A couple of weeks ago, in anticipation of some apple canning recipes, I thought to myself-wouldn’t it be nice to find some lesser known apple to use? Cortland, Honey Crisp, Gala are all very well and good but what about an heirloom variety?
So my quest took me over the “Beamsville Bench” as they call it (the fertile middle ground between the lakeshore and the escarpment) to an apple orchard named Windwood Farm.
Now full disclosure, I would have loved to have picked my own, but as it was a Monday and my husband and I were on our way to Niagara-on-the-lake for a special anniversary lunch, the orchard was closed to the public. But the proprietor had kindly taken my request over the phone, and two half bushels of Cox Orange Pippin and Snow apples were waiting for me.
The Cox Orange Pippin is delightful apple. Striped and slightly ochre in hue, it is the perfect blend of tart and crisp. Introduced to the market in England in 1825 this beauty is notoriously difficult to grow and thus perhaps why it is so hard to find, especially in North America. It holds up well in cooking and I’m looking forward to using it in my date apple chutney workshop at the end of the month.
The other apple-Snow (or Fameuse) is aptly named for its winter hardiness and its bright white flesh. It originated in France in the 1600’s and was brought over to Quebec with the first wave of French immigration in the mid to late 17th century. It was almost wiped out in a blight during the 1860’s and has been slow to make a come back. It’s a relatively small apple but very juicy and sweet. Apart from eating it fresh, I think it will make very tasty applesauce.
I love with a little sleuthing around, we can still find heirloom varieties of apples from those farmers dedicated to keeping diversification alive. Not only is it crucial in this time of climate change where relying on one or two varieties could spell a decline or near extinction of the fruit, but moreover it has a profound effect on the well-being of us humans who thrive on variety and rely on a balanced eco-system. So, let’s support our farmers who cultivate heirloom varieties!