The 2014 Stayman Winesap, Plus a Correction
First a correction. The early editions of yesterday's post about the Lafayette Seminar stated the wrong location for the "Thinking Big" panel this Thursday night, October 9, at 5:30. That panel takes place at the W.T. Young Library Auditorium & Gallery on UK's campus, and is followed by a Kentucky Proud reception. Hat tip KB and CC.
Not long ago, I didn't have many favorite apples. Nothing came even close to my passion for Stayman Winesaps. The brilliant orchardry at Reed Valley Orchard has changed that. Now I adore Earligold (early, of course) for fine, smooth applesauce, and Honey Crisp in August, and Russets, Mutsu and Grimes Golden in September, and Gold Rush in October (and on for many months, thanks to cool storage.)
Each year now I wonder whether the first Stayman Winesap I eat can possibly be as revelatory, as magical, as stupendous as in the past. Can it really be so magical that it actually serves as a major marker of the year, like first katydid, first frost, first snow?
Yes, it can. This year my first Stayman Winesap came very late, into October, and I feared it would be mushy already—that's this fine old breed's bad habit, as I see it, though old folks when I was growing up liked the Winesaps even after they "mellowed."
I usually just bite in but decided to use a knife this year. The first push-and-yield through the thick, rough skin and taut flesh suggested the crunch to come. And the flavor? More than I remembered. More layers, more mouth-filling, more wonderful. Better than I thought it could be. It's reassuring that a single fine fruit from the border of Harrison and Bourbon Counties can astonish me again, year after year.
Did the season have too much rain or too little? Too much sun or not enough? It doesn't seem to matter. Stayman Winesap: my favorite among favorites.
Reed Valley Orchard held the popular annual Country Festival last Saturday, and so missed coming to the Lexington Farmers Market. That would have been cause for unhappiness in the past, but Ed Raggard of Raggard Creekside Farm had a few Reed varieties for sale at the Market. And these days Good Foods Co-op offers so many Reed fruits—including Stayman Winesap—that my apple basket holds enough for this week.
If you prefer another apple—perhaps the popular Gala or Jonathan—we can still be friends. I recognize that Winesaps taste like home to me: Wayne County, old folks, aunts and uncles, fall, fires in the fireplace and cook stove and coal grate, school carnivals, hayrides, and Dad's specially carved "apple puzzle" that I never learned to replicate. It's hard for any apple other than one loved in childhood to bring all that to life.
A couple of tips: Gold Rush apples, soon to appear, keep until next summer if you put them (unwashed) in sealed plastic bags and keep them in a cool place. And any apples you have from a local orchard will likely make good applesauce, or you can dry them for winter snacks with little effort. Right now, though, we in central Kentucky are having Apple Glory Days. Savoring Kentucky thanks all of Kentucky's apple growers for these wondrous fruits.
And a bonus for reading to the end: The Lexington Herald-Leader recently loved on Reed Valley Orchard with two stories:
and this one amazed me: Bushel by bushel, 74 year old enjoys picking apples