According to specialtyproduce.com the Cortland apple was developed in 1898 by Professor S.A. Beach at Cornell University’s New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, New York. The name Cortland most likely comes from Cortland County, New York, a county close to the Geneva Experiment Station. The apple was first distributed in 1915. Over the next decade it quickly became one of the more popularly produced apples in New York State and won many awards including the Wilder medal of the American Pomological Society. Today, the Cortland apple ranks as the 12th most commercially produced apple in the US. Cortland trees are known for their ability to thrive in cold weather and can be found growing in apple growing regions on the east coast, Washington State, Oregon, and Quebec and Ontario in Canada. They are also grown in France and Poland.
Given the favorable attributes of McIntosh apples, plant breeders began crossing it with other varieties to enhance its traits. One of the earliest was the ‘Cortland’. It combines the sweet flavor of the McIntosh with the cold hardiness of its other parent, Ben Davis. As a result, its flavor is sweet compared to McIntosh and its white flesh is resistant to browning. Their crisp, finely grained white flesh is exceptionally juicy with a sharp, sweet-tart, vinous flavor. Cortland apples are medium to large in size, and often rather flat in shape. They are bright red and covered with dark red streaks; often they are capped with a green blush.
The Cortland is perfect for use in fresh apple preparations because it is extremely slow to brown when cut. So, it is the choice of chiefs for fruit salads and is slice thin for sandwiches, burgers, and quesadillas. It is used in lieu of crackers and paired with sweet and savory dips or flavorful cheeses. But it also shines in cooked preparations–bake into cakes, tarts, cobbler, quiche and galettes, or slow cook to make soups, sauces, and preserves. And they also make excellent cider and juice apples. Unfortunately, they do not store very will and are best eaten soon after harvest.