Golden Russet – Apple Review

About –  Mysterious history. Said to be a seedling of English Russet, a long lost european russet. Discovered in the 1700′s. What IS Golden Russet? Its hard to say, There are so many confusing stories about Golden Russet, American Golden Russet, English Golden Russet, English Russet, Bullock. Confused yet? If not, read this, as noted from an Ohio AG meeting in the 1880s:

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Even back in the 1880′s when apple growing was much more personal, we still didnt know how to distinguish these russets all that well.

Beech in Apples of New York offers some distinctions between English and Golden Russet.

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Shape – Medium sized, round, relatively even shaped, flattened on both top and bottom to give a fat barrel appearance.
Skin –  Golden, finely grained russet. Orange glow on the sun side. Feel of the skin is potato like. The skin will cause the taste buds on your tongue to rise due to the roughness. Slight greenness near the stem. Lenticels yellowish, mixed with the russet color, more prominent when not ripe.
Flesh – Yellow, finely grained, dense. Breaking, juicy enough, crunchy. Juice is grainy. has texture. Oxidizes quickly.
Taste – Honey & pear flavors mixed with a dash of lemon, almond, and a smooth hint of fine grained cane sugar. Sweet, very sweet, with some acidity but not tart. Flavors are not strong, but not weak. Rich. Try eating 2, I dare you.

Bottom line: THE apple for me. I’ve said it many times to growers and potential pickers, Golden Russet is the best kept secret in apple cultivation. The general population does not gravitate to it due to its non-red/green appearance, but from a beauty perspective, it certainly ranks up there. Very dense apple, weighty, similar in weight to a baseball. Soluble sugar contents rank as one of the highest at 21%. Can make a 10% ABV cider that borders on wine. Try mixing the juice of a few of these into an ordinary container of 1/2 gallon cider and be prepared to experience some of the richest cider you’ve ever tasted.

Variety Note: Tip bearer, very vigorous, crops light. One high density orchard has a row of these trees with fireblight. Another orchard has one, very large, majestic, free standing tree that is free of this problem. These are relatively minor issues and are not a justification for demerit. Apples are exceptional keepers, and will store in a high humidity environment at 34 degrees for 6 months. Sugars will develop more and become richer with time.
Why dont I grow it? Light bearing, and I cant have a big tree with only 20-50 apples on it in a small yard. Specimen picked October 14th from Lindsey’s Idyllwood Orchards. Samscott in Kinderhook NY has a long row of these as well.

Fresh eating rating: 10/10 – King of Kings. I have yet to find an apple to meet or surpass this one. This includes the perennial Monticello winner, Ashmead’s Kernel. Its richness is merely a compliment to its perfect combination of flavors and texture. Best.

Culinary rating: 8/10 – Cooks very well, holds its shape, stays crunchy to add texture to pie filling. Will add natural sugar in place of processed sugars. Rich.

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Winter Banana – Apple Review

About –  Discovered in Indiana during the mid to late 1800′s.

Shape – Heart shaped, delicious like. Large sized apple, not as large as the largest available.
Skin –  Thin, waxy, almost greasy. Shines well, Strawberry red on yellow. Very attractive.
Flesh – Yellow, not white. Fairly dense in comparison to most other apples. Crunchy. Oxidizes at an average pace, within 10 minutes. Chewy.
Taste – I dont taste banana. Flavor is very simple, slight sweetness, slight tart, and then nothing. Woody undertone adds to the odd aftertaste. Juice is lightly grainy. “Weak sauce”. Its an apple without an identity.

Bottom line: I was expecting more, but from internet anecdotes, I should have expected less. Its popularity surely lies with its name rather than what it has to offer. Its true name should be Enigma.

Variety Note: This tree produces an abundance of pollen, and is a good pollinator.

Fresh eating rating: 3/10 – Its missing a lot in terms of flavor, but it does have good texture. With a name like Winter Banana I was expecting something more than this. Considering this variety has been around for close to 150 years now I thought there would be a lot more going for it. The name alone attracts attention at the orchard. Im glad I only picked 5 of them, these seem to be a waste of time.

Culinary rating: N/A – Havent had a chance yet, we just got these in yesterday.

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Akane – Apple Review

About –  Cross between Worcester Pearmain & Jonathan. Originated in Japan in the 1930s.

Shape – Smaller side of medium apple. Flattened, almost heart shaped. Flat bottomed and uniformly round.
Skin –  Red, sometimes crimson in places, marked with a netter russet, usually close to the stem. Some greens in with the russet. Snappy, similar to MacIntosh, oddly enough.
Flesh – Crunchy, off-white to yellow tinge. Does not oxidize quickly. Not very dense, easy to eat.
Taste – “Fruit punch!” Cristin says to me, eating her first one. I can definitely taste that connection, there are some woody undertones to it. Generally sweet, pretty juicy. I like the flavor, but its a very fleeting momentary flavor. You bite into it, POW, fruity, juicy, then its gone.

Bottom line: Cristin loves them, its one of her all around favorites for eating. Its just not my thing really. Its not overly complex and its a very simple, easily relate-able flavor. Her tastes and opinions seem to line up with the general public more than mine. It does some things really well. Its a summer apple, but we find the flavor at its best when picked late September here in NY. It doesnt keep for more than a month. Its a GOOD apple, but when compared to others, all season round, merely average.

Variety Note: Its likely this variety never made it off the ground due to the russeting and its soft nature. One of the few Japanese born varieties than does not feature a Japanese apple variety as a parent. Not as popular in the USA as OrangePippin.com implies.

Fresh eating rating: 5/10 – Average, but may appeal to those that appreciate a simply, juicy, sweet apple.

Culinary rating: 2/10 – Poor, falls apart, light, does not add much of anything.

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Jonathan – Apple Review

About –  Some sketchiness around where this apple came from, but the likely story is, its closely related to Esopus Spitzenburg. Discovered in Woodstock, New York, 1826.

Shape – Round, slightly lumpy, mostly uniform. Medium in size. Leans on the plate.
Skin –  Crimson red, most specimens are 95% red with slight yellows where the sun isnt. Skin smells of sweet, fruity, grassiness. Skin juices stain the plate.
Flesh – Breaking, crumbly, yellow, crunchy, denser than most. Slight oxidation toward the core. It has a chew to it with the skin.
Taste – Wonderfully aromatic, slightly sweetness, more tart, but not a tartness of regret, but a tartness that adds to the complexity. Spiciness and warmth, great compliment to cheddar and cheeses. I think it tastes best only slightly cool.

Bottom line: This is grandpa’s apple. It takes us back to a simpler day. It has many of the same qualities in terms of flavor as Esopus Spitzenburg, but with more sweetness. Its hard to do a side by side without the 2 in front of you, in season, but if you were to ask me which one I prefer, I’d prefer Jonathan.  This is an apple I’d choose to grow if I started an orchard. The only hard knock on it is Jonathan Spot. Im not sure why I dont eat more of them. They’re really good, all around.

Variety Note: Tree has a weeping habit to it, and my Jonamac shows it as Jonathan is one of its parents. In the orchard I noticed the same Up-Down-Up nature with the branches. Its an attractive tree for sure. Its shape reminds me of an old woman, frail. Beautifully wispy.

Fresh eating rating: 8/10 – A classic that gets very little respect in today’s apple markets. Its wonderful in terms of flavor, texture. The package is perfectly sized, shaped, and colored. I would take one of these over a MacIntosh every day of the week, but doesnt quite live up to the Jonamac in terms of flavor, but it does do texture and density better.

Culinary rating: 7/10 – Very good, dense enough to hold its shape in baked goods, and adds spicy complexity to pies mixed with cookers.

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SnowSweet – Apple Review

About –  Hybrid of Sharon and Connell Red, bred for cold hardiness and utility.

Shape – Round, somewhat flattened. Sits well, slightly lopsided. Size varies greatly between specimens. 
Skin –  Snappy, similar to MacIntosh class apples. Relatively tasteless. Red on the sun side, green on the shaded side.
Flesh – Not snow white as its claimed, off white toward yellow, and it does oxidize a bit, quickly then stops. Density similar to Honeycrisp, does not have the same large grained pockets of crunchiness. Medium grain, medium density.
Taste – Sweet, only slightly tart. Refreshing. Fairly juicy. Faintness of vineyard green wine grapes. Ever had a Grapple? Very similar to that but without the artificial flavors and preservatives. 

Bottom line: Good fresh eater, I would say a solid apple, attractive on the tree. Not something I would personally grow, but does have market potential considering its makeup. It represents a lot of the same qualities that Honeycrisp does but a bit more interesting flavor. I loathe Honeycrisp for what it represents. Texture over flavor. 

Variety Note: This is from my parents tree, the tree is nicely formed, average vigor and upward spreading. Bears heavy, needs thinning. Diploid. Spray required. Harvest is late September. 

Fresh eating rating: 6/10 – Average, it has some nice redeeming qualities, but its just not my kind of apple. Other simply sweet apples do it better, consider Shizuka for sweet delight. 

Culinary rating: N/A – Not tested, but I should have a report from my parents sometime. 

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Our first apples

We picked our first apples on September 20th.

On the left, Jonamac, and on the right Kidd’s Orange Red.
Some slight flyspeck and Sooty Blotch just adds character.

We tasted the Jonamac, and had some Aged Cheddar with it, delicious.

Kidd’s Orange Red is aging to pefection in the cold storage unit.

-Eric

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Ginger Gold – Apple Review

Its review season again! We’ll start with one of our favorite early apples.

About –  Found as a chance seedling in Virginia. Likely parents are Golden Delicious and Newtown Pippin. Found in 1969 after Hurricane Camille.

Shape – Slightly lopsided, medium size. Uniform, some are larger on top, round.
Skin –  Green and yellow blended colors, very ripe specimens have orange flushes.
Flesh – A more dense, less soft Golden Delicious, but over time does soften to a Golden Delicious consistency, even in cold, high humidity storage.
Taste – Its fresh, juicy, crispy, and reminiscent of cooler summer nights.  Slightly sweet, slighty tart and the flavor lingers, unlike other early apples. Flavors are light, and include sweet lemon and dusted sugar. Cristin describes it as a lemonade and apple juice flavor.

Bottom line: This is not your typical early season, soft apple, with only flashes of flavor. This is a pretty full bodied apple compared to most of the early season offerings. Ginger Gold is one of our favorites early in the season, and it keeps reasonably well. Its been 3 weeks since we picked them and they are starting to break down a little bit now, but not much. If you loathe the softness of Golden Delicious, but enjoy the sweetness and want a little more tart experience, this is the apple to try. I think everyone should at least give this one a shot, and it really shines over the “Early Macs”, and offers more complexity in flavor over Zestar! and Paula Red. Ginger Gold is in a class of its own for first early apples, competes with Gala in flavor.

Variety Note: Still an early apple, so it has its limits. You cant expect high quality flavor for over a month off the tree. 

Fresh eating rating: 7/10 – If I were judging only early season apples it would be a solid 9 in my opinion. Fresh, bright, lemony pop, with sweetness. Refreshing

Culinary rating: 6/10 – Holds its shape, brightens the flavor of other apples, but you still cannot expect a richness normally associated with mid season apples, and classic cookers.

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