Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Calling all apples

A couple weeks ago, we had a rainy and cold Thursday. I wasn't sure if the vendors would show up at the farmer's market, but went anyway. Wendy and Rich were there in the hard rain to my surprise. When I told Rich how surprised I was to see him, he bragged that he never misses the farmer's market. The exception was when so-and-so storm (can't remember the name) hit the market a few years ago. Very re-assuring to know - you can get farm fresh veggies and fruits at the farmer's market unless a category 2 storm hits our town.
Rich had a long display of all kinds of apples. I decided to buy one apple of each kind so that I can get familiar with the color and shape of the varieties, and do a tasting. Rich wrote a label for each apple, and wrapped the apple in a bag with the label for me. He wouldn't let me pay for the apples either because I was going to "study" the apples. I bought some pear cider from him as well and two bunches of flowers from Wendy. I walked home and started studying.

First thing I did was to get my yard-sale stickers out, write down the names for apples, and put the sticker on each apple. It was only a matter of time that I would get apples and labels all mixed up. Now, I took mental notes of their colors, shapes, weights etc and memorized their names. I wanted to make fairly good guesses without eating them. I spent about a week basically staring at apples once in a while and see if I can figure out the names.

Dan joined me in tasting fresh apples. We did it over three days. We cut each apple into halves, save one half for baking later, and cut the other half into wedges. We had some crackers and cheeses (cheddar, Beemster, Comté) to accompany while we munched on apples. Here are our findings (left to right. Exterior is described in italic font):

Top Row
  • Cameo: Tart but not granny-smith tart. Mildly sweet. Firm texture. Goes well with Cheddar cheese.
  • Red Delicious: Sweet. Soft texture.
  • Fuji: Crisp and firm. Not too sweet, not too sour. Balanced flavor.
  • Stayman Winesap: Firm. Tart. Purplish dull
Middle Row
  • Mutsu (Crispin): Very Firm. Slightly sweet and hint of tartness. Oxidized very quickly once cut. Goes well with Beemster cheese. Green.
  • Golden Delicious: Sweet and very little tart. Somewhere between crisp and mealy texture wise. Goes well with Cheddar cheese. Yellowish green.
  • Empire: Tart. Mealy.
  • Gala: Mildly Sweet. Crisp texture.
Bottom Row
  • Cortland: Flesh is very white. Soft and mushy texture. No tartness.
  • Jona-Gold: Medium firmness. Very slightly tart.
  • Nittany: Slightly tart, not sweet. Crisp texture. Goes with Beemster cheese.
  • York: Not much flavor
York apple didn't have much flavor at all. I suspect the apple that we happened to taste was a bit young. We probably need to give it a second chance to be fair. Dan and I are big fans of Fuji and Gala apples - yes, we are biased toward crisp apples with balanced flavors. After tasting, our new favorites are Mutsu, Cameo, and Jona-Gold.

For the second-round of tasting, I made apple galette. I had to know where all the 12 of different apples went so I created a small map. (I will add a photo of galette later). Because apples are peeled and then cut into 1/8 thick slices and then baked on top of buttery crust, all the apples tasted pretty good. Flavors are more or less rounded so our notes are short.

Baked apples in apple galette
  • Cameo: very tart
  • Red Delicious: very sweet
  • Fuji: good texture
  • Stayman Winesap: okay
  • Mutsu (Crispin): tart and good
  • Golden Delicious: appley and tart
  • Empire: tart
  • Gala:very appley and sweet
  • Cortland: very mild. hard to tell its apple.
  • Jona-Gold: appley.
  • Nittany: best balance of tart and sweet.
  • York: mushy texture and mild flavor.
We liked baked Jona-Gold, Nittany and Golden Delicious in the galette. Fuji and Gala were pretty good (but we already knew this because these two are the apples that we eat/bake all the time).

Ideally, the next round of testing would involve making mini apple pies (or apple cobbler) for each variety. If that happens, I will send an invite out.


1 comment:

smoo said...

This is AWESOME. I also love the Matsu apples. And the honeycrisp from earlier in the season. We should do an analysis of baked apples too to see which ones hold their shape and how they cook up!