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While making an apple and smoked chilli chutney yesterday (based on the one in Jocasta Innes' Country Kitchen p.266 but hotter) I was thinking about the browning of apple flesh when exposed to air. It's easily prevented by adding acid, but the way I was weighing the fruit as I cut it meant that I didn't want to add the vinegar to the pan, and the small windfalls I was using took a while to peel/chop/pick over.

The answers to a previous question "Why prevent apples from turning brown?" suggests that the flavour is affected:

In addition to the brown color they also become mushy and have a bruised flavor -- Sobachatina

but I'm cooking them to mush anyway, and there's enough brown sugar in the recipe to change the colour, so would this negate any benefit of dipping the cut apples in acid?

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Browning is oxidation. Oxidation has a distasteful affect to the flavor of many fruit where the star flavor profiles are acidic in nature. In apples, the two acids are malic acid and tartaric acid. Oxidation in combination with these two acids gives apples an artificial candy flavor.

Now I realize this isn't an apple example, but it is a good way to really taste what oxidation can do to fruit and fruit flavors. If you can, find some good strawberry wine (yes it does exist), and then try some cheap strawberry wine. Cheap strawberry wine tastes like strawberry candy, while good strawberry wine tastes like the refined version of the fruit. The difference is the amount of care given to avoid oxidation of the fruit and wine at all stages of the process. Strawberry wine is so easily oxidized that you need to fill chambers with nitrogen gas to keep air away from it. Cheap winemakers don't go to the trouble or additional cost since they are selling at a thinner margin.

  • But is the apparent browning during very gentle wet cooking also oxidation? Does it have the same effect on flavour? – Chris H Dec 4 '18 at 17:23
  • well no, it's being cooked at that point and whatever oxidation occurs then is already part of the recipe I assume. If you are taking a long time to peel and cut the apples, you can drop and hold the pieces into ice cold water. That will help them from browning before you begin cooking. – Escoce Dec 4 '18 at 17:33
  • Keeping them in water would have been a good plan, but I was weighing them as I went along (as the proportions matter for preservation), and didn't start with water because I didn't realise how much picking over they would need. You assume that oxidation during cooking (i) accounts for browning, and (ii) is intentional, but my question is still whether this is equivalent to any oxidation before cooking in terms of flavour. – Chris H Dec 4 '18 at 17:48
  • An increase in exposure will increase the level of oxidation, whether that's enough to have a negative impact to a recipe is a matter of experimentation really. So yes it matters, the question is how much? An question I can't quantifiably answer in a universal manner. It's going to depend on a lot on recipe tolerance for oxidation, amount of time to oxidize, starting materials, yadda yadda, but I would say that doing what you can to minimize oxidation is important. – Escoce Dec 4 '18 at 17:52
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If you're cooking chutney it doesn't really matter for the taste nor the colour, but if you want to prevent apples from browning without adding acid while weighing for some other recipe, just stuff them into a flimsy, cheapo plastic bag¹ right after peeling and squeeze out all the air and close the bag² as it's the oxygen in the air that makes them brown.

Note¹: Good quality plastic bags like Zip-locs are harder to use in this case as it's harder to squeeze all the air out and they weigh more.
Note²: A quick swirl after squeezing out the air should do it (and that's what I do).

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    In this case I was averaging about 50g of usable fruit per apple, and needed 1kg. I'd either be opening and closing the bag a lot, which wouldn't work very well, or using lots of bags. But your answer doesn't address whether the flavour would be any different, only the colour. – Chris H Aug 7 '18 at 6:34
  • edited @ChrisH (side-note: you seem to be using a lot of small apples: I didn't say it was the easiest method, but it's what I use for small batches (up to 1kg) for larger batches, I use a large kettle half-full of water with the juice of one lemon... – Fabby Aug 7 '18 at 19:31
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    Yes, cookers won't be ready for another 2-3 months round here, but I had a lot of windfalls (which of course needed more picking over). I also sometimes use a dip of very dilute lemon juice, but don't normally bother for chutney, only it took so long to prepare them... – Chris H Aug 7 '18 at 20:26

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