Nov 8, 2011

a mystery apple

this time of year, there is nothing more wonderful to eat than late-ripening, fresh-picked, crisp, crunchy apples. the early apples are still decent but are growing mealy after over a month of storage.

the apple of this very moment is either a brock or a northern spy—so say the labels on the apple bins at the kimball farm stand at which i have been buying these apples. the problem is: most variegated red apples look the same to my untutored eye (apple nerds, please withhold judgment).

the apple itself is about the size of a softball, a little flattened, with shallowish floral and stem depressions where there is some russeting (but not much). a little bit of ribbing, but inconsistent across the four specimens so far. it's yellow-green with zones of transparent red (the two i have here are speckled all over with little bits of russeting), the flesh is bright white with green tints close to the skin. the peel is tight and snappy under your teeth, the flesh crunches, the juice is abundant, there is sugar, there is much acidity, there is a bit of sap and quite a lot of mouth-clearing tannin, there is the flavour of a good oolong tea. it's winey, the way a winesap is.

clearly, we must get to the bottom of this.

update 1 (11.7.2011): happened on another of these incredible mystery apples in the back of the high-humidity zone of the refrigerator. the red zones on this one are so transparent they look almost orange. the apple is of medium-large size, and have little russet flecks all over that i have since learned are lenticels. it tastes just as described above, and the acidity and tannins dry my mouth out just enough that i want to eat these all year. this apple looks just like a brock, inside and out. thinking that i'd stumbled upon the answer, i took a known brock and sliced it open. you can imagine my disappointment when the two apples that looked alike tasted nothing like each other. the one i know to be a brock is insipid and has a crunch filled with initial conviction but lacking, unfortunately, in stamina. could it be a macoun, at the height of its season, a revelatory apple? the search continues. i must find a pomologist.

update 2 (11.7.2011): mystery apple photos!

update 3 (11.8.2011): though it was painful to do so, i left a slice of yesterday's mystery apple uneaten, to see how quickly it would oxidise and to what extent. the result: very little browning after 30 minutes, no additional browning even after 24h.

update 4 (11.8.2011): another of the mystery apples! perhaps, anyway. this one is labeled king luscious, but has the same flavour profile as the other mystery apples (see above). trouble is, it is not massive, and the red portions of the peel are more orange than the blue-cast red of the king luscious. i begin to suspect that the labels on the bins at the market are part of the problem. 


Adam said...

Ooh, a stumper! I think I vote for Northern Spy, assuming you've got it narrowed down correctly to a binary choice between the spy and Brock.

Why? Brock is not as interesting as the apple you describe. But maybe you got some good ones. I agree those big lenticels don't look much like like Northern Spy's.

Of course, if it's not narrowed down to those two, it could be impossible to identify. Some varieties are not even named.

This could be a case for the great detective himself, or at any rate you might emulate his methods. Where did you get these apples? Who grew them? What does the farmer have to say?

vaughn tan said...

i think the brock is it. it was just a really, really good brock.

Adam said...

Brock is consistent with the general appearance and especially of the lenticels.

Some varieties improve marvelously a month or more off the tree. I had a 5-week-old Stayman the other day that just knocked my socks off. Maybe Brock is like that too.

Guess I was not much help but it was fun looking over your shoulder.

vaughn tan said...

where did you find the staymans? haven't seen them where i buy my apples and i'm in cambridge. incidentally, the whole foods market on river street currently has scott farm apples. not always in the best condition (no storage apples that i know of), but sometimes there are finds like belle de boskoop hidden in a box other stuff.

and i don't think the brocks age particularly well. i had one that i kept around for two weeks and it got mealy (though i think the flavour did not decline). hypothetical untestables.

Adam said...

VT: Dick's had lots of Stayman this year at Arlington and Belmont farmers markets. I though they were at Central Square on Mondays, but maybe not. Kimball had some of the true Winesap, briefly.

WF has had heirlooms for years, and I honor them for it, but it is almost comical how they screw up labeling those apples. I did get two Reine de Reinettes there this fall, what a great apple.

Earlier this year they had Hubbardston Nonesuch and Ananas Reinette side by side, each carefully labeled with the name of the other. A shame because knowledge facilitates appreciation.

This year Formagio's Kitchen started featuring Scottt Farm heirlooms too, better labeled (but not perfectly either).