Apple Showdown

We’ve all struggled, some of us for decades on end, when faced with the menagerie of temping apple options that suddenly appear at this time of year.  

With all apples offering different variation of a mixture of juiciness, sweetness, brightness, and crunchiness, yet looking so damn similar and rarely having memorable names (well, the apples named “delicious” are cheating), the apple enthusiast oftentimes has to suffer through mistaken apple purchase until she remembers her favorite sort Every Single Year. 

Well those days are behind us, folks, and the most important and informative of fall showdown is here. I have been meaning to do this since the beginning of time, and now that The Blog exists, well. There are no more excuses not to.

The players:

..plus, of course the McIntosh apples that I already had in my fridge

Yes, there are other varieties of apples, too, but these are the ones that I could get my hands on! 

The classic Apple Tasting Set Up: 

First, I tried to judge the “brightness” of each apple.  In my head, “brightness” means crispness, and how “explosive” the apple is when you bite into it.

It was here, when I remembered that I don’t really like gala apples at all.  Next, it was the scale from tart to sweet. None of these apples were really all that tart, especially not on the scale of the Granny Smith. From Cortland to the left, the sweetness really overpowered any tartness — I think that the macoun hits the sweet/tart balance perfectly. Not that the empire was very tart, just a bit less sweet than the macoun. 

Next was a close examination as to the texture and hardness of the apple. However, my mind was starting to wander at this point, and I messed up a bit, not organizing the apples in the order that corresponded with the sign I made. Initially, I was hoping that my sophisticated Paint Brush skills would stop me from having to confess that this paper once said “Hard—->Soft,” but, well…

Lastly, the level of juiciness was closely examined. I’m just not a fan of Gala apples.

Macoun
This one was my favorite. It was bright and crispy, had an excellent mix of sweetness and tartness, and just tasted like fall and apple cider. It was pretty juicy, but not overwhelmingly so, and was nice and crunch/great.

McIntosh
I always think the mcintosh as the quintessential apple–call me a traditionalist. It’s soft, sweet, smooth, kind of dry, and just an all around pleasing experience. An McIntosh offends no one. Unless it’s rotten.

Honey Crisp
It would seem that, in recent years, the Honey Crisp has been the Cool Kid of the Apple Kingdom. Everyone’s talking about them (“OMG IS THAT A HONEY CRISP?!?! I CAN NEVER FIND THEM! YOU ARE THE LUCKIEST GROCERY STORE PATRON!), and they often are upwards of $3/pound. I don’t think they’re that amazing. They’re very sweet, and, while bright, crisp, and juicy, I think they can be kind of grainy, and almost so sweet that they taste rotten.

I don’t know, Honey Crisp. You may have a great majority of apple enjoyers wrapped around your finger (?), but you don’t have me.

Gala
Yucky. Not good. Grainy, sweet, soft, juicy, bad at jokes.

Empire
I don’t know about this apple. It’s got the great qualities of the Macoun without being as all around awesome as the Macoun.  It’s crisp, balances tartness and sweetness nicely, is moderately juiscy, and has a nice crunch. It’s good. It’s no macoun, but it’s good.

Cortland
This is a nice one, too. It’s pretty similar to the McIntosh, but perhaps a bit brighter & more fun to bit into. If you want an apple to comfort you, go for the McIntosh, but if you want an apple to both comfort and excite (goodness, this is the most absurd sentence I have ever written), perhaps head towards the cortland. It’s sweeter than it is tart, but the sweetness is subdued and pleasant. Overall, it’s a subdued and pleasant apple.

Now that I’ve deducted this all out, there’s only one question: who’s coming over to take this bag of cut-in-to apples off my hands?

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40 Responses to “Apple Showdown”

  1. With all the media surrounding Steve Jobs’s death, can you guess what I thought your post was going to be about? Very informative though. Where do the granny smiths go?

    • haha, i know! i realized that as soon as I put it up on facebook!

      granny smiths aren’t grown around here and aren’t really seasonal/on show in my supermarket right now, so i left them out. Plus, everyone knows what a granny smith tastes like!

  2. Sarah, you should have called me! I could have saved you all this trouble and told you to go straight for the Macouns. They are, without a doubt, the very best.

    Love ya!

  3. It’s definitely regional because I’ve never even heard of most of these apples. I live in Atlanta and except for the Courtland, McIntosh and Gala that’s about it. Interesting post as always, but I think you have a “little” too much time on your hands. LOL!!! Keep the blog coming!!!!

  4. I really enjoyed this post! Thank yoU!! I will have to see if Macouns are available on the West Coast. I’ve never seen them before. I’m a little bit over the honey crisp and was getting set to try some new apples. Somebody was raving about the jona gold or something like that. I just like a very CRISP, HARD apple! I don’t like them the slightest bit mealy. But, since you said good things about the Macintosh, I’ll give that one a try too.

  5. And I just accosted your Atlanta readership by telling her where to apple shop! 🙂 But this my very favorite post you’ve ever written. And quite possibly my favorite post by anyone in quite a long time. I’ve always wanted to do my own little taste test but now there’s no need. Thanks!

    • Haha, thanks! I had a blast with this one (and i think it’s pretty, too)

      and it’s pretty cool that two people I’ve never met are talking about where in Atlanta to buy apples on my blog 🙂

  6. Nicely written, very organized post!
    I think you may have gotten some “bad” Honeycrisps because they are truly amazing. Grainy? not the one’s I have found. Mealy apples sometimes means they have been chilled almost to the point of freezing, but not quite. They do this to get the most “ripe time” out of them to sell more. Maybe you live in an area that is far from the shipping point (?)

    Very nice blog! I will be milling about on it for a while!

  7. Two words: Pink Lady – these apples are sweet and tart and Never Ever mealy! Apple Perfection!

  8. Best apples? In Sebastopol Gravenstein apples! They taste so good.Although I must admit it h as been a while..you don’t find them in stores but farmers markets or even better if you know someone on a ranch!

  9. I feel exactly as you described the apples Sarah! I was very pleasantly surprised you picked all the apples I love. I just picked about a bushel or 2 of macouns on Sunday and thought they were macs, but I love them, they are now my favorite!

  10. Like this blog… I’m from Montréal, I’ve never heared about Macouns but I’ll look for it at the store. My favorite is Honey Crisp, I just love the crispyness and the fact they don’t become brown. (Sorry for my english, I’m french speaking)

  11. Have none of you heard of Braeburn and Fuji apples? They are a lot like Pink Lady — Sweet and tart, never mealy.

  12. I’ve tried Braeburn and Fuji, but none of them were as good as Honey Crisp, I meen for my taste!

  13. Finally, someone posted a Fuji apple. I have one every day with my lunch. Fuji’s are very close to honey crisp, but less expensive.

  14. I wondered about Fuji as well. They are my favorite and Braeburn are not far behind. I like them better than Macintosh and have never heard of Macoun. I’m making a big effort to eat more apples for their blood sugar control. An apple a day………………….

  15. Just wanted to add, while just eating an apple macouns may be good, put if you want to bake a fresh apple pie, I actually choose a gala specifically for their juiciness and the pie ends up tasting not so sweet, but just right!

  16. An apple a day is good, but be sure that it is organic so that you benefit from no pesticides and superior minerals from higher quality soils. Also it is important to eat all of the apple (except the stem) including the seeds and center fiber. Eat it like any other mammal would, in it’s entirety.

  17. Hello all, I’ve enjoyed reading all the posts, and of course knowing i’m not the only one wanting to to lose weight. But am sorry, I like Gala Apples, I have one every morning before i walk, and play tennis with my hubby. I’ve been a Gala gal for a very long time, am to young (chuckle_chuckle) to give them up now. What i really enjoy is chunky applesauce, i truly have to be strong to dish out only a half cup at supper time. But with already 20 pounds off my belt, am not about to lose it now, and put it back on. So i’m on a upward move to lose another 25, and hold it there. I’ve never felt so good as i do now, am liking my self again, and i like my new skinny jeans, size 12, compaired to size 20. Hope i’m not showing off, but i was in a black hole, and now i see the light, Thanks for reading my post.

    • Thank you Gloria for writing that you like gala apples! I was beginning to think I was alone. I love them and eat a few each week. I like the crispness of them as well as the not too sweet/not too tart taste. Congrats on your weight loss and keep up the good work!

  18. I’m a long time Gala apple fan. Crisp with a just right level of sweet.

  19. I am Apple queen and I never heard of a McCoun apple I wonder if it tastes like a Fuji

  20. Live in Western Washington and am hooked on red and golden delicious – sweet, crisp, any so juicy! They are what their name describes – delicious!!

  21. FYI: Those of us with Oral Allergy Syndrome cannot eat raw apples, only cooked. I will look for the macoun here on the West Coast to try as applesauce!

  22. Best apple by far is Sweetango if you haven’t had one gotta try one.

  23. Thanks for this one. In NC, Honey Crisp is my all-time favorite, but they can be expensive. Pink Lady apples are less expensive than the out-of-season Honey Crisps. They are not as sweet, but they are crunchy and have that effervescent, quality like the Honey Crisp. Jazz apples are also pretty good.

  24. Fuji is my favorite – juicy, firm, a light sweetness which goes well in Apple pies and with peanut butter.

  25. Love Kanzi & Kiku apples. Jazz are great, along with Ambrosia.

  26. I came here by way of Lose It. I haven’t heard of most of those apples. I just started eating apples recently. Gala are yucky.

    I eat the Pink apple with low sugar caramel single dips.

  27. What happened to Fiji apples? I live in calif we have apples but not the ones you have lol we have fuji, gaga, Washington reds, golden delious, my paren’t will only eat fuji I like gala and green golden delious. Interstate the difference west west to east coast.

  28. Pink Lady girl here. I grew up in MI around apple orchards and have never heard of the Macoun. I am going to have to search that one out.

  29. Ambrosia are crisp, bright, just the right amount of sweetness. They stay bright longer and don’t turn brown quickly.. I love the flavor.

  30. I’m very late to the party, but I can tell you the quality of the apple depends on the season. Granny Smith are large, crisp, sweet and juicy in the summer, but small and sour in the winter. Gala, on the other hand, are disgusting as you describe in the summer, but can be the juiciest, crisp apples in the fall and winter when they are fresher. You need to repeat the taste test with multiple apples at different times of year.

  31. HONEY CRISP all the way then Gala. Never heard of Malcouns are the available in the southern U.S.? Down 14 lbs and moving. Love the apple that keeps me away from the yearn for unhealthy sweets.

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