Taste is very subjective, some people prefer a sharp, crisp apple, some like a soft, sweet apple and all stages in between. Taste is also very variable, even the same variety can taste so different under different conditions. Apples need to be eaten when ripe, which sounds obvious but is more difficult to arrange than you might imagine; straight from the tree for the early varieties, tree ripened, picked and stored in good (and bad!) conditions. Red Delicious tastes good from the tree, for about a week longer and then is a disappointing mixture of metal and cotton wool under garden conditions (how do they keep it commercially? – the answer I think is that it is picked abroad when really mature, at the best moment and in England it rarely has the warmth it needs).
I have attempted to keep a few early apples in the bottom of the fridge for a display but they taste so different from the fresh apples a few weeks earlier, after this treatment and it is absolutely useless to use taste for identification in these circumstances. Soil and cultivation also affect taste as apples do vary in taste from different orchards. We use Annie Elizabeth from a local orchard for cooking and I have always thought that if I had room for one more cooker I would grow this variety but I have had several reports that in other gardens it is unusable due to Bitter pit and even before it develops the characteristic brown spots it has no flavour. (Bitter pit is due to a calcium deficiency and we have a wide variety of soils here on the Isle of Wight). Also I often think that expectations and childhood memories influence perceptions of taste. People often talk about a remembered tree ‘in Grandad’s garden’ or reminisce about a favourite early variety (this usually turns out to be Beauty of Bath). The season also influences the taste and flavour of the apple, cold and wet, warm and exceptionally sunny, all affect different varieties in different ways, some will have an exceptional year with the right weather and sulk the year after. Mary Case, who grows apples for the local Farmers Market, pointed this out to me and said that ‘every apple has its year’ and others ‘perform year after year’.
Having said all that, there are definite differences between varieties and some are infinitely better than others and over many years it has been very interesting to have the opportunity to try out so many different apples over such a long season. Most older apples have stood the test of time for a reason and the reason is most likely to be the way they taste.
There is no way to classify all the different flavours found in apples but there is a good section in The New Book of Apples by Joan Morgan and Alison Richards – Ebury Press 1993. Also try www.orangepippin.com for a flavour comparison website.
Every apple has a different flavour
The comments below are my own:
The first summer apples, the first apples of the new season. None of these are keepers and are best eaten straight off the tree, usually juicy, crisp and tasty. James Grieve, Tydeman’s Early Worcester and Worcester Pearmain.
Some red apples are descended from Mackintosh (this is one of the reasons I have noted the parentage in my descriptions) and have a sweet juicy taste as in Spartan. Spartan makes a well flavoured pink juice. See my earlier comments about Red Delicious. The New Book of Apples says that in the English climate Mackintosh type apples ‘can tip over into green or metallic flavours as if tainted by aluminium’.
Ellison’s Orange tastes of aniseed and is very distinctive – you either love it or hate it – we removed the tree from our garden. Occasionally a garden grown Ellison’s Orange can look similar to a Laxton’s Epicure but the taste is very different.
Some apples, like Ashmead’s Kernel have a definite taste that lingers in the mouth of old fashioned peardrops.
Catalogues often describe apples as ‘richly aromatic’, this usually means like Cox’s Orange Pippin (and it’s probable parent Ribston Pippin) well flavoured and what most people think of as an ideal apple. Cox is the parent of many apples, inheriting this flavour to some degree. Sunset, Laxton’s Superb, Jupiter to name just a few.
I could add more but perhaps you would like to add your comments – please contact us.
I can only comment on the ones I know and use – or don’t use any more. Fluffy Grenadier (sort of puree),Keswick Codling, Early Victoria, Stobo Castle. In other words, the early codlin type cookers.
Puree Arthur Turner (use fresh from the tree), Beauty of Kent (sharp to start season but then lighter), Bramley (strong flavour), Catshead,(not very acid, dryish, firm when cooked), Crawley Beauty,( a really useful late cooking apple but again does not keep its acidity for ever) George Neal (early cooker in September, a really good flavour) Golden Noble (but keeps some shape), Lord Grosvenor, Mere de Menage (dryish), Newton Wonder (an excellent all round apple), Stirling Castle, Warner’s King. The best cookers, but the acidity varies, some disappointingly bland after storage.
Into watery pieces Hoary Morning. I think this is only grown for its appearance.
Keeps shape Annie Elizabeth (good flavour), Belle de Boskoop, Blenheim Orange (an all rounder cook and eat), Howgate Wonder (insipid)
Most people use windfalls and early dessert apples as cookers, in fact anything that is available for a variety of textures and tastes. A good, crisp well flavoured dessert apple is best for an open tart. Try not to use an apple that keeps its shape for chutney, and let the apple cook first before adding the sugar, once the sugar is added the apples tend to be more difficult to break down.
RECIPES TO TRY
Apple Pie with Cheese Pastry – the flavours really complement each other. I use whatever apples are available so this varies every time. Cheddar is good but do experiment.
Baked Apples stuffed with Homemade Mincemeat or Dates and Honey. Arthur Turner is the best apple for baked apples if you can grow or find it, light and fluffy and evenly shaped.
Apple Shortbread – two layers of shortbread with a not too wet apple puree sandwiched in between. Beat 75 gms castor sugar and 100gms butter together, work in one egg and 175gms flour. Divide into two and roll out to make two rounds to fit a 7” tin, put apple puree on top of one round and place other round over the top. Pinch the layers of shortbread together around the edge and prick all over with a fork. A sharp Bramley’s Seedling is ideal, or any cooking apple that is acidic and cooks to a puree.
Apple Jelly, simply wash and chop all the apples, cover with water and simmer until the apples are soft and pulpy, then strain through a jelly bag. Next morning measure one pint of juice to one pound of sugar and boil until setting point is reached. John Downie Crabs make a beautiful clear, pink/orange jelly but try some others or a mixture.
Apple Scone, your favourite scone mix + grated apples and shaped into a round. Mark into portions and sprinkle a little sugar on top before baking in a fairly hot oven. Eat warm with butter. Again, a good sharp cooking apple is best.
Apple Chutney, this is the basic recipe to which you can add dates or raisins as a variation. Mine is different every time.
450gms onions, 2 ½ kilos cooking apples, 2 teaspoons ground ginger, 1-2 level teaspoons salt, 675gms sugar (try soft brown or demerara as well as white), 500mls spiced vinegar.
Chop and slice the apples and onions, cook gently in about 300mls water until slightly softened, add all other ingredients and boil gently until no liquid vinegar remains. Put in jars.
Autumn Pudding 1 large Bramley apple, 225gms ripe red plums, 225gms blackberries, 75gms sugar, 4 tbsp water, put in a pan and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove crusts from about 10 slices of bread,(brown or white). Cut bread into strips and use to line a basin. Put fruit in basin and cover with more sliced bread. Pour any surplus juice over the top.
Cover with a saucer and put weights on top overnight,
Turn out and serve with cream next day.