Saturday, December 6, 2014

Aurora vs. Mutsu smackdown

Two crisp, light, apples with almost attenuated flavors. The idea for this match up felt obvious from the moment I had my first Aurora earlier this year.

Aurora Golden Gala (R) meets a yellow late-season Mutsu. (Mutsu is often sold green.)
Aurora is premium-sized, what you'd find in a supermarket, and Mutsu is just huge. (The photo understates Mutsu's size.) So, a lot of apple to eat at one sitting!

But I ran into some surprises at first bite.

Aurora's pure bright yellow is effectively unfreckled by lenticels. (They are present but you really have to look closely to see any.) It's conical and ribbed, though broad rather than tall.

Mutsu, also know as Crispin, is a big blocky cylinder with moderate ribbing. I'm used to seeing these a bit earlier in the season when they are a light spring green, but today's sample, purchased at the last Farmers Market of the year on November 26, is yellow tinted green with a light orange blush.

The blush covers a little less than half. Many of the lenticels are russeted but otherwise don't stand out much.

These are both attractive apples but flawless Aurora is really a looker.

I started in on Aurora and things got interesting right away. The tender-crisp flesh, coarse-grained and juicy and yellow, was familiar from my earlier tasting.

However, the flavors were stronger than I remembered and there was a distinct taste of cinnamon in the mix. How could I have missed that?

Late-season Mutsu
Mutsu was a little denser and finer-grained than the Aurora. Moderately crisp, it was off its peak, suggesting my sample may not have fared especially well at the end of the season. Mutsu's yellow flesh was just a little visually lighter and cooler than Aurora's.

By contrast with Aurora, Mutsu's flavors were more assertive, a mix of citrus, vanilla, and apple cider, with faint echoes of Golden Delicious.

Younger, greener Mutsu
These are stronger flavors than I remember from my original Mutsu tasting, where I likened Mutsu's affect to "a cool glass of water with an apple tang." It is perhaps not quite so different from the stored Mutsu that I had last February.

The Aurora I returned to after Mutsu might have been a different apple from the one with which I began. It was nearly tasteless, though there were some mineral notes. But at different times different faint flavors would emerge. There was something vanilla-like at one point, but deeper, almost like coffee.

Otto Friedli, who sent me the Auroras from the Auvil Fruit Company (thanks again, Otto!), told me he finds that "each Aurora has its own taste." I'm starting to get the same idea, and indeed this apple varies bite by bite.

Based on my prior tastings I confess I was prepared to find these two varieties similar (light, crisp, attenuated) but with Mutsu exhibiting more apple character. This tasting has confounded that expectation a little.

So, which it better? It's not really a fair contest, because my Mutsu was not prime. Most of the time while I was eating the Aurora I thought the Mutsu was better, and while eating Mutsu I was ready to give it to Aurora.

On reflection I'd say Aurora by a hair, mostly because of better texture. My Mutsu wasn't exactly mealy but you could tell it was going that way. (But if stored and handled right these will keep well.)

Aurora's full name is Aurora Golden Gala, but it's not a Gala, rather a Splendour x Gala cross. "Crispin" is just an alternative, anglo-friendly name for Mutsu.

And yes, I finished them both.

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