[Sca-cooks] Historical Apples - substitutions for

Holly Stockley hollyvandenberg at hotmail.com
Tue Oct 28 19:21:22 PDT 2008

Part of the problem is that it's so very regional.  There are something over 7500 named apple varieties, worldwide.  Around 2500 in the US alone.  They crossbreed VERY easily, and throw up sports regularly.  That's why pure stocks are usually created by grafting.  Differences between the red delicious of today and 30 years ago isn't genetic - it's root stock choice, growing conditions, and (like wine) terrior.  In my neck of the woods, the grocery store has around 20 varieties.  30-40 at the farmer's market.  200-300 if I want to go for a drive.  I suspect this isn't typical. 

So, what you probably want is less a substitution variety-for-variety, than to understand what KIND of apple you're looking for.  Most European apples from period are considered subacid - sweet, with a low level of malic acid.  Pretty different from the New World crab apple/old world dessert apple crosses common today.  

The other factor is WHICH period apple you're going for.  

What follows is strictly my opinion, and based on easily available varieties in my locale.

Calville Blanc d'Hiver - the premier French dessert apple.  To my mind, you won't ever get another variety that isn't an equally elusive sport of it that tastes very close.  But a Jonagold or Jonalicious would be a decent attempt at a similar firm fleshed, sub-acid dessert apple.

Reinette - Jonathan is a decent doppleganger for this one, if it's a particularly sweet Jonathan.

Winter Pearmain - Ask for a sweet, subacid russet - most of them tend to be pretty interchangeable when baked anyway.

Blue Pearmain - A sweet winesap would do.

Snow apples are also a good choice.  Though often not a lot bigger than Lady apples.

Cider apples are a LOT harder.  Many of them are pretty darned unique.  And, since we drink a lot less cider these days, much less cultivated.  Classical cider varities cannot be replicated by commercial eating varieties.

Better yet might be to order a sampler pack of period apples and modern varieties from one of the growers like Treemendus and have an apple tasting party.  (with cheese, and water crackers, etc.  I've done it once with hard cider, as well - but that makes it awfully hard to remember what apples you did like).  Or, if you have a Fresh Market nearby, you can usually get one of the clerks to romp through the apple section with a knife for you.  Try different varieties and see what might match the period ones.  Once you get used to tasting apples, you'll start being able to pick out substitutes from descriptions with a half-way decent degree of accuracy.

Is this more what you had in mind, Urtatim?


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> Date: Tue, 28 Oct 2008 13:40:46 -0700
> To: sca-cooks at ansteorra.org
> From: lilinah at earthlink.net
> Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] Historical Apples
> I appreciate all the chat about period apple trees - of course, in my 
> first post, i listed a number that others are re-listing again (yes, 
> that's redundant, but so is listing the apples i already listed).
> The problem isn't getting a tree... well, yes, that is a problem. I 
> live in a second story apartment with no balcony or deck - so i have 
> nowhere to put a tree.
> But what i perceive as my problem is finding a source of period - or 
> near period - apples locally.
> Yes, i can buy crab apples and lady apples at the Berkeley Bowl. But 
> they're too darned small to use for a feast, and, as should be the 
> case for REAL produce, they have a short season.
> I don't want to know how old Winter Pearmains, etc., since i cannot 
> buy them at the store, plus I did list them in my first post with 
> their 13th century date.
> So boiling it down, I want to know:
> ** which of the typical commercial apples available generally in the 
> US are as close as one can come to SCA- period apples**
> (might also help Canadians, but you guys grow your own :-)
> (plus I concede that in this case it'll have to be European apples)
> -- 
> Urtatim (that's err-tah-TEEM)
> the persona formerly known as Anahita
> My LibraryThing
> http://www.librarything.com/catalog/lilinah
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