My very best apple memories are of going to my cousins' house to help them with their apple harvest. They live in Harvard, Massachusetts and own a two-hundred+ year old apple orchard. They used to be a "pick your own" operation that also made and sold apple cider every year. My mother and I would go out to help them by gathering the drops and feeding them into the cider mill, which we hand cranked. We filled the jugs directly from the mill and sold them just like that. No pasteurization or anything. And that stuff was like the elixir of life. I have never tasted anything like it. We would put half gallon jugs in the freezer to take out through the year as a special treat. And boy, was it.
It took me a while to figure out why I would never taste anything like their apples or apple cider anywhere else. There was the lack of pasteurization, of course, which you can't avoid these days. Also, they always said that their apples were MacIntosh, but they were not like any MacIntosh apple you could get at a store. That is because they were technically heirloom apples http://www.tomsofmaine.com/apple/heirloom/default.asp since they were from trees that were so, so old and nothing like the twenty or so varieties today that have been bred for looks, tranportability and shelf life. Like Red Delicious. Have you ever had anything less delicious? Yuck.
The only place I have heard of around here that grows heirloom apples is Sand Hill Berries in Mt. Pleasant, PA. I will be asking about their availability tomorrow at the East Liberty Market, but in the meantime, the next best thing (which everyone and their next door neighbor raves about -- just do a Google search) is the HoneyCrisp apple.
The HoneyCrisp apple was developed by the University of Minnesota in 1960 as a hybrid between Macoun and honeygold. They have been steadily gaining popularity and I am not the only person to have "discovered" this apple. It is so crunchy, juicy and sweet, it will be your favorite too. The best place I have found to get them is at the Saturday market at the East Liberty Farmer's Cooperative. Kistaco Farm (in Apollo, PA) sells a peck for $8.00. Buy a peck. Maybe two. Keep them in the refrigerator. They will stay juicy and sweet in there for weeks.