This is a 2013 post-script to the previously published article Apples… A Seasonal Approach.
Owing to a prolonged winter, the 2013 apple harvest is approximately three weeks late, which has led to some embarrassment for supermarkets that were expecting to be full of British Apples in October, which normally marks high-season in the UK.
People are, correctly, pointing out that smaller, independent suppliers are not short of British Apples. These are however the delayed mid-season apples, characterised by poorer keeping qualities than the late-season apples and frequently being of dual-purpose rather than pure dessert apples. I expect supermarkets bought some time ago, and asking them to change plans at short notice is somewhat akin to trying to change direction in a super tanker!
The beauty of buying from small independent growers is that they are likely to have a wider selection of local varieties and what might be ripe where you live could be quite different from where I am. The variety James Grieve perfectly illustrates this situation. It is a Scottish variety, and in its homeland usually considered a cooking apple. However, in the far south it will often ripen sufficiently to make a very pleasant eater.
In fact almost any apple is suitable for cooking before it is fully ripe. It is only the British who have bred such a range intended solely for cooking, whilst other countries consider all apples dual-purpose. Peasgood Nonsuch and Tom Putt are two other examples of apples that are probably being used for cooking now but later can be eaten raw. Rev. Wilkes, descended from Peasgood Nonsuch, is an early cooker that is probably now nearing the end of its season in most parts of the country. Whilst just coming into season is another cooker, Charles Ross.
Of the mid-season dessert apples that you might find at the moment are Ellison’s Orange, Lord Lambourne and Ribston Pippin – from which Cox’s Orange Pippin is decended. Clearly some choice, but it is true that the greatest depth of flavour will not arrive until the late-season apples are with us.