Posted by: A Part of the Solution | January 15, 2011

Gone on Calville Blanc d’Hiver

I have this problem. I’m like one of those princes in a fairy tale who fall in love with a picture and the reputation of beautiful, far-off, sight-unseen princesses. I’m confessing to my conceiving of deep-rooted, well-reasoned passions for varieties of fruits and vegetables I’ve never tasted or even seen in the flesh. Most especially the Calville Blanc d’Hiver apple.

As the administrative branch of the farm staff, I get an idea of the space allotment and time and labor allocations for each of the classes of a fruit or a vegetable from the person who heads operations. Then I go hog wild on the interweb, with multiple catalogs open comparing identical varietals and similar-yet-unique offerings characteristic of the top four or five organic seed catalog people.

I began building our apple orchard when I ordered Black Twig (a variant of Arkansas Black and good for cider as well as eating), Esopus Spitzenburg (though I’d said having thought about it they seemed a lot of trouble, and I wouldn’t), Grimes Golden (medium suitable for everything, but it will pollinate darned near anything), Northern Spy–one of the ultimate pie apples, and Summer Rambo (good out of hand and in a sauce) to extend the apple season here from July through to January when the properly stored Spitzenburgs have developed their full flavor.

Now we’re looking to getting a lot more trees, apples and other fruits altogether, into the ground in the spring. I’m thinking about Cox Orange Pippen for it’s outstanding flavor. And I’m thinking about Lady Apples, since their compact size and outstanding flavor make them ideal for certain commercial preparations. I want Sops of Wine to fill in the August ripening slot. On my wishlist, though it is no means certain I can obtain them, I would dearly love to see Ashmead’s Kernel take its place in our orchard. And of course, the Calville Blanc d’Hiver.

This unassuming greenish, russeted apple with unevenly formed lobes and little blush has a remarkable flavor. The Calville Blanc d’Hiver (meaning Winter White, possibly for its long keeping qualities and its snowy interior)  is thought to come from Normandy and to have originated in the 16th century. Saying an apple comes from Normandy is like saying a blue crab comes from the Chesapeake Bay. This is the most notable apple producing region in France (Calvados, the great apple brandy, comes from Normandy as well).

The Calville Blanc d’Hiver was the preferred culinary apple in the bakeries of Paris for several centuries. It’s flavor is described as ‘effervescent’, but it deepens and mellows when the apple is stored. And the Calville Blanc d’Hiver is the apple of which Auguste Escoffier was thinking when he recorded the word ‘apple,’ or ‘pomme’ if you will, in his cornerstone work.

So for all the classicists out there, who want to know what a Tarte Tatin would be like when baked with the original apple; for those who want an apple with enough vitamin C that it will hold its color during prep; for those who want an apple which speaks to antiquity and the modern passion for varietal authenticity: I give you the Calville Blanc d’Hiver

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Responses

  1. Dag nabbit, now I want one, too! Like, right now. But I’m psyched you’re going to have Lady Apples – they’re so yummy.

    • Absolutely they are, as well as being a really, REALLY cute size. And sometimes size matters in high-end cuisine.

  2. It is the finest apple. The abundant crop of 2010 was even in stores local to New Berlin, WI, and I made two grafts of it from Weston’s Antique Orchards there. I saved those two trees when I lost everything else, so that one day I will have my own.

  3. Hi! I have also fallen in love with Calville Blanc d’Hiver. I have access to a very old tree (150 years) whose apples fit the description and the details and photos of Calville more than any other apple I can find on the heritage sites. The smell is amazing and the taste surpasses any apple I have tasted for cooking, including Bramley.
    I love this apple so much I have propagated it and now have a small tree in my garden growing successfully. I am studying a degree in Art Practice and have even made my most recent project all about this wonderful apple. I am currently throwing ceramic bottles like those that would have held Calvados in the 1800’s. I am thinking it is too much of a coincidence that Calville and Calvados are similar words, yours is the first site I have found that links them.
    You seem like an interesting character! Hi from Wales UK!

    • Given that the Calville is a native of Normandy, as is Calvados, you’re probably spot on about the etymology link. And you’re doing the right thing with your propagation. They’re quite rare here in the US of A, and there aren’t many apple tree sellers (I’ve found two) bringing them along. Enjoy yours, and remember they’re EVEN BETTER after they’ve sat for a month in your cellar aging in!

  4. All of the varieties mentioned in your post can be ordered early from http://www.westonapples.com/ . Ken Weston personally grafts them. He has many producing Calville Blanc trees at the bottom of his hill that don’t always make enough quantity to market, but when I asked he guided me to them to pick what I wanted. I have two bench grafts from those trees.

    • Yaay! Calville from a good source


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