Thursday, February 12, 2015

Macoun vs. Rubyfrost smackdown

Today's head-to-head compares two apples, one well-established and the other very new, from one of the oldest large-scale apple-breeding program in the Americas.

At left is Macoun, celebrity graduate of the New York State Agriculture Experiment Station in Geneva (NY). Macoun was introduced in 1923, the same year that the Station became part of Cornell University.

But what have they done for us lately?

Rubyfrost, at right, made its market debut in 2013. With Rubyfrost Geneva has climbed aboard the club-apple train, restricting growing rights to a consortium of New York farms.

Ribbed and modestly tapered, Macoun's dark red blush has a purple cast relieved by streaks and distinct light lenticels. Mine has a few dents and dings from storage and handling, a reminder that this variety is fragile.

Indeed this winter has not been a good one for Macoun; they are hard to find this year and not always of the best quality even allowing for the inevitable drop-off from their excellent harvest-time peak.

Rubyfrost, similar in shape but a little blockier and less ribbed, wears a saturated red blush a few shades to the orange of Macoun's. Its smaller light lenticels are more sparse and widely spaced on the top half.

Rubyfrost is in better shape, superficially, and is quite pretty. However Macoun has more visual interest. I'd call the beauty contest a draw.

The important stuff is inside, and there Macoun is crisp and chunky, her fine-grained white flesh just a little more tender in February than September.

Some of its flavors have melded but the apple is still distinctly floral and vinous with subdued berry notes, spicy and good.

The coarse-grained yellow flesh of Rubyfrost is first rate, dripping with juice and calving off into great chunks. Compared to Macoun Rubyfrost is sweeter with simpler flavors: a little spice and a quick savory note.

There is no antagonism alternating bites from each, and to my mind no contest.

Rubyfrost may weather the rigors of storage and handling best, with firmer texture and more athletic crunch. Nonetheless Macoun is the more interesting and sophisticated apple even past her prime.

Even past its prime, Macoun is great, withstanding the test of time in more ways than one.

Now excuse me while I enjoy finishing these guys.


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