Happy Apple Day people!!
In celebration of this wondrous event, and to highlight the fantastic diversity of cider apples, I have compiled an A-Z, complete with some little known facts:
Ashton Bitter – once lauded as a key early season bittersweet, it’s now known to produce a tree like a scarecrow, so has somewhat fallen out of favour.
Ball’s Bittersweet – sounds like a 1950s cough syrup and has the astringency to match. Developed by Fred Bulmer’s nephew, Mr Edward Ball, the Bulmer’s Pomologist, in 1927.
Cider Lady’s Finger – not to be confused with something that lines the bottom of a Tiramisu, Lady’s Finger is thought to be a generic name to describe varieties that are shaped long, rather that broad, elliptical or round.
Dabinett – the most widely planted cider apple in Britain today owing to the quality of its juice and its fruiting precocity.
Ellis Bitter – a classic Devon variety named (funnily enough) after a Mr Ellis of Newton St Cyres.
Foxwhelp – hails from the Forest of Dean and is one of the oldest recorded varieties, with its cider properties already well documented in 1664. Produces a cider that smells of strawberries and tastes of sherbert.
Golden Ball – David Beckham’s favourite apple.
Harry Masters Jersey – named after a nurseryman from Woolston, Somerset, the term ‘Jersey’ is used to describe apples of a decent astringency plus an idsiosyncratic shape characterised by ‘broad shoulders’ and a ‘narrow waist’.
Improved Hangdown – used mostly to provide fruitiness in a blended cider and also as a haemorrhoids treatment.
Jonagold – an eating apple, but used by cider makers in areas of the world where cider apples are hard to come by. Produces a soft and highly perfumed cider.
Kingston Black – sometimes referred to as the ‘King of Cider Apples’, KB has all of the attributes you could want in a cider: crisp acidity, complex tannins and wonderful fruitiness.
Le Bret – named after the world’s best basketball player, James Le Bret. Oh, hang on…..
Michelin – extensively planted in commercial orchards, this variety is much maligned. Given the opportunity to shine, however, it can produce a pleasant, mid-tannin cider.
Northwood – a full sweet cider apple variety. It’s a bit boring, actually.
Overleaf – an extremely rare variety, the tree takes a weeping form. So much so, that it has been described as looking like a ‘dead octopus on a stick’!
Pig’s Nose – so named because its shape is reminiscent of….er….a pig’s nose. ‘And the Nobel Prize for Literature goes to Gabe Cook for his evocative description of cider apple varieties’. Or maybe not.
Quite a few varieties, in fact, have animals in their name: Dove, Cat’s Head, Sheep’s Nose and Hen’s Turds spring to mind.
Red Two Year Old – so hard and tough is this apple, that lore says it can be kept for up to 2 years.
Slack-ma-Girdle – achieves its name either on account of its diuretic properties or for relaxing the inhibitions of young ladies back in the 19th century.
Tremlett’s Bitter – does exactly what it says on the tin. Scarlet coloured and early ripening, this apple produces a cider as bitter as the ex-partner of a Euromillions winner
Upright Styre – an old, rare variety, that achieves its moniker on account of the telegraph pole shape of the tree.
Vilberie – a French variety introduced in the late 19th century, and the only cider apple I could think of that begins with a V.
Welsh Druid – a rare, if unremarkable, general purpose apple, its primary claim to fame is that one of the last trees of its kind resided in the garden of Christine Chilver, the infamous Special Operations Agent during WWII who went under the name ‘Agent Fifi’.
X rated – some varieties have wonderfully rude names, such as: Bastard Underleaf, Yellow Willy, Crackstalk, Bushy French, Hard Knock, Spotted Dick and Shatfords. Yes, I am incredibly juvenile.
Yarlington Mill – without doubt my favourite cider apple. The colour of the rich, red clay of the Shire, and with a flavour broader than an Icelandic World’s Strongest Man’s shoulders, it’s the key component to a blended cider.
Zoider apple – a variety that you don’t know the name of, but upon biting into it, turns your mouth inside out.