Last weekend was our annual trek out into the townships cheese, cider, and apple picking. I now have a fridge full of cheese, bags of apples waiting to be stored and processed (not to mention enjoyed fresh right away!), and enough cider and ice cider for a whole host of upcoming special occasions; not to mention some great memories from a fantastic day out with friends.
Last year I came home with Northern Spy, Russet, and Snow (Fameuse) apples. This year, we went a bit earlier and none of those varieties were ready for picking yet. I was disappointed because I’d been looking forward to more Northern Spy and Russet, which are hard to find at local markets and grocery stores.
- Northern Spy apples are known as a good cooking apple and are great for eating if you like your apples crisp, juicy, and tangy, which I do! They also store really well. I was still eating the ones I picked last fall well into the spring and very few of them went bad. Look for them in October and into November.
- Russet are one of my Mum’s favourite apples (along with Orange Pippin, which we’ve never seen in Quebec). They are fairly small but packed full of sweet, crisp flavour. Their skin is a brassy colour which you wouldn’t think is edible, but it’s quite thin. Don’t let it discourage you! Russets don’t store well. Again look for them in October and into November.
- Snow apples are a bright red apple with snow-white flesh. They are truly a local apple, being the main variety grown in the region from 1700 to the mid 1800s. Sadly they are now hard to find following disease that almost wiped them out around 1885. Snow apples are crisp and juicy; definitely an eating apple. Eat them fresh. They don’t store well. Look for them at the end of September and early October.
Since those weren’t ready when we visited I asked for a recommendation for a good, crisp apple that would be ready for picking now. They recommended Spartan and Royal Gala.
- Royal Gala have always been one of my favourites. But holy wow! Do they ever taste fantastic picked fresh. I think I’m addicted. A fresh Royal Gala is sweet, flavourful, crunchy and juicy. Gala apples were developed in New Zealand (and indeed, often the organic apples you get in grocery stores are Gala from New Zealand). I haven’t tried cooking my Galas yet–I’m too busy eating them–but apparently they are well-suited to apple sauce. Look for them in September.
- Spartan apples were developed in British Columbia in the 1920s. They are a child of the very popular McIntosh variety. I discovered they are considered a good eating apple as opposed to a cooking apple, but given that they are an offshoot of the McIntosh, it would stand to reason that they cook well too. I’ve made a couple of crumbles with them and the apples hold their shape. They are sweet and crisp. Apparently they don’t store well and should be eaten or used soon after picking. Look for them mid-September to mid-October.
I also managed to find some Russet apples that seemed ready. I chose ones that just about fell off in my had when lightly pulled. Usually that’s a sign the apple is ripe. As suspected, though, I didn’t find many.
Apple picking season continues for another few weeks. In past posts of mine, you can find a list of some organic and heritage apple u-Pick farms in Quebec, as well as some interesting orchards in Rougemont, some of which have hiking trails. This year, Les Weekends Gourmands de Rougemont goes on until October 8th. During this month-long festival many orchards and food artisans offer free tastings and tours.
- McIntosh (September)
- Cortland (September and October)
- Wolf River (September to mid-October)
- Honey Crisp (Mid-September to early October)
- IndaRed (Late September to October)
- Jona Gold (Late September to late October)
- Empire (Late September to October)
- Snow (Late September to early October)
- Tolman Sweet (Late September to early October)
- Yellow Delicious and Red Delicious (October)
- Northern Spy (Mid-October)
- Russet (Mid-October)
Do you have a favourite variety of apple or apple orchard? Share it with us!Photo credit: Photos by my friend Maia. Thank you!