by Dwight Bradley
The Club’s annual tasting of Alaskan-grown apples was held on September 28, 1995 at the Bradleys in Peters Creek. Twenty-six different varieties were tasted, along with several duplicates. The clear favorite was Tom Marshall’s Oriole apple, followed by Parkland, Norland, Lodi, and Whitney Crab. Twenty tasters rated the apples for taste (not size, appearance, or cooking quality) on a scale of one (lowest) to ten. The average scores:
7-8. Parkland (grown by O’Brien)
6-7. Norland (grown by Bradley), Lodi, Norland (grown by O’Brien), Parkland (grown by Dearborn), Whitney Crab, Hugli Harris mystery apple, Novosibirski Sweet, Norland (grown by M. Green), Yellow Jay.
5-6. Golden Transparent (grown by Butcher), Tony Root mvstery apple, Rescue (grown by Bradley), Adanak, Viking, 8th&M mystery crab, 8th&M mystery apple, Red Transparent.
4-5. “Anoka or Rescue”, Heyer 12,15th&I mystery apple, Summerred, Rescue (unknown grower), Heyer 20, Westland, (grown by Franke), Wealthy, Westland (grown by Vochoska).
3-4. Mantet, 10th and E mystery apple
2-3. Helen Butcher mystery crab
As usual, Parkland and Norland were among the winners, reinforcing their reputation as always being reliable producers in south-central Alaska. Mantet, which was rated highest at our 1994 tasting, finished way back in the pack this year. I suspect that Mantet needs a summer more like 1994 (warm and sunny) and less like 1995 (cool and drizzly) to ripen to perfection. This was the first year that the 8th & M mystery apple (different from the 8th &M mystery crab) was tasted by the group as a whole. It was unripe and nowhere near as good as in 1994 when I first described it.
As I noted in my 1994 apple-tasting report, the ratings are usually based on a single apple, so there is a certain amount of luck involved. Summer apples (that is, everything grown in Alaska) are notorious for uneven quality. Quality depends on how long ago an apple was picked, how it was handled and stored between picking and eating, whether it grew in a sunny or shady spot on the tree, weather during the growing season, and any number of other factors. During September, I sampled Norland, Parkland, Rescue, Yellow Transparent, and Yellow Jay that I would have rated between 8 and 9, several points higher than I rated the particular specimens that someone happened to bring to the tasting. The tasting was held about a week later than in 1994, and, despite the generally poor summer weather, there were fewer grossly underripe apples.
It should be emphasized that fresh eating is not the only basis for judging apple quality. Westland, for instance, is a giant, sour apple that usually rates fairly low for fresh eating, but it makes fantastic pies. Similarly, the various small crabs usually don’t score too well in apple tastings but many of them make great jellies.
At the end of the evening we pressed about a half-gallon of sweet cider from the leftovers and surplus apples. It was excellent.
Linda Billington of the Anchorage Daily News reported the event, the second straight year for this sort of publicity.