12 September 2009

Tablet's taste test: Apples and honey

Got apples? Got honey?

After this Tablet feature gets around the blogosphere, you might have trouble finding its recommended apple and honey varieties.

The online mag's most recent holiday food feature explored the apples dipped in honey tradition from the gourmet viewpoint and a taste test.

Tracing the Tribe is a bit biased as we like orange-scented honey and Fuji apples, but Tablet's staff has different ideas. They also didn't taste-test the Fuji or orange honey. Maybe next year?

The rigorous test sent Tablet staffers off to New York's Union Square Farmers Market for supplies. That market is an amazing experience - even if it's just for looking - so try to fit it in on your next trip.

The apples, grown locally in New York State, were:

Red Delicious: The most popular apple in the US. Thick-skinned, deep red, mildly sweet.

Honeycrisp: Minnesota's official fruit. A Macoun-Honeygold cross. Red-and-yellow mottled skin, rich juice, crisp.

Pristine: Scientist-developed. Pale and frail. Very thin, light-yellow skin, tart flavor.

Cortland: A New York State county and also a great pie-baking variety. Rich, white flesh; doesn't go brown too quickly, good tart-sweet balance.

Paula Red: Delicate, red-and-yellow peel, mild, berry-like flavor; reacts badly to environmental issues.

Maigold: Swiss native. Pale yellow, bold flavor, sweet, honey-like with a citrusy flavor.

There were three varieties of honey: plastic bear honey (oy vey) about which the less said the better, as well as:

Basswood honey: From the Linden tree. Light-colored, delicate floral with herbal notes and hint of lavender.

Buckwheat honey: Dark color, thick, strong flavor.

Each tester tried each apple variety with each honey for 18 different combos, marking on a scale of 1-5.

Tracing the Tribe's favorite honey has always been orange honey and I also bring home Seville orange honey from Spain when we visit. I don't think I've ever had basswood honey. I'm pretty sure it can't be found in Israel. This year will be ordinary apples and ordinary honey as we don't have any of our special stuff left. But I can dream.

Scoring 4.75, with the comment "a match made in heaven," was the Cortland with basswood honey. Runner-up, at 4.25, was the Cortland with buckwheat honey. Ranked at the bottom - 1 - was insipid plastic bear honey and the Red Delicious.

Overall, then, the Cortland emerged—unanimously!—as our apple of choice. While some of us liked the rich and complex flavors of the buckwheat, the majority agreed that it was the basswood’s floral notes that provided the perfect compliment to the Cortland’s perfectly balanced flavor. The winner, then, is the Cortland with the Basswood honey.
See the complete article at the link above for more information and the tester panel's comments on the various combinations.

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