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Re: [nafex] Virginia Cider
Have you tried Liberty? I picked some slightly overripe Liberties a few
years ago - the texture was awful (mealy, mushy) but the flavor was
incredibly rich and complex. This was in New Jersey, where it was too
warm to grow a decent Mac. I know they run a little small, but I
wouldn't think that would matter much for cider.
Happy New Year,
Don Yellman wrote:
> I have spent the past 25 years trying to establish a decent orchard
> in Northern Virginia, and have been making fresh and fermented cider for
> the past 5 years. Your valley climate in general shouldn't be too much
> different from mine, although you may have more pronounced temperature
> extremes due to your elevation. While I can tell you about my own
> experiences, the real authority on apple varieties adapted to Virginia's
> climate is Dr. Tom Burford (also a Nafexer) who lives in Monroe.
> 1. When talk turns to cider varieties, it almost inevitably revolves
> around English varieties, and a few old French apples. No question that
> the English and French are masters of cider, and many of their old
> varieties are marvelous cider apples --- for them. But I am not
> entirely persuaded that all of these apples are well adapted to
> Virginia, which is about 15 degrees South of the major English and
> French growing areas. Ouir summers are considerably warmer and longer,
> and we have more disease pressures. Also, while many of the older
> varieties are very good, they are not good just because they are old.
> Many of the old-timers are not very productive. There are some
> excellent modern cultivars that will also make excellent cider, and grow
> well with reduced disease problems in the mid-Atlantic region.
> 2. I have tried to plant varieties that ripen roughly in the same
> timeframe --- that is, early to mid-October, certainly no later than
> mid-September. I just don't have a cool, moist area to hold apples at
> top quality for longer than 2-3 weeks. Cidermaking is quite an
> operation here, involving equipment setup, and washing and cutting by
> friends, relatives and in-laws. (I grind the fruit in a garbage
> disposal, so most of it has to be cut.) So we try to do it all in one
> hectic day. It is my impression that many of the European apples will
> ripen here considerably earlier --- beginning in August. Nevertheless,
> I do have a Foxwhelp, a nice branch graft of Kingston Black, and a
> couple of the French Calville Blanc's.
> 3. Here are a few that are have been performing well for me, and some
> that are my hopes for the future. I think all of them have the kind of
> complex flavors that hold up well in blended cider, fresh or fermented:
> -- Spigold: I don't hear much about this apple, but it is the best
> all-around apple I have grown so far. A little slow to bloom and bear
> (fifth year), but practically disease free, with apples (when thinned)
> averaging over a pound each. When you look at these things, you think
> an apple that big can't taste like much, but it is always crisp and very
> juicy, with a complex, sweet-tart flavor. If you plant it, leave plenty
> of space, since it is a very vigorous grower even on M-7. A triploid.
> -- Mutsu: Very similar in appearance and quality to Spigold --- perhaps
> a bit spicier. Apples average over a pound, and it bears annually.
> Another triploid.
> -- Spartan: For my money, the best of the Macintosh crosses.
> Excellent flavor, with good disease resistance. Very popular in N.Y
> State and Vermont for cider.
> -- Yellow Newtown Pippin: Nativized in Virginia as the Albemarle
> Pippin. Like many of the older varieties, a bit of a shy bearer, but a
> marvelous cider blending apple. Should be well adapted to valley
> -- Calville Blance D'Hiver: This old French apple does ripen late,
> and it is excellent for nearly any use, including cider and vinegar.
> But a little slow to begin fruiting, and not a heavy bearer.
> -- Stayman: Fine cider and eating apple. Some years, I have had
> problems with cracking and bitter pit. Last season the tree was hit
> with cedar apple rust. Still worth growing. Fairly productive.
> -- Freedom: Sister of Liberty, but a little more tart and spicy.
> Very large apple. Bears in the 4th year. Good scab resistance.
> -- GoldRush: My little tree has not fruited yet, but from what I hear
> from reliable sources, this should be one of the best cider apples for
> the mid-Atlantic. A recent Purdue release with good disease resistance.
> -- Kingston Black: I only have a branch graft of this cultivar, and it
> has not yet fruited. May try to whip graft it on M-7 next spring. This
> old English variety has been proven in Virginia, and it appears to be a
> late apple, but I would not expect it to be a heavy bearer. I really
> would like to get this one going.
> -- Virginia (Hewes) Crab: These little apples have been grown for
> cider in Virginia for at least 200 years. I have two little trees that
> I grafted on M-7, and one of them set four apples the first year after
> grafting. They look like vigorous growers and bloomers, and are
> probably good pollinators. A little more tannin than most apples.
> 4. I don't mean to discourage you from trying some of the more exotic
> varieties, but you need quite a bit of production for any substantial
> quantity of cider, and the juicier the apple the better. That's one of
> the things I like about Spigold. It doesn't take many to fill a
> bushel. Having said that, I also think Nell Lancaster is right about
> Golden Russet, although I don't have any experience with it.
> 5. Just out of curiousity, what are the table/cooking varieties you
> have now? You might already have some decent cider apples, as part of a
> blend. I throw Red and Golden Delicious in my cider when there are too
> many to eat or even give away, and it doesn't seem to hurt the cider at
> 6. Where are you located in the Valley? How many trees will you
> plant? One thing I learned the hard way: leave a little more space
> between the trees than you think you need.
> Best Regards, Don Yellman, Great Falls, VA
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