This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V24", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
A lady writes as follows: "In an article on Biffins in the May number of your magazine (culled from the London Gardener's Magazine), I was surprised to see the word Biffin spelled 'Beefing. Surely this is an error. My recollections of Norfolk Biffins date from nearly sixty years ago, when a child in England. An old friend of my father's sent him yearly, as a Christmas offering from his home in Norwich (Norfolk), a box of Biffins, which box being opened with much ceremony (after the usual Christmas dinner), displayed layers of dark purplish cakes, about an inch and a half in thickness, and from eight to ten inches in diameter; every layer was separated by paper. The skin of these Biffins was glistening and moist, the inside resembling a rich, dark preserve. Chambers' Encyclopaedia gives the word as Beaufin - or Biffin".
[When making an extract, it is of course necessary to give the orthography as used. As to the correct orthography, we have never been able to satisfy ourselves as to the origin and meaning or the proper way of spelling the name. The writer of this is familiar with it for forty years, and it was then in the list as "Beefing." "Beaufin" would indicate a French origin, but there is no such apple in any old French list. The description of an old French kind, "Coeur de boeuf," which we may translate as "ox-heart," is very much like that of the " Beefing," but the writer has never had the opportunity of examining this apple. If it were certainly a French apple, one might look for some such name as a Beef-heart, or beef something or another, as a sort of translation of the French name. As to " Beau-fin," it is hardly likely Frenchmen would give it this name, as "beau" and " fin" have exactly the same meaning as we understand them. One old author writes the name "Norfolk Bceufin," as if he had the French for beef in mind. The earliest writer, we find, who refers to this apple, is Thomas Hitt, who wrote in the beginning of the last century.
In the text he calls it the Baffin apple, but as the French apple - Pomrne-gris is written in the same work Pomme Gree, we must not look on him as an authority in orthography.
Forsyth, in 1781, seems the first to use the word "Beaufin," and this is followed by Lind-ley in his " Guide to the Orchard," but without any other reason that we can see. One hundred years ago it was written by various persons Norfolk Beefing, Lincolnshire Beefing, Yorkshire Beefing, Catshead Beaufin, and Read's Baker - the numerous names at that time seeming to indicate that its history had even then been lost.
From all these considerations it seems very difficult to get at the correct term. Perhaps some of our European contemporaries, with a better command of reference books than we can have at this distance, may be able to settle the question.
Since the above was written, we have the following note from Mr. Downing :
" ' The name of this apple is sometimes written Beaufin, as if of French origin; but it is more correctly Beefing, from the similarity the dried fruit presents to beef.' - (Hogg).
"These Beefins, or Biffins, may do very well for Englishmen, but the Americans prefer canned or dessicated or evaporated fruits, and the Fall Pippin, for this purpose, is much superior to Norfolk Beaufin". - Ed. G. M].