A Day at the Orchard: Exploring New Apples

I love apples but since I love hard cider, that probably doesn’t surprise many people. However, two of my favorite things in life are finding new hard ciders and new apples that I have never tried. For 2020, I have been exploring some new orchards and that means new apples and ultimately, it will mean new hard ciders that I will make. I visited orchards to try several new apples. These include the following.

Akane Apple: Exterior

Akane Apple

Also known as Tokyo Rose or Prime Red, the Akane is described by OrangePippin.com as an exceptional early season apples. I must agree. The flavor is robust. It has sweetness and acid but it also has aroma and hints of astringency. It was develop in Japan at the Morika Experimental Station in the early 1900s by crossing the America Jonathan apple with the English Worcester Pearmain. It is a small apple and the one I picked are definitely oblate in shape (see the above photo). Many early season apples have good acid but not much in the way of tannins or even complex aromas and flavors. This apple appears to be the exception to the norm. The sugar was very high along with the acid, and the flavor was exceptional. I can’t directly measure tannins, but I look to see how quickly the pomace oxidizes and taste of the peel as indicators. Both methods indicate that this apple has some tannins. It was my favorite tasting apple of the four new varieties that I tried and it makes me want to find some scion wood for grafting. I’m looking forward to using this in a hard cider. Here is the data table for this apple. Yes, it’s going into the large database I published in my book.

NameBrixSGpHTemp(F)TA (g/l)
Akane 18.61.0773.3475.335.2
Apple Database
Elstar Apple: Exterior

Elstar Apple

When I saw the orchard advertising Elstar apples, I assumed it was a newer modern variety. I soon learned that it is semi-modern but was surprised to learn where it originated. The Elstar was cultivated in the Netherlands in the 1950s. It is the cross between a Golden Delicious and an Ingrid Marie, which is an apple from Denmark. It is a tart apple with good sugar. This was my wife’s favorite of the four apples we found. Besides juicing this for cider, she is going to make a pie and some sauce with it. The sauce turned out very nice and has a lot of apple flavor. The juice was like a Granny Smith, very light with a slight greenish cast. The pomace was slow to turn and not very dark indicating that the tannin level is low.

NameBrixSGpHTemp(F)TA (g/l)
Elster13.01.0523.1776.423.0
Apple Database
Rootstock Apple: Exterior

Unknown Rootstock

I love this apple but not because it has this exceptional flavor profile or seems to have a huge amount of tannins. I love it because it’s “weird”. As I introduced myself to the orchard owner, I mentioned that I was hoping to get some of his Elstar apples because I’d never tried them. However, I asked him if he had any unusual or weird apples that that he didn’t know much about. Maybe he had a tree that sprang up as a seedling or where the rootstock became dominant. We immediately jumped in his 4×4 and he took me to this tree. Half of it was a Golden Blushing and the other half was this unknown rootstock. There was already a lot of fruit on the ground and apples turned a bright red with yellow streaks showing underneath when they fall. However, they are also very mushy. The fruit I picked has some crunch but is on the softer side of crisp. It has really good acid and like the Akane, the pomace oxidized quickly and the peel has a good amount of astringency. It’s not going to be the next great cider apple but it was probably the first time that side of the tree was ever been picked clean and it juiced well. I love apples of unknown origin.

NameBrixSGpHTemp(F)TA (g/l)
Rootstock13.01.0523.0175.932.0
Apple Database
Gala Apple: Exterior

Gala Apple

Believe it of not, I have never used a Gala apple for my cider before. The Galas that I am accustomed to getting are a side item with a sandwich and they are sweet and mushy. My wife once made an apple sauce from Gala apples because they were the only organic apples available at the store. To say I wasn’t impressed would be an understatement. However, after I picked a Gala from the tree and found it to have a nice crunch along with a good amount of sugar and some acid, I have a new appreciation for what a ripe Gala apple can taste like. I still don’t want any from the store or with my sandwich from Panera but ripe and straight off the tree, any day.

NameBrixSGpHTemp(F)TA (g/l)
Gala12.81.0503.3477.514.0
Apple Database

Are you interested in seeing more data on apples? Get my book. I included my database of apple along with other useful information about making and enjoying hard cider.


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