Monday, August 20, 2012

Mcintosh vs. Paula Red smackdown

I do not always see these two together, but in 2011 Paula Red's season lasted well into September and overlapped quite a bit with that of McIntosh (left).

That raised an interesting question. In August, when the markets are full of inferior generic "early macs," Paula (right) seems the most genuinely Mac-like in texture and flavor. So how does she stack up against the real thing?

To begin with, these apples look alike, medium to large and round with a little ribbing. The streaky red blush is similar on each, with a dash of purple where deepest; Paula's is slightly streakier and maybe a shade less purple (the difference is greater in the photo).

Both are spangled with many light lenticels; Paula's are larger and more obvious. Paula's unblushed green portion is a shade or two brighter.

So there are differences, but mostly within what you could expect to find from natural variation within each variety.

McIntosh is a great apple, with crisp, juicy snow-white flesh and rich flavors of berries and wine grapes. in mid-September Paula is less crisp (though still good, and quite juicy), but has an excellent crisp texture in August, similarly medium fine-grained.

Flavor is where Paula falls short, but there are few that could match the Mac's classic New England tastes. No surprise there. Paula's flavors are of the same general sort, but less vivid and interesting.

I'd never choose Paula Red over a real McIntosh, but that's not really the point. Early Paula has some genuine Mac qualities and is at peak a month before McIntosh.

There are other great summer apples too, but if you are specifically missing Macs in August Paula is a superior choice.


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