Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Great Old Apples of New York, the Russet!


I live in New York which is the second most important apple growing state, after Washington State. My tree is a Russet. Russet apples look ugly with tan, slightly raspy skins, but inside they're bursting with intense flavor.   We use them allot for baking and my husband just thrills to the intense apple flavor right off the tree.  They come ripe late which is also nice. I feed them to the sheep and it helps them gain weight just before winter comes. We do not know which variety we have of Russet as this tree was here when we moved in 24 years ago.

Many apple conesuers think that Russets are the best tasting apples out there. Sadly, Russet Apples never make it to the grocery stores these days. The public has been brainwashed into thinking blemish free apples are the only fruit to buy. Most consumers today believe that russeting on the skin is a sign something is spoiled or deformed in a apple. Some people are so misguided and ignorant they dislike biting into a patch of skin that feels different. Russeting on apples is seen as a bad sign by most modern producers  because they can't sell the apples as eating apples which always bring the higher prices from buyers.

Apple aficionados, however, continue to seek out and buy Russets at farmer's markets and on apple farms.  These Russet apples that remain neglected and untouched by most today tend to have a spicy, pronounced flavour. It  reminds us why our ancestors wrote poems about apples. We have to blame ourselves for the most part that these apples are so hard to find because we're the ones who walked by displays of Russet Apples in the stores until they disapeared from stores all together. There seems to be change in the wind as more people are seeking out old varieties of apples and other fruit.  Today many older types of apple tree are being sold  as heirloom apples.  Let's hope their is a bright future for the good old russet apple!

Russets need humid storage because the pores that make up the russeting are large and let moisture out. In a dry environment, they will quickly shrivel.The Victorians, as you can tell from Victorian artwork, preferred the look of russet apples. In the 1500s, Russets were also known as "leather-coats".

"There's a dish of leather-coats for you."
-- Davy, in Henry IV, ACT V, Scene III. Shakespeare.



Some common names of  Russet apples:

'Acklam Russett'
'Adam's Pearmain'
'Blenheim Orange'
'Braddick's Nonpariel'
'Claygate Pearmain'
'Egremont Russet'
'Golden Russet'
'Merton Russet'
'Ribston Pippin'
'Ross Nonpariel'
'Roxbury Russet' (also known as Boston Russet)
'St. Edmund's Pippin'
'Sam Young'
'Tydeman's Late Orange'
'Winston'


A Golden Russet Apple

This classic cider apple, which is also excellent for fresh eating or drying, was grown in New York State prior to 1845. The dense, sugary flesh is reminiscent of the French heirloom russets.





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