The Unsung Jonagold Apple

The apple orchard makes a distinctive contribution to fall foliage at Wellwood Orchards, Springfield, Vermont. (Russell Steven Powell photo)
The apple orchard makes a distinctive contribution to fall foliage at Wellwood Orchards, Springfield, Vermont. (Russell Steven Powell)
Jonagold apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)
Jonagold apple (Bar Lois Weeks)

JONAGOLD is a bit of a mystery, more popular around the globe than here in the United States, where it was developed. Jonagold is an exceptional apple in flavor, texture, and appearance, but Americans have not yet embraced it in on a large scale. A relatively new variety (1968) named for its parents, perhaps Jonagold is compromised by an unexciting brand identity compared to such new entries as Honeycrisp (1991), Jazz (2004), and SweeTango (2009).

Whatever the reason, Jonagold ranks just 15th in popularity among varieties grown in the United States, sandwiched between Cortland at number 14 and Cameo at 16. Jonagold is much more popular in Canada, Japan, and Europe than in America, especially Belgium, where — like McIntosh in New England — Jonagold accounts for about two-thirds of the apple crop. It is the third most popular variety in Canada. Worldwide (excluding China), Jonagolds rank sixth in production.

Whatever the reasons Jonagold has lagged behind in the land in which it was developed, it is such a flavorful apple that it seems only a matter of time before Americans catch up with the rest of the world. Jonagold is an aromatic apple, sweet with a hint of tartness. It is very juicy, with a crisp, clean crunch reminiscent of Honeycrisp.

Jonagold’s color is variable, but at its best it is a stunning combination of its parents, the rich, red Jonathan, and Golden Delicious. Its flesh is light yellow. A good all-purpose apple, Jonagold’s exceptional juiciness and flavor make it well-regarded for both fresh and hard cider.

Jonagold was developed at Cornell University’s New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, New York, in 1943, and introduced commercially in 1968. Both of Jonagold’s parents have been prolific: Jonathan is the parent of more than 70 named offspring, Golden Delicious 25.

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Bishop's Orchard, Guilford, Connecticut (Russell Steven Powell photo)
Bishop’s Orchard, Guilford, Connecticut (Russell Steven Powell)

COUNT WINTER SQUASH among the many vegetables that pair well with apples. The apple’s versatility is further featured in a stuffing that can be used with eggplant, mushrooms, onions, tomatoes, or zucchini as well as with poultry and seafood.

Both recipes come from Janet M. Christensen’s and Betty Bergman Levin’s Apple Orchard Cookbook, Second Edition (Countryman Press, 2010).

Baked Stuffed Acorn Squash

3 acorn squash

3 Jonagold or other New England apple, unpeeled

3/4 c nut meats (optional)

1/4 c melted butter

1/2 c maple syrup or honey

Cut squash in halves and scoop out seeds. Dice apples and combine with nuts.

Place squash in a baking pan. Divide apple-nut mixture among the six squash halves. Drizzle butter and syrup or honey over each.

Add hot water to 1/2-inch depth. Cover pan loosely with foil. Bake at 400°F for 45 minutes, or until squash is tender.

All-Purpose Apple Stuffing

1 c Italian-flavored breadcrumbs

1 Jonagold or other New England apple, chopped

1 c hot water

2 T olive oil

Mix together breadcrumbs, apple, hot water, and olive oil.

Brush vegetables with 2 T olive oil before stuffing.

Eggplant or zucchini: Halve and scoop out centers, chop the remains and add to stuffing mixture.

Mushrooms: Break off and chop stems, and add to stuffing mixture.

Onions: Halve large onions and remove their centers; set onion shells aside. Chop onion centers and add to stuffing mixture.

Tomatoes: Remove inner part of tomato, chop, and add to stuffing mixture.

Baked stuffed vegetables at 350°F for about 40 minutes. Bake poultry or seafood according to your usual procedure.

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Chapin Orchard, Essex Junction, Vermont (Russell Steven Powell photo)
Chapin Orchard, Essex Junction, Vermont (Russell Steven Powell)

THIS WEEKEND is the 18th Annual CiderDays in Franklin County, Massachusetts. The two-day event Saturday, November 3, and Sunday, November 4, draws hard cider-makers and aficionados from around the country.

Many of CiderDays’ events are already sold out, but there is still time to join the festivities.

Visit CiderDays for more information and a schedule.

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America's Apple by Russell Steven PowellAPPLE DRINKS merit an entire chapter in America’s Apple, a new book by Russell Steven Powell with photographs by Bar Lois Weeks.

Several of the makers of fresh, hard, and ice cider from last year’s CiderDays are featured, including Boston’s Harpoon Brewery, makers of a commercial hard cider, and the artisanal Eden Ice Cider of West Charleston, Vermont.