One might want to know, is this apple a good keeper? Does it excel for baking? If you cut it into cubes or slices will it retain its color or turn brown?
One less-obvious dimension of quality that I have been thinking about a lot this year is, for lack of a better word, consistency (or reliability). Namely, how likely it is that an apple will be as good as it usually is.
Eat a McIntosh apple in the fall and, barring mishandling, early picking, or misadventure, you are very likely to taste a high-quality representative example of that variety. This will be true from harvest to harvest and orchard to orchard.
On the other hand, the wonderful Cox's Orange Pippin is a little fussier. Depending on factors at which I can only guess, you might eat one that is merely excellent, versus truly outstanding.
So McIntosh is consistent and reliable but Cox's is less so.
The 2013 harvest, my fifth since starting this blog, was outstanding. I got to revisit many great varieties and was struck by the variability, or inconsistency, that some of them displayed versus their quality in prior autumns.
This year the Baldwins were really wonderful, crisp and balanced and flavorful, the best I've ever had. Reine de Reinette, on the other hand, did not live up to its potential. I've noticed that before.
|Reine de Reinettes: Drama Queen?|
Chalk it up to the weather, the tides, or the phases of the moon: you know when you get "a good one."
For better or worse, this quality is not reflected at all in my system of rating apples, which is based on evaluating each variety at peak.
My ratings will tell you that Macoun is an outstanding apple, vinous and crisp, but they are silent on your odds of getting "a good one" in any particular year. (For the record, those odds are very good.)
I give only five apple varieties my highest rating of three stars. Here is how I assess their consistency:
- Excellent: Macoun, Wickson
- Good: Ashmead's Kernel
- Fair: Cox's Orange Pippin
- Poor: Reine de Reinettes
Consistency in this sense is a valuable attribute, for obvious reasons, so most modern varieties are very consistent. They've been selected for that.
One modern exception is Sweetango. Its reliability seems to be only fair, though the variability I have noticed may be partially due to handling issues for this fragile variety.
Consistency is obviously something you want to know about when buying and eating apples, but for now I will not be incorporating it into my rating system. (I lack the basis to do so comprehensively, for one thing.)
So if you try an apple and it's better or worse than I say, maybe you are on to something about its consistency. Share your experience in a comment to my review of the variety, if you are so inclined.