Apples & honey

Apples & honey

It is nearly Rosh Hashanah here (otherwise known as the Jewish New Year), and I’ve been learning more about the holiday, as I get to appreciate new traditions with my fiancé’s family. Jewish holidays get an unfair advantage in winning my heart, because so many of them involve really excellent food. I think I have a soft spot for Rosh Hashanah; celebrating the new year with the return of sharp breezes and cooler air, after a too-long summer, feels genuinely rejuvenating. The tradition of eating apples and honey, in hopes of a sweet new year— yes, that’s a holiday I can appreciate wholeheartedly.

Let’s be honest– there are no wrong combinations in the apples-and-honey game. But I feel like there are ways to maximize the delight of this pairing, so we decided to do a little taste test here– which varieties really sing with a side of honey?

While I was doing some harried apple hunting at the U District Farmers Market on Saturday, after being foiled by Husky game traffic, I spotted Seattle Urban Honey; they had samples out, and there was no resisting. SUH does a pretty neat thing– they sell their honey varieties by zip code and date of harvest, because the taste will vary depending on location and time of the season. I finally ended up buying honey harvested on July 22 from UW’s Center for Urban Horticulture. This honey, which their tasting notes said was ‘spicy’ , felt like a good potential partner for some apples.

Apple-wise, I was going for a combination where neither the individual apple or the honey were overwhelmed by the other; I wanted to be able to still taste the finer points of both. If I were to boil it down– a crunchier apple, with a healthy does of tartness, made the ideal date for a spoonful of honey, and these two apples fit the bill nicely.

Egremont Russet

EgremontRussetfrom Jones Creek Farms at the Capitol Hill Broadway Farmers Market

The first of the russets! Here’s the thing you need to know about russets: they aren’t going to win any beauty contests, as they are naturally tough-skinned, with a scab-like roughness. They mostly look like underripe potatoes. I realize that none of you are sold on this idea yet. But–BUT– they are delicious, sturdy, hardworking apples. I love a russet for fresh eating, but I also love to add them to sauces and pies.

The first taste of an Egremont is surprisingly mild, with an Asian-pear-like crunch;  and then a strong tartness shows up with a swift kick. This is not a boring apple. This is an apple for someone who enjoys lots of interesting things going on with texture and flavor. Pairing this apple with honey creates a sweetly wild combination, which feels like a good way to start a year.

Egremont Russet is a Victorian English apple from 1872, purportedly from the Earl of Egremont in Sussex.

Elstar

Elstar appleorganic, from Booth Canyon Orchard at the U District Farmers Market (they also sell at the markets in West Seattle & Ballard)

Unlike a russet– which are often on the drier side, for apples– Elstar is juicy, with good crunch, and pleasing balance between sweet and tart . Elstar has Golden Delicious for one parent, and Cox’s Orange Pippin as a grandparent, and originated in the Netherlands in the 1950s. I would say the Elstar far surpasses its mild and sometimes mealy parent, and takes after its remarkable grandsire, which I count as one of my all-time favorite apples. I’d eat this apple any time, now, and it has enough of its own character to be able to stand up against a flavorful honey.

L’shanah tovah!

1 Comment

  • Justus

    September 14, 2015 at 4:57 am Reply

    Julia! You inspired me to try a new apple, and I was at the Coop today where I saw an Elstar. I swore you had mentioned it, and I gave it a try. Holy wow. I think it may (may) be even better than my macintosh favourites. We ate one of each this evening (with cinnamon, not honey for me) and wow. Thank you for expanding my apple world. Seriously.

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