Saturday, April 17, 2010

Chestnut Crabapple vs. Cox's Orange Pippin

In the left corner, ladies and gentlemen, a towering figure in the world of fruit, an apple variety of near-legendary proportion, sought-after, elusive, and prized.

And in the opposing corner...come again?

The idea for this comparison came to me at first bite of the Chestnut Crabapple and eventually became irresistible. It's not as ridiculous as you might think! though Cox's is all I have said and more.

This is not in any sense a contest to see which apple is better. Rather, I'm trying to find a kind of amiable pairing. In that capacity the tiny Chestnut Crab holds its own surprisingly well.

The comparison is complicated by the fact that these two very different varieties do not really overlap in time. When I made this comparison in early October, the crabs were a little past their prime; the Coxs, though ripe, were just picked and had not had the opportunity to reach their peak flavors.

So: Chestnut Crab is smaller, redder, less russeted, and softer than the mighty (and later) Cox's. Its streaky red blush washes over a pale yellow skin decorated with light tan lenticels. There is some russet, and ribbing. Its calyx is closed.

Except for size, Cox's Orange Pippin has some superficial similarities. Its blush is also streaky (over a greener yellow), and of a close shade to the crab's, though less orange. Cox's is also ribbed and russeted. It's lenticels are irregular and vary in size and also in color from tan to green. Its calyx is not entirely closed.

Based on this one might make the case for the crab as Cox's mini-me. However, these similarities are only peel-deep.

Cox's light yellow flesh is crisp and fine grained. Upon its balanced canvas of sweet and tart are painted orange juice, tangerine, cinnamon, mango, and pineapple. (I could not find any of the hazelnut that was present in my more-mature tasting samples last year.)

The flesh of the Chestnut Crab is a creamy white, also fine-grained and well balanced with vanilla and caramel. No orange juice or honey in this one, but there is a little pear, and maybe mango or passion fruit. Though past its prime it is still crisp and very worth eating, slightly sweeter and less acid than my earlier sample.

This odd couple make a very agreeable tasting pair, each with something different to say. Their flavors complement, and indeed some elements of taste are shared, but are also different enough to be clearly distinct. There are many fine apples that would be lost in a pairing with Cox's, but it was a pleasure to alternate bites and enjoy the differences.

The main quality that the two apples share--the thing that put this pairing in my mind--is their respective unity of tastes. The flavors that comprise each variety achieve some extraordinary harmonies.


  1. Great comparison, I agree that they share the same Complexity, even if their flavors are different. When did you eat these? Not April right?

  2. Hawk, no of course I ate these in the fall. Within a few days of October 1 2009, if memory serves.

    Writing often lags behind tasting, especially during the harvest season. Then once something is written I'll give priority to whatever is freshest.

    Consequently at the end of the year I'd have a few of these piled up. Since I'd have missed my window, I would then wait until a very slow time to publish. Like now.

    Not so this year, however. I do have three unpublished "comparison" columns, but I have decided to wait to post them until the apples in question are available once again.

    Fortunately the start of the season is not that far off!

  3. Yes, I hope between the two of us we should collect enough samples of new stuff, or add an update if we think the favors are different. I hope you'll maybe save at least. One sample of each super notable apples so we can eat it together and confer. I'll be doing this with everything I buy this season.


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