then known as the Federal Agriculture Research Station. For years it was described as a cross between McIntosh and the American heirloom Newtown Pippin, but as a result of recent genetic testing, the latter has been ruled out, leaving Spartan’s second parent a mystery.

Spencer apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Spencer apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Ripening in mid- to late September, Spencer is a conical apple, nearly solid red-pink in color, with green highlights. Its flesh is crisp, juicy, and more sweet than tart, though less sweet than its Golden Delicious parent (Spencer’s other parent — surprise! — is McIntosh). Spencer is an all-purpose apple, especially good in pies and sauce. It does not have a lengthy storage life.

Spencer was also discovered by R. C. Palmer in 1926 — the same year as Spartan — but it took considerably longer, until 1959, for it to reach the marketplace.

Before it had an apple-breeding program, Canada produced several heirloom varieties of note besides McIntosh — including one of McIntosh’s parents, Snow apple.

Snow apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Snow apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Snow, also known as Fameuse (French for famous or excellent), is small to medium sized, red with green and pink striping. Its name is derived from its white flesh, which is sometimes stained red just beneath the skin. A late-season apple, Snow is crisp, juicy, and aromatic, more tart than sweet, with a slight strawberry flavor. Snow is best for fresh eating and in cider, and it does not store well.

Snow contributes to McIntosh’s thin skin, white flesh, and sweet-tart flavor, and to the trees’ hardiness. Snow’s origins are unclear, but dates to at least 1730. Some accounts hint that it may be much older, and originated in France rather than Canada. An apple named Snow was reported growing in Vermont’s Champlain Valley as far back as the early 1600s.

Pomme Grise apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Pomme Grise apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Pomme Grise, or Gray Apple, is a small, round apple with chewy, yellow-green skin covered with coarse brown russet. Its pale yellow flesh is firm, crisp, and aromatic, more sweet than tart, with a distinctive nutty, spicy flavor. It is good for fresh eating, and especially valued for cider.

Pomme Grise was cited growing near Montreal in the early 1800s, eventually making its way south to New York’s St. Lawrence Valley, and from there to New England. It may be related or identical to a 16th-century French apple called Reinette Grise.

To find orchards that grow these apples, visit New England Apples and follow the link for “Find an Apple Orchard” to search by state or variety.

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NEW ENGLAND APPLES will have an expanded presence in the Massachusetts State Building during the 17-day Eastern States Exposition (“The Big E”), which opens this Friday, September 12, continuing daily from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. through Sunday, September 28. The Association is renovating a larger booth this summer to boost sales of fresh apples, fresh cider, cider donuts, apple pies, and other baked goods.

Fresh apples will be supplied by Massachusetts orchards: Atkins Farms in Amherst, The Big Apple in Wrentham, Brookfield Orchards in North Brookfield, Carlson Orchards in Harvard, Clarkdale Fruit Farms in Deerfield, Cold Spring Orchard in Belchertown, Nestrovich Fruit Farm in Granville, Pine Hill Orchards in Colrain, Red Apple Farm in Phillipston, and Tougas Family Farm in Northborough.

The booth will feature award-winning cider donuts made by Atkins Farms in Amherst, fresh, crisp apple cider from Carlson Orchards in Harvard; and fresh-baked apple pies and apple crisp made with apples supplied by Cold Spring Orchard in Belchertown.

Executive Director Bar Weeks and Senior Writer Russell Powell will be on hand every day to meet with people and answer questions about apples. Their new book, Apples of New England, will be available for sale and signing, along with their first book, America’s Apple.

The 2015 New England Apples full-color wall calendar, the revised New England Apples brochure/poster, and brochures from member Massachusetts orchards will be available to visitors during the fair, the largest in New England. Last year’s fair attracted 1.4 million visitors.

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Don't be deceived by their dull finish — russets are among the most flavorful of apples. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Don’t be deceived by their dull finish — russets are among the most flavorful of apples. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

PERHAPS THE MOST OVERLOOKED apples are the russets, undoubtedly due to their dull, rough-looking skin. It is a shame, as they are some of the most flavorful apples anywhere. Several varieties are especially prized for cider.

Russeting occurs naturally in many varieties, but is seen as a defect in others. It may appear on a portion of each apple, or cover its entire surface. Many of the fully russeted varieties are medium to small in size, limiting their mass appeal in today’s world of super-sized portions.

Most russets are excellent keepers, but therein lies a source of their commercial decline: as storage techniques improved a century ago, the russets fell out of favor, undoubtedly hastened by consumer preference for a shiny red (or gold or green) apple. But if you can set aside the aesthetic demand for a uniformly smooth and shiny skin, your taste buds will be richly rewarded.

In an earlier post, Orange New England Apples, we sang the praises of several russeted varieties, such as Ashmead’s Kernel and Hudson’s Golden Gem, both of which are excellent cider apples. The distinctive variable russeting against a red background on varieties like Orleans Reinette can be striking in appearance.

We admit that most people consider the Knobbed Russet unattractive, if not downright ugly. But beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and we consider the russets to be stunning in their subtle coloration and compact shape. We feature five here: the aforementioned Knobbed, plus Golden Russet, Pitmaston Pineapple, Pomme Grise, and Roxbury Russet. They are linked not only by their coppery brown exteriors and intense flavors, but also by their rich histories and colorful names.

Golden Russet apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Golden Russet apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Golden Russet is a firm, sweet apple with a fine-grained yellow flesh. It had its beginnings in western New York state in the 1800s, where its exceptional sweetness made it a favorite with cider-makers. Golden Russet is still considered to be one of the very best varieties for cider, but it is good for fresh eating and cooking as well.

Knobbed Russet apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Knobbed Russet apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Knobbed Russet is the strangest looking apple in our experience. It sports a gnarly but edible skin covered with warts and welts. But it is more than a novelty. Like the frog that became a prince when kissed, the Knobbed Russet’s character is magically transformed when bitten into. Its bold flavor is superior, strong and earthy, rich and sugary. It has a firm and dense, crisp golden flesh. Also known as Knobby Russet, it was first grown in Sussex, England, in 1819.

Pitmaston Pineapple apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Pitmaston Pineapple apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Pitmaston Pineapple is a small, juicy apple good for both fresh-eating and cider. It has a sweet, nutty flavor with a hint of honey, and a pineapple taste that gives the variety its name. Pitmaston Pineapple originated in the town of Pitmaston, near Worcester, England, in the late 1700s, and was presented to the London Horticultural Society in 1845 by Mr. Williams of Pitmaston. Its parentage is unknown.

Pomme Grise apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Pomme Grise apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Pomme Grise has many similarities with Pitmaston Pineapple: it is a small, round, juicy apple with thick, tough skin lightly covered with brown russeting. Its pale yellow flesh is firm, crisp, and aromatic, with a unique nutty, spicy flavor, making it a popular choice for cider-making. Also known as Gray Apple, Pomme Grise originated in Canada, and was widely grown in New York’s St. Lawrence valley in the 1800s.

Roxbury Russet apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Roxbury Russet apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Roxbury Russet is America’s oldest cultivated apple variety, first grown in Roxbury, Massachusetts in 1635. This exquisitely flavored heirloom has had a host of names over the years, including Belpre Russet, Boston Russet, Hewe’s Russet, Marietta Russet, Putnam Russet, Shippen’s Russet, Sylvan Russet, Warner Russet, and — our favorite — Leather Coat.

Roxbury Russet has a coarse, crispy yellow-green flesh. Its spicy-tart flavor is as good for fresh-eating as it is for making a fine syrupy cider. Its parentage is unknown.

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IF YOU ARE FORTUNATE ENOUGH to find some russets at your local orchard or grocery store, here is a recipe that emphasizes their rich taste. Most russets are slow to brown when sliced compared to many varieties, making them especially good in salads.

French Apple-Pear Salad

2 medium or 3 small New England apples, such as Roxbury Russet, halved and cored

2 pears, halved and cored

2 ribs celery, chopped

2 T lemon juice

1/2 t vanilla

1/4 c walnut or canola oil

salt to taste

2 t tarragon

1/2 c toasted walnuts

Brie or bleu cheese

Slice fruit into long spears and place in a medium bowl with celery. Whisk lemon juice, vanilla, oil, and salt. Pour dressing over fruit. Top with tarragon, walnuts, and cheese.

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2015 New England Apples wall calendar

2015 New England Apples wall calendar

THE 2015 NEW ENGLAND APPLES WALL CALENDAR is a great way to learn about the region’s apples and keep the beauty of the orchard nearby year-round.

Each month features a different New England apple variety and orchard. The 12”x12” full-color calendar makes an ideal gift for the apple lovers on your list.

To order your calendar, send $12.95 ($9.95 plus $3.00 shipping) to New England Apples, P. O. Box 41, Hatfield, MA 01038. Make checks out to New England Apple Association. We’ll send your calendar out within 24 hours of receiving your order.

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