I just got employed as a columnist for Apple Enthusiast Magazine, penning a small sidebar called “Tim’s Picks.” (Welcome to my website Apple Enthusiast readers!) Didn’t know I was qualified, did you? Well, last year I frequented the local farmer’s market and a nearby apple orchard to become versed in some of the finer points in Wisconsin apples. Apples — and the subtle array of flavors apparent in the many different varieties — might be the closest thing Wisconsin has to wine.
Actually, beer should earn that mantle. But whatever.
Here’s the column.
Well, late summer apples are dwindling in numbers and the early fall ones are starting to show up in the orchards of South Central Wisconsin. That means Macintoshes are making their first appearance. Personally, I stay clear of the early macs. They’re hard and bitter and leave your mouth slightly dry. I’m all for sour, but that’s not what I mean when I say bitter. I mean bitter.
Paula Reds are still going strong and they’re a very safe apple to use for eating or baking. In fact, Paulas are nice if you’re bored and you eat things when you’re bored — instead of chips or a candy bar, pick up a Paula Red. If, however, you’re looking for a metaphorical wild night on the town when it comes to apple tasting, Paulas are kind of prudish. They’re like Mary in Pride and Prejudice.
Tempting though it is to stick with the Bennett sisters comparisons for the rest of my list, I think I’ll refrain for fear of scaring off most of my readership. Actually, it’s just too difficult to say which early September apple has the beauty, intelligence, and spunk of Elizabeth. My favorite is the Zestar, which is an almost perfect combination of sweet and tart. It’s got some complexity of flavor that keeps your taste buds guessing long after that first bite. If you’re craving a more gingery spice, like what you find in Delicious apples, try an Akane. Personally, I’m not a fan of Delicious, but I’m not as opposed to Akane. I’ve been eating them with my Grape-Nuts every morning.
Miltons are just about gone, but they have a nice sourness also, with a touch of acidity and a dry feel. (I’m holding myself back from making more references to British Literature right now. Paradise Lost, the garden of Eden, John Milton — it’s just too easy.)
If it’s sweet you’re craving, I’m really not the man to tell you what to do since I tend to avoid sweet apples. But Red Frees are nice, and I just had a more obscure variety called a Summer Treat, which I claim is like eating the peelings from late fall Macintoshes, the kind that are leftover when mom makes an apple pie for Thanksgiving. Perhaps not the best texture, but the smell is divine.
Since I avoid sweet apples, I make the unpopular claim that Honeycrisp are too much. Gravenstein, however, have the texture of Honeycrisp without the same saccharine simplicity. They are still sweet, but not overwhelmingly so.
But if it’s the perfect blend of flavors you’re looking for (and who isn’t?) the apple you need to taste is Cox’s Orange Pippin. We’re talking about subtlety of flavor of wine-tasting proportions. And according to the grower who sold it to me, “more vitamin C than an orange.” There is actually a hint of oranges to the flavor as well, but it’s strength is that no one sensation overpowers the others. According to orangepippin.com, it’s the “best-flavored dessert apple ever.” I’m inclined to agree.