Posts Tagged ‘Jersey Black apple’

A bin of Macoun apples. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

A bin of Macoun apples. (Russell Steven Powell photo)


Macoun apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Macoun apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

PEOPLE MAY DIFFER on how to pronounce it, but there is nearly universal agreement that Macoun is one of the best tasting apples. Whether you say “Mac-cow-n” or “Mac-coo-n,” the apple named for Canadian pomologist W. T. Macoun is renowned for its crispness and sweet-tart flavor.

Macoun is a cross of McIntosh with the heirloom apple Jersey Black. Also called Black Apple because of its deep color, Jersey Black supplies Macoun’s rich, wine-red tones, with occasional green patches or stripes.

Macoun is a tactile pleasure, as pleasing to hold as it is to behold. Its irregular, boxy shape — another feature of Jersey Black — fits easily into the hand. Its light green flesh is crisp and juicy.

McIntosh supplies much of Macoun’s juiciness and flavor, which is more tart than sweet. But Macoun’s texture is firmer than McIntosh, and it has a distinctive, complex spiciness, with a hint of strawberry.

New England Macouns are ripe now at most orchards, and they should be available at farm stands and in stores for several months, while supplies last. For a long time Macoun was considered strictly a fall apple, which heightened anticipation of its arrival. Much of that anticipation remains today, and despite improvements in storage, demand for fresh Macouns remains strong.

Macoun is such a great fresh-eating apple that it is often overlooked for cooking. It can get a little juicy when cooked, but its flavor and firmness work well in pies, crisp, and sauce, especially in combination with other varieties.

As for pronunciation, there is no definitive answer. Descendants of W. T. Macoun pronounced the family name “Mac-cow-n,” but some dictionaries assert that it is “Mac-coo-n,” instead. The disparity over pronunciation undoubtedly has its origins among clans in the United Kingdom, long before the discovery of the Macoun apple in New York in 1909. It was released commercially in 1923.

Over time, both pronunciations generally have been accepted, and their usage now varies some from region to region, even orchard to orchard.

Named in honor of the apple scientist William Tyrell Macoun, in our opinion the “Mac-cow-n” affirmed by his descendants seems like the obvious name for this stellar treat.

But once you sink your teeth into a fresh Macoun, what you call it is irrelevant.


TWO  BOOKS by Russell Steven Powell, senior writer, and Bar Lois Weeks, executive director of the New England Apple Association, explore the history of apple growing in the region and look at the nation’s apple industry.

'Apples of New England' by Russell Steven PowellApples of New England (Countryman Press) is an indispensable resource for anyone searching for apples in New England orchards, farm stands, or grocery stores — or trying to identify an apple tree in their own backyard.

The book contains color photographs by Weeks and descriptions of more than 200 apples discovered, grown, or sold in New England, accompanied by notes about flavor and texture, history, ripening time, storage quality, and best use. Apples of New England offers practical advice about rare heirlooms and newly discovered apples.

Apples of New England includes chapters on the rich tradition of apple growing in New England, and on the “fathers” of American apples, Massachusetts natives John Chapman (“Johnny Appleseed”) and Henry David Thoreau. Apples of New England presents the apple in all its splendor: as a biological wonder, as a super food, as a work of art, and as a cultural icon.

America's AppleAmerica’s Apple (Brook Hollow Press) tells a rich and detailed story about apple growing in America, from horticulture to history to culinary uses. Powell writes about the best ways to eat, drink, and cook with apples. He describes the orchard’s beauty and introduces readers to some of the family farms where apples are grown today, many of them spanning generations.

America’s Apple looks at how America’s orchards are changing as a result of the trend toward intensive planting and the trademarking of new varieties, and what that means to consumers. Powell also writes about the fragile underpinnings of modern agriculture: the honeybees needed to pollinate the crop and the labor required to pick it, plus new and exotic pests and increasingly volatile weather.

Apples of New England and America’s Apple are available in hardcover at fine bookstores and orchards and online. America’s Apple is also available in paperback.

For more information, write to newenglandapples@verizon.net.

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Champlain Orchards in Shoreham, Vermont, is one of many New England orchards with outstanding Cortland apple crops this fall. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Champlain Orchards in Shoreham, Vermont, is one of many New England orchards with outstanding Cortland apple crops this fall. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

THE INFLUENCE of McIntosh on the world’s apple supply extends well beyond the McIntosh itself. Its exceptional flavor, juiciness, and aroma have made McIntosh a favorite of apple breeding programs for more than 100 years, and Macs are parents of some of New England’s most celebrated varieties, especially Cortland, Empire, and Macoun.

Cortland apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Cortland apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Like McIntosh, Cortland has been a New England favorite for more than a century, and it excels in every use. A large, juicy apple with a sweet-tart flavor that is a little sweeter than a Mac, Cortlands are excellent for fresh eating. They are outstanding in pies for their flavor, size, and because they hold their shape well when baked. Their white flesh browns slowly after slicing, so Cortlands are excellent in salads, too.

Cortland is the product of a cross between McIntosh and Ben Davis, an heirloom apple from Virginia dating back to the early 1800s. Much of Cortland’s distinctive flavor comes from McIntosh, while its crisp texture, red skin with green striping, and large size are characteristic of Ben Davis. Cortlands can develop a slightly greasy look and feel in storage, another quality of Ben Davis. Cortlands were developed in 1898 at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, New York.

Empire apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Empire apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Empire is a cross between two of America’s most popular varieties: McIntosh and Red Delicious. Red Delicious, a chance seedling discovered in Iowa in 1880, provides Empire’s predominantly deep red color and sweetness, but McIntosh gives it a complexity and measure of tartness, as well as a green or yellow blush.

Empire’s juicy white flesh resembles a Mac, but it is firmer and does not bruise easily, like Red Delicious. Empire is great for fresh eating, but is a good cooking apple as well. Developed by R.D. Way at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in 1945, Empire was introduced commercially in 1966.

Macoun apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Macoun apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Macoun was also developed at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station, by crossing McIntosh with Jersey Black, a variety from New Jersey also known as Black Apple, dating back to the early 1800s. The resulting apple is named for Canadian horticulturalist W.T. Macoun, and it was released in 1923.

Many consider Macoun to be the finest fresh-eating apple available, in large part due to its sweet-tart, McIntosh-like flavor and powerful fragrance. But Macoun has a firmer, crisper flesh than McIntosh, and a distinctive, spicy taste, with a hint of strawberry.

Macoun is red and green like McIntosh, and its darker, wine-red tones and irregular, boxy shape are attributes of Jersey Black. Macoun is good for cooking, too, but rarely gets that far, coveted as it is for fresh eating. Macoun is pronounced as if spelled “MacCowan,” although some people say “MacCoon.”

Other varieties that owe their existence to McIntosh include Brock (crossed with Golden Delicious, developed in Maine in 1933), Jonamac (crossed with Jonathan, New York, 1972), Milton (crossed with Yellow Transparent, New York, 1923), Spartan (crossed with Newtown Pippin, British Columbia, 1936), and Spencer (crossed with Red Delicious, British Columbia, 1959).

RubyMac is one of several newer strains of McIntosh, and it is distinguished by its deep red color and firm, light-green flesh.


FOR INFORMATION about where to find McIntosh and other New England apples, click here.

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Dowse Orchards

A hawk surveys the apple crop at Dowse Orchards in Sherborn, Massachusetts (Russell Steven Powell photo)

FEW APPLES ARE AS EAGERLY ANTICIPATED every fall as Macoun, and apple lovers will be happy to know that they are now available at most New England orchards.

Macoun apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Macoun apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

While they are good for most culinary uses, Macouns are highly sought-after as a fresh-eating apple. Their sweet-tart flavor evokes McIntosh (which is one of Macoun’s parents). But Macoun has a harder, crisper flesh than the Mac, and its complex flavor hints of strawberry and spices. Macouns have a striated green and red color similar to a Cortland, and a sometimes angular, almost boxy shape, further distinguishing it from McIntosh.

Macouns do not keep as well as some varieties, another reason they are coveted in the fall. Macouns flourish in New England; on a recent day we received queries from Florida, Maryland, and Pennsylvania inquiring where Macouns could be found, and in our booth in the Massachusetts Building at the Eastern States Exposition (the “Big E”), the Macouns supplied by Nestrovich Fruit Farm in Granville, Massachusetts, were snapped up quickly. We hope to replenish them before the end of the fair.

McIntosh supplies much of Macoun’s flavor and bouquet. Jersey Black, Macoun’s other parent, is an American heirloom once known as Black Apple due to its dark color, contributing to Macoun’s wine-red tones and irregular shape.

Macoun was developed in 1909 by Richard Wellington at Cornell University’s New York Agricultural Experiment Station, and released commercially in 1923. It was named for Canadian pomologist W. T. Macoun. Macoun, by the way, is pronounced as if spelled “MacCowan,” although some people insist on saying “MacCoon.” Any way you say or slice it, Macoun is a delicious apple, and this is the peak season to bite into one.

If you bring home too many to eat fresh, or simply want to explore Macouns’ flavors in cooking, here’s a recipe we’ve adapted from Tougas Family Farm in Northborough, Massachusetts, originally attributed to Kitty Patterson.

We have visited a number of New England orchards this fall, and many have exceptional crops. But none are more lush than the one at Tougas Family Farm (if you get to the Big E this weekend, we may still have some of Tougas Family Farm’s Galas on hand). But wherever you go to pick or purchase your apples, this is the ideal time to visit your local orchard to sample the season’s bounty.

Apple Crisp Pie

1 9-inch pie crust

4-5 Macoun or other New England apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced

3/4 c plus 2-3 T sugar

¾ c flour

1/2 t cinnamon

1/4 t salt

3 T brown sugar

1/2 c butter at room temperature

Toss apples with the 2-3 T sugar. Place into uncooked pie shell, rounding up on center. Combine remaining ingredients in bowl, mixing until mixture resembles moist crumbs. Sprinkle over top of apples. Bake 15 minutes at 425°F. Reduce heat to 350° for 30 minutes more until crunchy and brown.


FOR MORE INFORMATION about New England’s apple varieties and orchards, visit our website at  www.newenglandapples.org.

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