Sunday, November 22, 2009
Dave Garretson of Beechwood Orchards, who sells at the Headhouse Square Farmers' Market, loves his apples, and this week he had one of the best, the Newtown Pippin.
This variety probably originated in the early 18th century in what is now the Elmhurst area of Queens, New York. (Take the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway and you'll cross Newtown Creek). It was beloved by Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and Queen Victoria.
The Newtown Pippin (unlike my favorite, the Cox Orange Pippin) is one of the great storage apples, which only gets better with age: I plan to delay the gratification of eating them until February, by which time their sugars will be fully formed and balance the tart, piney, citrusy, nutty flavor of this American classic; kept in cold storage with adequate air circulation (a perforated bag in your refrigerator's crisper), they'll probably keep until spring. Eat them now and you'll only get a glimmer of their complexity.
Today it's rare to find Newtown Pippins in the fresh market. Most are turned into juice, thanks to its clear, flavorful nature. If you've enjoyed Martinelli's sparking cider. you've consumed Newtown Pippins. Martinelli's purchases, at above market prices, have prevented the California plantings of Newtown Pippins from being uprooted in favor of other crops.
This revered variety was pushed out of the fresh market over the last 20 years by the Granny Smith, which offers only a hint of the wonders of the Newtown Pippin, but is more visually appealing than the frequently lopsided antique apple, whose countenance can appear marred because of natural russetting near the stem end.
In addition to California, the Newtown Pippin was a favored variety in tidewater Virginia, where the parochials renamed it the Albemarle Pippin, not wanting to keep the Yankee name. It was a major export item to England until the early 20th century when tariffs decimated that market.
Although the Newtown Pippin works well in pies, as well as apple sauce, it's highest uses are for cider and as a dessert (fresh eating) apple