Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Macoun Ages Gracefully

I waited--oh how I waited--when the first Macoun and McIntosh apples first appeared at the market in late summer.

I did not review these New England beauties then because the extra-tart, extra-acidic, not-quite-ripe early apples would not have been representative. You see, I eat to serve.

Instead I waited until maturity, tasting McIntosh at the very end of September and Macoun a week or so later.

Now at the end of October, these apples have changed further. Their color is deeper. Their flesh no longer has green highlights. They are less acid, and their flavors have melded.

Look at the beautiful deep red, almost purple, of this Macoun. The blush covers virtually all of the apple, and there is even a little dusty bloom almost reminiscent of that of a Blue Pearmain (a much larger and very different variety).

Today Macoun is every bit as crisp and juicy as it was three weeks ago, but its flesh is now a pure snowy white. The apple is less acidic and perhaps less tart. The net effect is a sweeter balance by default, though not from any more sugar.

This later Macoun still has many, or maybe all, of its distinct flavors--strawberries, spice, blossoms--but these have mellowed and mixed and are more challenging to tease out. It's still a great apple, vinous and thrilling. Maybe even a greater apple.

More to the point, it is still unquestionably the same apple, but more mature. At least some, and probably all, of this further change took place on the tree; apples don't redden in storage.

Finally, consider this. All the Macouns around here were picked off the trees by last week, and these marvelous apples are, alas, not good keepers. We'll continue for a while to see crisp and fresh-tasting examples that have been stored under controlled conditions, but its season is drawing rapidly to a close.


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