10 Nov

Political Apples

Okay, so. Big delay in the apple article, I know. Weird stuff. Igor emailed me about three weeks ago and informed me that some readers had complained that my articles seemed too politically left-leaning and that as a result, they’d be postponing my column until after the election.

I thought about retorting with a poorly-conceived slam on how people stupid enough to vote for McCain didn’t deserve to be educated on apples anyway; I also came up with a list of the five most Republican apples and considered urging Igor to “print this and see what they say!” But in the end, I just decided to go about my weekly taste-tests and finish out the season with some solid reviews that I could submit after November 4th. Well, that time has come, my friends.

The late October picks:

When I’m at parties meeting new people who ask me what I do, I first tell them I’m between jobs. Then, just as their faces are clearly registering their surprise, I say, “Just kidding. Actually, I write a column about apples.” The surprise doesn’t go away; it just changes character a little.

Eventually, though, most people say something about their favorite apple; the vast majority these days proclaim their love for Honeycrisps. How I respond to them depends on my mood. Sometimes I say, “Yeah, they recently ran DNA tests on the Honeycrisp and found that its parents weren’t the Macoun and Honeygold as previously thought but were rather the Keepsake and some mystery apple.” That reply usually kills any conversation pretty effectively and allows me to get back to eating cocktail wieners and water chestnuts wrapped in bacon.

If I’m not feeling antisocial, though, I may reply to their Honeycrisp admiration with a simple, “Honeycrisp? Never heard of it.” That opens the floodgates.

You know what’s funny? The Keepsake is actually much better than the Honeycrisp. Actually, lots of apples are much better than the Honeycrisp, but I don’t tell people that. I let them gush over their favorite fruits since it’s only fair. After all, that’s what I do once a week here at Apple Enthusiast.

This week, I’ve got ten new apples to talk about, but I’m only going to gush over a few of them.

Since I already mentioned the Keepsake, let’s start sweet. I’ve been thinking about my desert island apples and, given my bias against sweet apples, I’m wondering if maybe I should create a separate list for sweet apples, so I’m working toward compiling a “Desert Isle Apples: Sweet Edition.”

Half of this week’s apples were sweet ones. The Keepsake, which is a pleasant sugary apple with maybe a tinge of honey, would make my special edition of desert isle apples. But by far my favorite sweet apple yet – and one I may even put on my actual desert isle list – is the Mutsu (also known as the Crispin). The Mutsu is a green apple, which originated in Japan and blows my “green = sour” pre-conceptions out of the water. It’s perfect sweetness (not honey); it’s juicy, somewhat effervescent, and it gets right to the edge of tartness but doesn’t step over the line. My wife detects a hint of banana in it, but I think she’s nuts.

The Idared is another nice sweet apple that’s honey/sugar at first and dips into tart territory with its aftertaste. It’s much better than the Prairie Spy, which has a sharp honey flavor, but isn’t all that juicy or crisp. And the Prairie Spy in turn is much better than the Sonata apple, though I must admit I only tried one Sonata. Actually, I didn’t even eat one whole Sonata; it was one of the worst things I’ve had all season – sugary sweet, slightly acidic and rubbery in texture. The flavor wasn’t bad, but it’s hard to give terrible apples a second chance.
I will be giving the Swiss Gourmet a second chance, even if it’s a slightly generic-tasting apple. It was crisp, juicy, and refreshing. Pretty neutral in taste – not at all tart, though.

There wasn’t much this week that was truly tart, but the Arkansas Black I’d put in that category. This one tastes like black cherry. It’s a very hard apple, and the skin is pretty tough, but if those qualities don’t scare you off, it’s a keeper. In fact, I’m tentatively placing it on my official list of desert isle apples.

I’m also tempted to place the Haralson on that list since it’s got some nice depth to its flavor. My brief description of the Haralson: a tangy, effervescent mac.

Rounding out this week’s picks are two more that I’d place in the wild apple category – that is, those apples tending toward a sort of spicy, tart flavor, like the Cornish Gilliflower and the Spitzenberg. The Tomato, which is unique to Weston’s Antique Apple Orchard in New Berlin, Wisconsin, and the Apricot apple (which has a very slight apricot flavor prior to refrigeration) are both pretty solid eating apples. Actually, the Apricot is literally solid: it’s the hardest apple I’ve ever had. I’d happily eat these two again, but they fall just shy of the desert isle cut.

With three more candidates for the desert isle team (Mutsu, Haralson, and Arkansas Black), this week’s haul was pretty good.

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