Think apples are a healthy snack? They may be sweeter than you think

It's not your imagination. Modern apple varieties are being bred sweeter.
It's not your imagination. Modern apple varieties are being bred sweeter. Photo: Wolter Peeters

Are apples getting sweeter or are my taste buds changing as I get older? P. Matherson

I remember spending long autumn afternoons scrumping with a friend. We would raid the orchard of an absentee owner and my friend would then sell the fruit to her fellow students. The orchard was a mix of overgrown fruit trees, fox lairs and blackberries. Most of the fruit was red delicious, a variety that became popular in the early 1900s.

Back then, fruit had to look good but did not need to pack a flavour punch like it does today. When it comes to sweetness, this old-fashioned apple measures only 11 Brix, which is a measure of the naturally occurring sugars in the fruit. (One degree Brix is one gram of sucrose in 100 grams of water.) Popular modern varieties such as fuji and pink lady measure about 13 and 14 Brix respectively, while  one new apple variety we saw being advertised was capable of producing sugar content between 24 and 27 Brix. That is sweeter than some sugary breakfast cereals.

Why do they put worms in tequila? A. Smith

They don't. They put it in mezcal, tequila's more bucolic cousin. "They" are marketing people, and if they were to actually to go a plantation growing agave, from which both tequila and mezcal are made, and they found a worm in an agave plant, they would quickly learn that is a sign of agave moth infestation, which leads to lesser quality plants and lesser quality mezcal. It's like a marketing person adding some vine leaves affected by powdery mildew to a bottle of sauvignon blanc thinking it would make the wine sell better. Tequila, for the record, is made from a minimum of 51 per cent blue agave and must be made in the Mexican state of Jalisco. Mezcal can be made from other agaves and can be made around Mexico. The best mezcal is made in Oaxaca and I have a vague memory of a sensational mezcal bar somewhere in the old town but I can't understand my handwriting from the notes I took that night many years ago. If any readers can help me with the name of a dark, wood-lined mezcal bar in Oaxaca, I would be most appreciative.

The worm in the mezcal is there for marketing reasons.
The worm in the mezcal is there for marketing reasons. Photo: Shutterstock

Yesterday, my grandchildren and I baked honey cakes in four identical small baking tins. The two outer cakes baked perfectly. The two inner cakes were uncooked in the base at the centre. The tops of all the cakes were beginning to burn. B. Kolber

I don't think it mattered. You were baking with your grandchildren, an essential life skill. There's not enough of it. Talk to the children and ask them what they think. I find they know the answers to things like that. Not all ovens are created equally and some are less equal than others. Sounds like your oven has a hot spot. Once the cake batter has set, it is always a good idea to move the cakes around the oven. Could the oven have been overcrowed and could you stagger the baking process? Perhaps bake the cakes again with the grandchildren and treat it as a baking experiment. They can see what happens when they move the tins around. Let us know how you go.

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