There are quite a few apple varieties that are traditionally used for cider. Here are profiles of several that are suitable for home orchards.
This spreading, irregularly shaped tree is medium in height. Susceptible to canker and scab, it is harder to grow than some varieties. It bears a good crop each year. Kingston Black requires regular pruning to keep its shape. Hardy to zone four, this blooms mid-season. The origins of this fall variety are uncertain. This English apple originated in Somerset, England in the early 19th century, perhaps 1820 or so.
This is one of the bittersharp cider varieties with a high tannin and high acid content. The medium sized, conical fruits have a sweet, sharp, bitter flavor. Ripening in mid-September to mid-October, these have red to yellow-orange skins. They’re medium sized. These are aromatic with a sweet-acid flavor and a noticeable astringent aftertaste. This can be used for a vintage cider without blending it with others. The full bodied cider has a distinctive rich flavor and is rich bodied.
In addition to being great for cider, this apple is versatile enough for eating fresh.
This is an old French hard cider variety that is also popular in England. A medium sized tree with excellent yields, this has a somewhat spreading growth habit. The trees bear heavy crops.
The fruits ripen in early to mid-September. It is one of the full bittersweets with a high tannin and low acid content. The medium to large, conical fruits are yellow. These are soft and tender. They tend to bruise easily. These have a soft white flesh. These ripen uniformly over a short period, about 1½ weeks or so. This makes a wonderful high quality cider with a full body and a pleasing fruity astringent flavor.
Also called Taylor’s Sweet, this apparently originated in Somerset, England. It was popularly grown as a mild bittersweet cider apple. The fruits are often borne on the tips of the branches. These ripen in early October. The trees are moderately vigorous. It is grown as a pollinator for Tremlett’s Bitter.
The fruits are yellow green with red. The cider is good quality. This also makes a sweet tasting juice. The fruits have low tannin, low acid, and moderate sugar content.