Sunday, November 13, 2011

Calville Blanc d'Hiver (Calville Blanche)

This legendary French pastry apple is not really for eating out of hand. But eat we must.

Calville is a large medium (or small large) apple with pronounced, even exaggerated, ribbing. It is yellow tinged with green and there is a partial blush over perhaps a quarter if the peel. Large green lenticels are prominent though not in the blush. In hand the unbroken fruit feels firm and solid and smells of pear and bananas.

Inside Calville Blanc is a light yellow with a tender crunch, fine-grained and dense. Its flavor balance tilts slightly to the tart but there is sweetness too, to frame pear flavors with a hint of banana in the finish. There are also some unusual salty, mineral notes.

For a cooking apple this is not bad, but Calville does not shine for eating, though he rewards the attentive taster with some unusual flavors. It may take an oven to unlock these tastes fully.

If it's wasteful to eat rather than cook one of these, I have erred twice, for I had another sample and ate it too. Since No. 2 was from a different orchard in a different state I thought it would give me especially good "coverage" to taste both.

Just doing my job. But next year if I'm fortunate enough to get a few of these perhaps I will assay a tarte aux pommes.

The second sample was crisper and generally better textured. I could imagine it surviving the oven quite well.

It was also more tart, astringent, and acid, its flavors more tightly wound. The banana was a little more prominent and there was a faint hint of lemon chiffon.

As you can see Calville No. 2 had the extreme lobed ribbing that this variety sometimes exhibits. It comes from a very-minimal-spray orchard and has many of the usual blemishes--a right gnarly specimen all around, beautiful in its way.

Public-domain image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Claude Monet liked the look of these too. Here they are in his Still Life with Apples and Grapes.

Callville Blanc d'Hiver originated in the early 16th century, some say in Normandy. By the time Monet executed his still life the apple had certainly spread to every corner of France. Today it remains the correct apple for the traditional tart.

So is there a white Calville of summer? Yes, as it turns out, and a rouge d'hiver too.

5 comments:

  1. Yes, not only a Calville Blanc d'Été, but a Calville Malingre for all you malingerers! Thanks for the link, it was great to read about all the Calvilles d'Saisons.

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  2. I have just purchased two Calville Blanc d'Hiver for my small orchard. Can you please tell me how long it will take before the tree will bear fruit. The tree I am buying (bareroot) is three years old. Thank you so much. Was just in Monet's house this past October. His small apple cordons were fruiting.

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    1. Alas, my expertise (if that is what it is) is limited to eating apples, not growing them. (A tough job, but someone, you know, must do it.) Sorry!

      You might try your state's agricultural extension service or equivalent program for advice.

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  3. Anon, it largely depends on the root stock. Calville is slow to bear in general, so on standard rootstock it could take seven years or more. On fully dwarfing rootstock it could start bearing within two or three seasons. Bareroot that is three year's old may be trickier to transplant (due to loss of root system), but if successfully planted, the tree should reach first fruiting sooner.

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    1. What John said. (And thank you, Mr. H., for helping out!)

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