Today I am taking a look at a classic American apple - the Jonathan. It has been around since the 1800s. It's origin is sort of a mystery. Either Rachel Negus Higley and Esopus Spitzenburg discovered the tree and named it after someone named Jonathan. Whoever discovered it help create a long lasting legacy. This popular apple is easy to find in any grocery store during apple season. It also has been the parent of many different apple varieties including the Jonagold, a mix of Jonathan and Golden Delicious. The Jonathan is typically harvested in mid-September to mid-October, right in the heart of apple season.
My Experience with this Apple (Rating Scale 1-10)
Tartness : 7
Apple Flavor: 6
Overall Feeling: I like Jonathans for baking. They have enough tartness to balance out the sweetness of any baked good. They don't turn to applesauce when baked. They have a good amount of flavor and are average in crispiness and juiciness. I don't really consider these to be out of hand eating apples. It's too tart for me to just eat and so many other apples have a better texture than the Jonathan. Of course you can just bite into any apple, however I think the Jonathan shines the best in pies and cobblers.
I have not been able to find jonathan apples this holiday season. They are the one I make pies for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. What has happened that they are so scarce?
I must disagree with you about the Jonathan's suitability as an "eating" apple. Having grown up in what was at the time the heart of Michigan apple country, on a fruit and dairy farm, Jonathan apples remain today as my favorite apple for eating and baking. You have quite correctly pegged the Jonathan in every way in your description above. I just prefer a tart apple for eating! The Jonathan comes in just enough sweeter than a Granny Smith to be the superb, tart, fresh "eating" apple of all time. Now if I could only find some for sale! I won't buy Galas or Honeycrisps, as they are only pretenders to the real, original, tart, crisp eating apple. Thanks for keeping my memories fresh!
Jonathans are a variety that is grown mainly in the midwest. States like Michigan experienced one of the worst crops of apples in the last 50 years. Jonathans were especially hit hard. The store I work at never could get any and we are known for having the most varieties in town. I did some some good pie apples available but not really anymore at this point. You might be stuck with using Granny Smith or Braeburns since those are widely grown in Washington and shipped across the country.
Totally agree with Navy Flyer. Love eating Jonathan apples! Grew up in Illinois and every fall we would go to a pick your own orchard and get bushels of Jonathans. Live in Colorado now and they are hard to find. Total bummer as nothing else I have tried comes close.
They seem to be only here in the midwest.
When I was a kid in California, my mom, who moved here from Kansas before I was born, used to get huge boxes of Jonathan apples every year from a local market and make the best apple crisp ever. Their flavor is a bit cinnamon even when you're just eating them straight (which we did all the time) so they're great for baking or simmering up with some pork chops.
Now that I'm an adult, Jonathan apples are an incredibly rare find. They are never for sale at the grocery store; I can only ever find the much inferior Jonagolds that taste like nothing and turn to mush before I can do anything with them. My mother's recipe simply doesn't taste the same with any other apple (Honeycrisps come close in tartness, but their flavor lacks the cinnamon of the Jonathans). I thought they'd been completely replaced with newer varieties until I found an apple seller at the local farmer's market in the fall who had a small box of them among his other varieties.
Now I have my own Jonathan apple tree in my garden (bought online as a bare-root tree from Trees of Antiquity), so that I can have a ready source of them for my own children someday.
Thanks for sharing your story. I have heard so many like yours. I am fortunate that for me here in Ann Arbor, Michigan - Jonathan are easy to get during the fall.
Billie Lee Hatch
Jonathan apples are the best of them all. I'm aWashingtonian and when I was growing up my Mom loved Jonathan and we had them on hand when ever they were available. Now you can not find them in the state. I live in Snohomish county and even went to a apple barn next to I-5, a place that is known for its in season apples. The lady there didn't even know what a Jonathan was.
Moving from Missouri to Texas left me longing for Jonathan apples more than I can state. You just don't find apples as great as Jonathan here. We use to drive back to Missouri to buy Jonathan apples by the bushel but can"t do that anymore. Should of stayed in Missouri !
I spent eight years in Michigan, while growing up in the 70s. When we lived north of Grand Rapids, we had an old untended Jonathan apple orchard in our front yard. I used to climb the trees and pick them off to eat. I still consider them to be the best tasting apples, bar none. Earlier this month I visited relatives in Michigan and bought a bag of Jonathan apples from a cider mill. I'm down to my last two! Anyhow, I wanted to tell about a variety I just discovered that actually tastes very similar raw. I haven't tried cooking them yet. SweeTango is currently in Trader Joe's. For those of you who can't get Jonathan apples to munch on, these will satisfy.
Jonathans and underripe Golden Delicious are my favorite eating apples. Wouldn't think of wasing either in a pie. If eaten fresh, texture is as good as any other apple, in my opinion, but obviously opinions vary.