Something good needs to come from 2020. For me, its all about the apples. I was able to try some great new apples along with my usual favorites this year. While my main focus is always on hard cider, better understanding apples helps me choose the best ones to use for my cider. Part of understanding apples is using them in different ways. Therefore, I thought it would be good to share my favorite apples from the 2020 picking season for five different categories.
Apple for Fresh Juice:
I like my fresh juice to have a nice bite. That means you want some acid to make it taste fresh. Like hard cider, the challenge can be how to find an apple that has everything. Everything means a good level of sugar, nice acid, and great aromas. For fresh juice, I am not always looking for tannins. For me in 2020, my apple of choice for a single variety juice was Hardy Cumberland. It also makes a nice addition for a hard cider blend though it’s tannin levels are low.
Apple for Applesauce:
We made applesauce from over 16 different apple variety’s this year. You can find our basic sauce recipe in my post about Earligold apples. It was a great way to evaluate overall baking characteristics but also flavors, acid, and tannins. I always enjoy applesauce from Earligold apples but this year our favorite was an old heirloom apple, Winter Banana. Discovered in the 1800s in Indiana, Winter Banana was a distinct banana aroma. It also has a medium level of tannins and acid. As a sauce, it has a wonderful caramel flavor profile and breaks down easily into a nice texture for sauce or butter. Make some sauce if you can find this heirloom American apple.
Apple for Eating:
If you are anything like me, the apples I love to eat are crunchy and aromatic. I also tend to like my fresh eating apples to be more sweet versus tart. I enjoy some tartness but I find that if an apple is firm and crunchy and has a great aroma, it doesn’t need to be overly sweet or tart to be enjoyable. My normal favorite apple for eating is a newer variety: Ambrosia. It’s a fabulously crunchy apple with citrus and floral aromas. This year, we found the Sweetie. Another extremely crunchy apple with great aroma and low acid. However, it actually has some tannins. It’s more of a mild bittersweet versus the Ambrosia, which is just a sweet. Sweetie offers a interesting apple to add to hard cider blends if you don’t decide to eat them all first.
Apple for Pie:
Since I am American, I have to include the best apple for apple pie. Some will say Granny Smith but I would argue that it’s lacking. For pie, I have two key requirements. The first is that the apple holds it shape after baking and has a firm texture. The second is that it has some acid. Most pies will include sugar and spices so you need that underlying acid to make them pop. Granny Smith does that but I would argue you should try GoldRush for your next apple pie. GoldRush offers both firmness after baking and acid to balance the sugar and spices. It also has some great flavors that set it above a Granny Smith apple in my view. I also really like it for making hard cider.
Apple for Cider:
Since I am in the US and not in an area rich in heirloom or cider apples, I can’t just drive to my local orchard and find traditional cider apples. However, even if I could, many would still be best as a blend. For my area, the best single variety cider apple is the Arkansas Black. Besides being a beautiful apple visually, it also is well rounded. It has decent sugar, acid, and tannins. I find it pleasant to eat but generally recommended it be sliced as it is extremely difficult to eat as a whole apple. Yes, it is that hard. One of the reasons I love this apple for hard cider is the peel. I add the peel to the primary fermentation and it adds a great color as well as more tannins. That makes is a great option for an American heirloom single variety hard cider.
In general, I would say that blending apples will create the best fresh juice, sauce, butter, and hard cider. However, if you had the chance to make a single variety example from any of the above, you won’t be disappointed. What apples are your favorites for juice, sauce, pies, cider, or other apple based products?
Did you enjoy these tips on making hard cider? Check out my book to learn more ideas and information on making and enjoying hard cider. It will help you develop a process that matches your desire and equipment. It will also show you how to pair cider with food to maximize your experience. You can find it as an eBook and a 7×10 paperback on Amazon or a 7×10 paperback on Barnes & Noble. Click on these Links to check them out.