[Sca-cooks] Historical Apples - substitutions for

Mark S. Harris MarkSHarris at austin.rr.com
Wed Oct 29 00:45:29 PDT 2008

Femke gave a wonderful comparision of different apples to each other  
and to period varieties.

<<< 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. >>>

No, I don't think that is typical. Perhaps because you live in or  
near an apple growing area?  Even in the specialty groceries I'm only  
likely to see 20 or so.  But central Ansteorra (central Texas) is not  
really apple country.

Some of your vocabulary has me a bit confused. What do yo mean by  
"sports" and "terrior"?

<<< 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. >>>

Do you mean that the crab apples and the dessert apples today are  
crosses within each type? Or that New World crab apples and sold  
world dessert apples have been crossed to produce most of the common  
apples today?

<<< 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.>>>

Thanks for this list. I will add your message to my apples-msg file. :-)

I don't recognize many of the modern names you mention. I guess I'll  
need to pick up the apples and start reading the little stamps on the  

This list may be too detailed for me, right now unless I can find  
those specific varieties.  Which ones of these are eating apples?  
Which are best for cider? Which are better in pies and such? I can  
make some guesses from your descriptions, though.

I'm assuming that "decent doppleganger" means a good substitution?

<<< 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. >>>

Yes. And I suspect most of the apples sold in my stores are likely  
chosen because they are better eaten fresh, or perhaps in pies,  
although that usage may be falling as well.  I've had abysmal luck  
making cider when I tried using fresh apples or even apple juice, but  
what were the good cider apple varieties in period or even today?

<<< 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.  >>>

Thank you for the reminder.  That was mentioned last year, and I've  
thought of doing this, but as you mention, the season for various  
varieties isn't that long and I started looking too late in the  
season last year.

<<< I've done it once with hard cider, as well - but that makes it  
awfully hard to remember what apples you did like).  >>>

Maybe someone could do this at Pennsic? One of the last times I was  
at Pennsic, maybe it was after Jadwiga's mustard class, I remember  
being part of an impromptu Sekanjabin tasting at a nearby camp. It  
was amazing the variation you could get from one recipe depending  
upon the varieties of vinegar and sugar and mint used.

<<< 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. >>>

I don't have a Fresh Market here, but Central Market does offer  
cooking classes including wine and cheese tasting and similar  
classes. Perhaps they could be convinced to do such a class.


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