Wednesday, October 24, 2007

hey guess what? Apples.

A few years ago, EL was discussing some ideas for video blogs before they became super-prevalent, and I suggested having one called Cats And Apples, where I just reviewed people's cats and different types of apples. Maybe I should still do this...

But until I decide on that, here is my definitive list of the best apple varieties out there. This is not subjective; my answers are right.

Best Apple for Eating:

Honey Crisp. Many apples have appetizing names, but few live up to them (I'm looking at you, Golden Delicious; you're a mealy bastard). The Honey Crisp absolutely lives up to its title and is indisputably the best apple for raw eating. It is sweet in a good, apple-like way, as opposed to the sticky oversweetness of the Pink Lady. And holy cow does it crunch. Honey Crisps crunch so loud it's almost rude. Also, these are the most consistent apples on the market. I have bought bushels of these things and have never had a mealy or off-tasting apple. I'm not gonna grade everything, but the Honey Crisp gets four stars and two fucking battleships.

Best Apple for Eating With Peanut Butter:

Granny Smith. An apple with peanut butter is a near-holy snack; sweet, salty, nutritious and texturally stimulating, it has everything. It is an amazingly balanced dish. But steps must be taken to preserve that balance. All major-brand peanut butters have sugar added to prevent separation, and the best peanut butter in the world for an apple-with-PB (Whole Foods' Freshly Ground Honey-Roasted PB) has some sweetness AND a bit of salt. Thus, the apple one uses must be able to cut through both sweetness and saltiness, and it must be able to complement the smoothish nature of peanut butter with a hearty crackle. The best apple for the job is a tangy, fresh Granny Smith. The sourness cuts through both the sweet and the salty, and the texture is a perfect counterpoint to the PB.

Best Apple for Baking (Pies):

Granny Smith. Again, the tanginess is the key. Apple pies and similar pastries bring a lot of sugar and spice into the mix. Any good pie recipe suggests a bit of lemon juice or zest to cut through the sweet; the Granny Smith happily does that job for you. But you never have to worry about a sour pie. The bulk of the Granny Smith's sourness cooks out in baking, and just like when sauteeing onions, a complex sweetness is brought out by the heat. A Granny Smith in a pie is amazing, and for different reasons than its amazingness with PB. Amazing.

Best Apple for Baking (Baked Apples):

Mutsu. The Mutsu is also called a Crispin, but that's a misnomer, as they can be a bit soft, not unlike its shitty cousin, Golden Delicious. Of course, softness is usually not a good thing in apples, but combined with the Mutsu's size (they can get as large as a junior kickball) and taste, it's perfect for baking. It's big enough that you can scoop the core and really stuff it full of brown sugar, sweet spices, raisins, chestnuts, etc., and bake away. Plus, it has a strong skin that will hold together under high heat. A fucking Golden Delicious could never do that.

Best Snooty Apple:

Winesap. There are a lot of fancy-sounding apples out there - Ambrosia Apples, Cameo Apples, Jonathan Apples, I could go on - but the Winesap is easily the snootiest. Say that word aloud. See? You sound like a dick.

Also, they're pretty good. They're small, crunchy and pretty-looking, and they actually have this complex taste thing going which kinda makes it deserve its name but not really because no apple should have a name like that.

Best Year-Round Apple:

Fuji. The amazing Honey Crisp is only grown in certain areas (it was invented at the University of Minnesota, and I know they grow it in upstate NY), and it's only available for few months, OCTOBER BEING ONE OF THEM SO GO OUT AND BUY SOME ALREADY. However, Fujis are crunchy and delicious (not capital Delicious; they are nothing like the god-awful Golden Delicious), and due to their popularity and climatic sustainability, they're grown all over the world (though the best are from Washington State). So you can get pretty damn good Fujis anywhere, at almost at any time. The New Zealand Fujis aren't quite perfect, but they're close.

Best Apple I Haven't Eaten:

Bramley. Also a nominee in the Snooty Name category, the Bramley apple is mostly available in the US in the form of really really good apple cider from England. The cider is GOOD. So I'm guessing the apple is good. Apparently it's great in pies. Next time I'm in England on an apple bender, I'm comin' for ya, Bramley.

Most Overrated Apple:

Gala. You know what Gala Apples are? Popular. Available. But guess what? THEY'RE NOT GOOD. They're not disgusting like a Golden Delicious, but they're just no great shakes. Yet everyone's always eating 'em, and they're always available in places where the selection is scarce. Some unfortunate people are eating Galas because they think that's as good as it gets.

One of the worst crimes an apple can commit is inconsistency. And that's Gala for you in a nutshell. You never what you're getting. I'd say about 2 out of every 3 Galas is mealy, or soft, or overripe, or nasty. And the other 1 Gala is just okay-tasting. Overrated. Apple. Most. Most Overrated Apple.

Most Overexposed Apple:

Red Delicious. Poor Red Delicious. It unwittingly became branded as the international symbol for apples everywhere. And as a result, it's grown everywhere and made available everywhere. But they're a 1.5-star apple at best. They're inconsistent with a high risk of mealiness, and the only good part of their taste is a slight woodiness. The sweetness in an RD is always a little off; they never taste freshly sweet like a Fuji or Honey Crisp. Worst of all, they share a surname with the sludgy, stupid, abhorrent Golden Delicious. I try to be fair by simply calling them Red Apples.

Worst Apple:

Golden Delicious. You know, I really wanted to wait to the end before getting to the negative awards, but I just can't fucking take it anymore. Golden Delicious: you are TERRIBLE. Your skin is bumpy and it always feels old. You never look golden; you look like a Granny Smith that has the flu. You are mealy like wet sand at least 80% of the time. Why do people keep trying with you?? I had one good Golden Delicious once, and it sucked.

Most Overlooked Apple:

Ginger Gold. Not everything Gold has to be bad. Whatever positive qualities one might be seeking in the crap-filled Golden Delicious, they will actually find them in the Ginger Gold. GG's have bright, golden skin, and a nice buttery taste (which can still be a bit too soft sometimes, but they're a much better bet for crispness than the shameful, disappointing GD). If anything, I hope people will continue to spread the word about the emerging Ginger Gold, if for no other reason than to supplant the worst apple in the history of the universe.

The Edward Norton Versatility Award:

Granny Smith. The Granny Smith can play off a greater variety of foods than any other apple, hands down. There's no Best Salad Apple because the only choice is Granny Smith. Best Sandwich Apple? Hmm let's see GRANNY SMITH. Try a fresh roast turkey sandwich with gruyere cheese, balsamic vinegar, sliced Granny Smiths and wholegrain mustard. You can't even consider putting another apple in that situation. The Granny Smith elevates the game of its surrounding players, and for that, it gets the Norton.

Apple Star of the Future:

Jazz. The Jazz is a brand-new apple from New Zealand. Elephant Larry sampled a few of them last year at Whole Foods, and they're pretty exciting. They had a good crunch and they were quite shapely. This apple is at the top of my Watch List.

Oh man, I'm gonna go eat some apples right this instant.


Elliot the Magpei said...

How dare you vilify the homely yet most appl-ey apple the Gala! I must be living under a rock (which would explain the shadow) but I just found Galas last year for the first time, and am still quite excited about them. Now the Macintosh, thats a pretty over-rated apple in my book. No pun even slightly intended. I repeat - not any kind of pun in any way. For real. Don't like those Macintosh apples.

jake said...

What about best apple-derivative product? I nominated Sour Apple Blow Pops.

N K said...

For years I've been a hardcore (that's right) Granny Smith devotee.

But this year I've been trouncing through fields of blooming taste buds thanks to the Spartan apple. I've always considered it one of the reliable, always available, but not great apples. This year I realized all along I've been lumping them together with Mcintosh and Red Delicious. But Spartans are what you always thought those other red apples SHOULD be - consistently crisp, beautifully hued, and the perfect amount of sweetness.

Anonymous said...

what? no "best apple for carmel apples" category? and i thought you were an apple zealot

Jeff said...

What are those?

Ohhh... you mean Apple Ruiners.

SNAP! :)

Anonymous said...

i'd like to give a shout out for Macouns. yum!

Allen Strickland Williams said...

all I have read of this so far is the "best apple for eating" and the words "honey crisp." I just picked up a bag from Wegman's (remember???) and man, they are blowing my mind. And my mouth. These things taste great. They are truly delicious, which some other apples can only claim to be nominally. Jeff, you are my Apple Mentor. I am your Apple Disciple (Appiple>). Soon to be your Apple Apostle (Applostle?).

I'm going to read this and do everything you say.

Jeff said...

Wegmans!! I miss it.

This is great; you're the third person I've heard from this week to try Honey Crisps since that post. The word of the Honey Crisp spreadeth!

Allen Strickland Williams said...

oh no no no this is even better because I picked them up on a whim a few days ago, had one between classes yesterday, and just today read the post. I think Honey Crisp might be benefiting a bit from the name, admittedly. Red Delicious, as I think is the same for most cynics, is nothing I want to deal with. But when have things you describe with the words "honey" and "crisp" ever been bad? Can't really think of anything, except for that one time I had what my doctor described as a "crispy case of honey hemmorhoids." And even those were kind of ok.

Either way, this post was a really good post, Jeff. And I know that such sincerity means nothing in the ironic blogosphere in which we all orbit around early 90's culture and videos of guys kicking each other in the nuts, but I just wanted to let you know, your work is not ignored.

Make that video. It'd be really funny, dry, and smart. Just the way I like my apples.

Jeff said...

Thanks so much Allen, much appreciated!

A quick update on Macouns: a few people have approached me about a Macoun mention.

Hopefully, you'll pleased to learn the Macoun actually received a technical achievement award that was given before this article was posted. It is officially the Best Macintosh Apple That Is Not A Macintosh Apple.

(It's a well-deserved honor, I believe; Macoun's great bright-white interior has a far lower Mealiness Threat Factor than its cousin, the 'Tosh.)