Apples: Eating, Drinking, Picking & Growing

While reading Eli Margulies’ recent recipe for poached pears using apple juice, I was reminded of my favourite apple juices. For our readers in England, this is a reminder of two delicious products they may already know about. And for our other readers, here is something you’ve probably never heard of, let alone even tasted. These juices are something I always look forward to drinking whenever I visit the UK. Even if they were exported (and I’m not sure they are: the food miles would be fearsome and the quality might suffer significantly!) there’s something about English apples that always makes me delighted to come back to the UK. So first, here are some thoughts on apples in general, in the US and the UK; for the juice recommendations, you’ll have to read to the end.

Eating
In the USA, one can generally only find really good apples in farmers’ markets or by going to pick your own. I’ve often found American supermarket apples taste disappointingly woolly. They’re often too large, too sweet and don’t have the right texture (at least for my taste).

Smaller, crisper and more flavourful than most American varieties one can find in the supermarkets, really good apples in England are available even in the big supermarket chains such as Sainsburys or Tesco. These varieties have a range of amusing names, and most a highly seasonal: Waitrose even sell a variety called “Winter Wonder“. Egremont Russet apples are especially good: unprepossessing because of their brown colour, slightly furry on the outside skin, and sometimes speckled or yellowish green, they’re delightful.

But my favourite are Cox’s Orange Pippins: small, often misshapen, orange striped with red and leaf-green patches, they are in season from October to December. The variety dates back to about 1825 and its modern descendent was saved from extinction in the 1920s. The cox season starts around Rosh haShanah, a festival with which I’ll always associate English apples, and the crunch of leaves underfoot (though if it rains in London in autumn, as it might do, the leafy crunch is more easily available in the USA!).

Picking
My online research into apples led me to a fantastic website: where to pick, what to pick, a directory of varieties and the history of apples too: Take a look at Orange Pippin: it’s an unparalleled resource, well designed, easy to navigate and practically useful too for pointing you to places to pick your own in several countries.

Drinking
One last note: there are two fabulous English apple juices that are worth going out of your way to drink if you ever visit England, and worth buying for a special occasion if you live there. They’re really the apple equivalent of a fantastic vintage wine: worth savouring slowly, perhaps with a small-farm produced raw-milk English cheese such as those sold by Neal’s Yard Dairy.

Copella is well worth getting. They sell plain apple juice, but also apple juice mixed with other juices like pear, raspberry, blackcurrant, elderflower and even mango. The plain is my favourite, but the apple & raspberry has a bright scarlet colour that is quite arresting. Copella should be refrigerated as soon as you get it home from the supermarket, drunk soon after opening, served cold.

Duskin is perhaps the king of apple juices. Unfortunately, Duskin farm doesn’t have a website, but they make single variety apple juices where each bottle contains the juices of only one type of apple. A website where one can buy their juices notes:

Duskin Farm is a small family farm in a fold of the North Downs near Canterbury, Kent. Andrew and Jenny Helbling started making apple juice over twenty five years ago, and despite growing production significantly over the years, have struggled to keep pace with demand ever since.

What is their secret? Why do the juices, which are sold by each variety, taste so good? It is well known that the temperate East Kent climate favours the slow ripening of apples of all varieties. And crucially, the Duskin production process aims to preserve their carefully nurtured flavour. The labour intensive, low temperature pasteurisation process aims to retain the delicate compounds that contain a wealth of aromas and flavours. 

The juices provide an intriguing alternative to alcohol. Indeed the joys of the different varieties often inspire wine-like descriptions such as, a delightful rose with an amusing presence. With no added sugars or preservatives except a dash of Vitamin C, Duskin Apple Juice is as natural as can be.

One final amusing note about the meaning of the term cider. Apple cider in Britain means alcoholic, fermented apple juice, generally available in cans. Apple cider in the USA denotes a non-alcoholic, sweet, often dusty-coloured juice, generally sold in plastic bottles and served to children. I always find the contrast amusing: what would an American child think if they were served the English variety when they asked for cider?

PS. Here are some ideas for things to cook with those apples, and further reading about apples on The Jew and The Carrot:

 

Yid.Dish:  Apples And More Apple Crisp

Decode the Ritual Food: Apples

Yid.Dish: Apple Cider Challah

Yid.Dish: Apple and Pear Crisp

Yid.Dish: Caramel Apple Spice Cupcakes

Yid.Dish: Warm Barley Salad with Apple & Feta

Yid.Dish: Apples & Berry Sauce

Seasonal Sauce

A taste of fall – Apple Salsa

Apples to apples

 

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One Response to “Apples: Eating, Drinking, Picking & Growing”

  1. Adam Jackson, Editor-in-Chief Says:

    As an extra note, here are some more articles about apples from JCarrot’s archives. If you wondered what to make with the apples you can pick at one of the farms suggested on OrangePippin, I’ve added some links to ideas in the post above.

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