Sunday, January 30, 2011

Fine, elegant, and old

A few years ago I received as a gift a bottle of Bordeaux with a prestigious label. I do not know a lot about wine, and I waited to drink it with a knowledgeable friend.

The year was not a distinguished vintage and the wine was well past the nominal drink-by date, to the point where we did not even know if it would be drinkable. But we opened it and it was.

It had a thin, balanced quality and was quite good. My friend, a Bordeaux aficionado, pronounced it a fine, elegant old wine and we both enjoyed the bottle.

I was reminded of this today when I ate the last Macoun of the year. Unusual weather led to a small crop and this variety, which last year was available though mid-March in supermarkets, had petered out by the end of December.

The quality of these dregs was not first rate, either, reflecting probably how they had been handled and stored since the harvest in September or early October.

Despite that, I enjoyed these apples and wished I had had more. My last one sat in my refrigerator for nearly the whole month of January. It had no aroma, and time had thinned and watered down its wonderful vinous flavors and rendered its crunch delicate (but not at all mealy).

Still it was a fine, elegant old wine I was pleased to savor while I could.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Word play

A new tool from Google lets us compare the frequency of apple names over time in a database of book texts. Consider the below graph of three different names for the Newtown Pippin:

Albemarle Pippin (blue) is the name of this apple in the Southeastern U.S.; Newton Pippin (green) is a variant; the original name is red. You can see that for several decades in the middle of the 20th century the Albemarle name was more popular than the original.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Apples of December (2010)

In December we live off the fat of October: winter apples snugly chilled in cellars or refrigerators and valued for their long shelf lives as much as their flavors.

This year the pickings have been unusually slim. I discovered--too late to stockpile any for this year--that Suncrisp is a magnificent apple for December, but have mostly been living on russets and Blushing Goldens from New England orchards, leavened with Mcintosh and Macoun from the supermarkets.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Best Wishes for 2011

Happy new year and thanks to my readers!

2010 was a rough year for apples, as many had feared, with unusual and adverse weather.

It is impossible to know whether or to what extent these conditions are a side effect of the steady growth of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere of our planet.

I expected things to slow down this year and that new varieties would be hard to find. To my surprise I wrote 104 posts in 2010, the same as in 2009, and had many great apples to taste and write about for the first time.

I could never have gotten here without readers, whose presence in comments and emails and links to this blog (and other contributions) keep me focused and motivated. Thank you!