High Sugar Cider Apple Favorites

Hey Everyone,

Part of our new 27 acre edible forest project is a paddock of cider apples that I’m organizing to plant next year. I’m settled on Bitter and Acid and traditional varietals but I want to survey cider makers on the forum who’ve had personal experience with desert apple/high Brix apples they use to get a quality fermentable sugar level that also add unique characteristics.

What are your favorite eating apples to ferment into cider (cider blends)?

-Kevin

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Golden russet is an obligatory answer to this question.
Newtown Pippin makes a quality and distinctive cider among dessert fruits (to my tastes). A few cideries make a single variety Newtown Pippin that you can get to evaluate. I prefer it to Wickson, which also is high brix and you can find in single variety for evaluation.

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Haven’t tried it yet, but I’d think Frostbite.

Are some of the other suggestions actually ‘high sugar’/ such as Harrison?

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I’ve seen the praises of Golden Russet sung everywhere with regards to cider making. I ordered two trees to put in.
I’ve also heard good things about Belle de Boskoop.

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Golden Russet is also my favorite apple to eat and I’m told they’re good for drying.

I’ve read that Newtown Pippin is the principal variety in Martinelli’s sparkling cider.

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Where are you located? If fireblight is a concern you may want to avoid many of the European cider varieties. I have several varieties I’ve planted or topworked specifically for cider (American and European), but only in the last couple years, so can’t really comment on the quality of fruit yet because I haven’t gotten any!

But here are the varieties I’m trialing and I think are worth considering: Harrison, Hewe’s crab, Dabinett, Baldwin, Northern Spy, Campfield, Ellis Bitter, Dolgo crab, Golden Russet, Stayman Winesap, and Major.

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I second Golden Russet is a great eating and drying apple. Probably my personal favorite.

Because i like it so much, i may try a single variety cider once i have enough to devote to that.

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South Hill Cider in Ithaca has now introduced a line of single varietal ciders. Golden Russet, Ashmead’s Kernel, Baldwin, Newtown Pippin, plus cider varieties Kingston Black and Porter’s Perfection. Some are still and some are sparkling. Looking forward to tasting several of them, but haven’t yet. I’ve heard good reviews of Golden Russet and Baldwin.

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I’m in 5b Onondaga County, Central New York State. There’s the possibility of fire blight here but I’ve yet to experience it (where’s my wood to knock on)

We’ve ordered 2/3 of the varieties you mentioned and so very glad to be on the same page as other cider makers here.

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South Hill Cider is a 60 mile drive from me. I’m definitely going to head down there to sample. Thanks so much for that recommendation.

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I’d recommend just about any russet for cider, they are all pretty great and come with varying amount of acidity. Roxbury is a really good one to go with the obligatory Golden Russet. Pumpkin Russet aka Sweet Russet is very low acidity which is useful for blending. Ashmede’s Kernal is more of a sharp bit very high sugar content. Chestnut Crab has some similar qualifies to russets, annually productive, high Brix and ripens a month earlier. Spitzenburg, Baldwin, N Spy, Blue Pearmain are some all purpose heirlooms I like that have plenty of sugar. I’d also encourage you to grow some actual “sweet” or low acid varieties, like Tolman, they are great for blending and to balance out the more acidic additions. Finally, don’t forget bittersweets…

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I would like to add Calville Blanc to the list. It is a superb baking cooking apple that is also excellent in cider. Also Harrison as well. It is a traditional Americian cider apple for fermenting but the fresh juice has an amazing flavor so I may not have much left for hard cider. Gold Rush is disease resistant and makes a good single varietal.

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I am wondering what rootstocks you’ve decided on for the trees? I’m in zone 3/4 Montana, and found my first year B-118 outperformed the Antonovka rootstocks, but it may be that the B-118 had better root systems to begin with…and maybe they’ll catch up next year(?) I began my first year (last year) with some Geneva 890, 210, and EMLA 106, but the 210 performed very poorly, the 106 I learned isn’t that cold-hardy, and the 890 just not big enough. I switched everything this second year, and “plan B” is the standard-sized cold-hardy Russian rootstocks, as the larger trees–once established–will require less maintenance and protection from wildlife.

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This year Kingston Black was just amazing, I highly recommend it. It’s a little apple just packed with flavor. I also vote for Roxbury Russet, both very high sugar and complex.

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I’m going to use M111 primarily because I’ve had success with it in our clay loam even during the spring thaw when things can stay swampy for a week or so.

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