The best apples should appeal to all the human senses. Winesap apples should be round and shiny, not dull, due to their natural wax coating and have a rosy-red blush covering most of the skin, with some greenish coloring. When pressed, the apple should be smooth and firm and have unbroken, unblemished skin without brown spots. The flavor of a winesap apple is primarily tart, with a touch of sweetness and a crisp and juicy texture. Winesap apples should smell fragrant and sweet without any mustiness.
These apples are ideal for snacking, but are also very popular for cooking, baking, and juicing due to their tartness and smooth texture when pureed. One of the reasons for this apple’s staying power is its flexibility. While many apples are best suited to a particular purpose, like snacking, baking, or juicing, winesap apples are equally suited to all purposes. If winesaps are too tart for snacking, another variety, Stayman winesap apples, are slightly sweeter than the winesaps from which they were cultivated. They have overtaken much of the apple market for winesaps, although winesaps have a pleasant, old-fashioned flavor.
If apples are being purchased for fresh eating, firmness and a pleasantly sweet smell are very important. When apples are being purchased for making apple cider or baking, then a slightly mushy, overripe apple is fine, provided it does not smell musty, which may indicate mold growth. If overripe apples are purchased, they should be used promptly or refrigerated in plastic bags to prevent them from further ripening.
Some people who purchase tart apples like winesap apples for baking or juicing mix in a smaller amount of sweeter or aromatic varieties for a more complex flavor. As winesaps tend to be tart, the sweetness softens the bite of the apple. This is especially true for making apple cider. Stayman winesaps will lend a tartness, while the addition of aromatic, astringent, and sweet sub-acid varieties of apples will round out the flavor.
The freshest, best-tasting winesap apples tend to be at the local farmer’s market. It’s not uncommon to find that the apples are being sold by the farmer who picked them the same morning. Local farmers tend to use fewer chemicals than commercial apple harvesters, who often grow apples for color, not flavor. Buying at a farmer’s market also ensures that the apples are bought while in season, which results in better-tasting, fresher apples. Under normal circumstances, heirloom apple varieties like winesap apples that are picked when firm will keep for several months when stored properly.