My colleague Tan Vinh, my editor Paige Collins and I tried a new apple variety recently: the SweeTango. Aside from having an annoying name (please, everybody, stop with the capital letters in the middle of words), it was very, very tart. If Honeycrisp is the Starburst of apples, SweeTango seems engineered for the Sour Patch Kids crowd, with a sharp, unceasing citric-acid taste. Paige really liked it; Tan and I were strongly opposed. While apple affinities are clearly individual, we decided to taste-test some of the most common varieties. We didn't actually blindfold ourselves, but we did hide the names as we tasted. Comparing apples to apples, there's a lot more difference than you might think. (We'd also encourage everyone to go to the farmers market and try out all the lovely, less common ones, which seems even more fun.)
Golden Delicious: There's a reason the Red Delicious is hard to find these days--because its mealy flesh and dull sweetness make people think they don't like apples. The Golden Delicious we tried was the same way. It made all three of us sad.
Cameo: Tan thought this one had "a nice bite, not too tart," and "a nice chew." I found it a little on the astringent side, more suitable for eating with peanut butter to smooth its taste-edges. "That tartness is why I like it!" Paige said. She'd later declare this apple her favorite.
Honeycrisp: We all admired its formidable crunchiness, but otherwise ... Paige made a scrunched-up face when she bit into it, saying it tasted unnatural, "like some of the gummi junk I've been eating recently." Tan called it "too acidic." I thought it started out tasting violently of lemon juice, then turned unpleasantly neutral, finishing like a mouthful of packing peanuts. We were all surprised that this was a Honeycrisp, and it was probably our least favorite.
Jazz: Is there anything less like jazz than an apple? What a dumb name. But while Paige thought it could taste a little brighter, I found it just right, well-balanced and delicious throughout the whole chew. Tan loved it, too: "the sweetness up front, and a little tartness in the end," calling it "the most aromatic" and ultimately declaring it his personal winner.
Fuji: This particular example seemed unusually mild--not unpleasant, and possessed of a good crunch, but more watery than usual. Tan felt it lacked complexity, while Paige termed it "inoffensive." Fujis are usually my favorite, but despite how much I hate the name, I may be branching out to Jazz.
Granny Smith: Tan's keen powers of observation led him to say, "I feel like this is a cooking apple." Paige liked the extreme tartness, but found the skin way too chewy. The limey acidity hurt the sides of my tongue. It made all of us want pie (or apple crisp!).
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