When Exactly: Thursday Nov. 13 - 12:15 pm
Cultivar: Northern Spy
Purchased From: Tree-Licious Orchards - Grand Army Plaza Greenmarket (Brooklyn, NY)
Color: I don’t know, I’m colorblind.
Eaten How: with Once Again Organic Crunchy Peanut Butter.
Apple pie is not American.
At least, it wasn’t for me growing up. My brother and I were treated throughout our childhood with an “apple pie” baked my Transylvanian/Romanian grandmother that bore little resemblance to the iconic American dessert. She created a lightly sweetened apple filling dusted with cinnamon and sandwiched it between puff pastry. It was really more of an apple spanakopita. The apple flavors in this “pie” were always stronger than in the American pies I would encounter at friends’ houses, and there’s a good reason why. G-ma (that’s the rap-like name my grandmother actually created for herself) would prepare a dense filling with a homogenous texture, but this was not achieved by cooking apple chunks into oblivion as one might expect. Instead, she would shred the raw apples on a box grater and just lightly cook the filling afterwards, so the apple/cinnamon mixture was formed with minimal heat and damage to the apples’ raw characteristics. This yielded not just a great “pie,” but a great side benefit as well: fresh apple juice. You are truly a great human being if you can shred apples and immediately hand over the remaining juice, still filled with little bits of apple, to your grateful grandsons. That juice. It was like drinking something between juice and cider; thin and refreshing, yet spicy and full-flavored.
This cider/juice was exactly what I smelled when biting into today’s Northern Spy. A smile formed immediately in my brain (I can’t be sure if it got all the way to my face; I was concentrating pretty hard, so I may have still been wearing my “tasting expression”). The cider/juice aroma was replicated perfectly, though the apple lacked the sweetness necessary to fully drive the taste home. There was no shortage of tartness in the Spy, and in addition to the cider/juicy tang, there was another, slightly more astringent note - lime. There was also a high-frequency note that flitted in and out of the cider flavors, a hint of banana. I wish there had been a bit more light-brown-sugary sweetness to fill out the flavors promised by that amazing cider/juice smell, but the aroma was pretty wonderful on its own.
Texture-wise, this apple paled in comparison to last week’s incredible Spy. There was a palpable crunch when biting in, but the flesh would dissolve in my mouth rather quickly afterwards. I’ll categorize it roughly as, er… crunchy-cloudy. Hm.
I knew the apple’s high acidity would stand up well against the PB, but I worried that the excellent cider/juice aroma would disappear. Indeed, the aroma was muted somewhat, but some other pleasurable flavors evolved in its wake. The PB’s salt brought out the banana a little so there were a couple of great, Elvis-y banana/PB bites in there. Additionally, the limey flavors expanded, creating a slightly tannic sensation that, when joined with the muted-but-still-lightly-cinnamon-y cider aroma and the PB’s bitterness, evoked the taste of a bourbon hot toddy. A little more sugar would have helped carry out this toddy idea just the way it would have aided in replicating the cider/juice, but the intentions of this apple were indisputably good nonetheless. And who knows? Perhaps another Spy will come along and completely nail the cider/juice thing on the head. I’d like that.