Cider apples are a funny bunch! Some possess searing acidity at the outset, while others are so tannic, even a mouthful seems too much. Along the way there’s ones with honeysuckle aroma, ones that bleed pink juice and others that just get on with the job or producing great cider.
What’s true throughout though is they possess character!
So, for your chance to win a mixed case of Discover Cider cider, artfully curated by none other than Tom Oliver himself, just tell us Which Cider Apple Are YOU? (And why?!)
So how to choose?
There are literally thousands of apples to choose from, so how do you narrow down your choice? Who else to ask but campaign manager, the Ciderologist, Gabe Cook.
Gabe has kindly let us reprint his apple list A to Z from his vital book Ciderology (Spruce).
Cider Apples A-Z
There are literally hundreds of apple varieties grown all around the world to make cider, each with its own unique flavours and properties, and often with its own intriguing history. Here’s a list of some of my favourites.
- 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 Percy Bulmer’s nephew, Mr Edward Ball, the Bulmer’s Pomologist, in the 1920s.
- 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.
- Gravenstein – portmanteaux apple name derived from famous English cricketer, Tom, Graveney, and Dr Frankenstein. Or not.
- 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 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 – the ‘King’ of cider apples
- Le Bret – named after the world’s best basketball player, James Le Bret. Oh, hang on…..
- Michelin – tastes like tyres
- Newtown Pippin – US variety that became one of the first apples to be exported to the UK.
- Overleaf – an extremely rare British 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’.
- 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 Devil – a modern eating apple, but some experiments with cider making from this variety have been undertaken on account of its ability to produce a naturally pink juice.
- 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 recently ex-partner of a lotto 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 into the late 19th century, and the only cider apple I could think of that begins with a V.
- Winter Banana – so named because of the alleged eponymous flavour
- 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. Produces a cider 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 (said in a Bristolian accent) – a variety that you don’t know the name of, but upon biting into it, turns your mouth inside out.
And if you want to delve further, here’s a feature I wrote a few years ago for Imbibe magazine, when the editor asked me to illustrate what each cider apple brings to the blend – Bittersweet Symphony.
If you’re in Devon – how cool is this – a searchable Devon fruit directory
If you’re in Kent, head to the wonderful Tiddly Pomme shop at Brogdale to get your hands on apples from some of Brogdale’s own trees.
With 2,200 apple varieties in Brogdale, it’s well worth a visit, so book on one of their wonderful open days, and head over to see for yourself.
You could even buy a tree to take home
The Orchard Project has a wonderful national reach, with its practice of fostering – and creating – community orchards – and providing the training to ensure these orchards are sustainable.
and in particular:
In the fertile crossover territory that is the Marches, straddling the Welsh and English border is the Marcher Apple Network
Hope that gives you a good start!
And good luck!
Susanna Forbes, Little Pomona Cider