The Rome apple goes by many names including ‘Red Rome,’ ‘Rome Beauty’ ‘Gillett’s Seedling’ but to bakers, it is often called ‘Baker’s Buddy’ or ‘Queen of the Baking Apple.’
The Rome apple has a few stories associated with how it came to be but the story seems to be given the most credence is that in 1817 Joel Gillet found a seedling in an apple shipment from a nursery that was different than all the other seedlings.
He gave it to his son saying, “Here’s a Democrat, you may have this one.” His son planted and nurtured the tree along the banks of the Ohio River, where it produced beautiful red apples, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Since the apple was planted in Rome Township, it was renamed the Rome Beauty in 1832 to honor the township. The original tree that was planted survived well into the 1850’s until it was felled by river bank erosion. Today Proctorville, Ohio considers itself the “Home of the Rome Beauty Apple.”
The flavor is a bit subtle and is not as sweet, or tart, or fancy as some other varieties which is why it is primarily used for baking. The Rome holds its shape well, and the flavor of the apple is enhanced when cooked.
Rome apples are a choice apple when making baked apples, as they will retain their round shape even when hollowed, stuffed and baked. Try in both savory and sweet cooked preparations.
Chop and add Rome apples to stuffing and quiche or roast alongside meat and root vegetables. They can also be diced and added to pancake batter or used as a filling for tarts. Rome apples can be slow cooked and pureed to make sauces and soups or fried as slices and served as a side dish. Rome apples pair well with pork chops, Italian sausage, poultry, pecans, currants, raisins, cinnamon, and maple syrup.
They will keep for a couple of months when stored in a cool, dry, and dark place.