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Variety Spotlight - Winesap

There truly may not be a more important apple to the heritage of the United States than the humble Winesap. While the origins of this apple are unknown, written record provides evidence of this cultivar far back into the colonial period. It is primarily attributed to New Jersey, however, where it was recorded and described by Willich and Mease in 1804.

A surprising fact of this variety is that there are two different "strains" that affect the overall appearance of the apple. A "blushing" Winesap is one which is primarily red on the skin with a yellow-ish flesh. And while it shares a yellow-flesh with its sibling, the other strain is a "striped", as shown in the watercolor at left from the USDA Pomological Collection. In this strain, the red of the skin takes on a distinct striping that alternates with a mild yellow-gold.

But the appearance is not the only thing that is interesting about this fruit: It is also a great all-around apple for both cider and wine, but also as a culinary apple variety. In fact, despite its age, the apple remained popular right up into the 1950s when advances in refrigeration allowed other varieties to compete with it for shelf space year-round.

Winesap is a great apple for producing cider because of its high acidity and sweetness. In technical terms, Winesap would be considered a "sharp" but that also depends on the time of harvest. It can be combined with Liberty (which we've discussed earlier this month) if you're coming up shy of sharps, but would benefit from blending with Golden Delicious and Jonagold, all of which are readily available in Connecticut. Winesaps are typically ready for harvest in October, depending on the season, and are available at many different orchards including two of which also produce hard cider: Holmberg Orchards in Gales Ferry and Yankee Cider Company via Staehly Farms in East Haddam.

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