Ah, autumn. Let us, for a moment, breathe it in.
Great, isn’t it? With the the arrival of cooler air and multicolored leaves comes the weekly respite of college football games and the annual opportunities to watch grown men lay a shellacking on each other.
Can I get an “F-yea, America”?
I make no qualms about how fall is my favorite season. It’s not just about the football though, or the natural serenity of the autumnal landscape. Let’s be real here; with the fall comes some great, great foods. True, the bounty of summer produce — including those juicy sweet tomatoes – comes to an end, but a bounty of crisp, tart, and refreshing apples is right behind them.
Perhaps the iconic American fruit, Apples haven’t been immune to cereal imitators. Apple Cinnamon Cheerios has been of shelves for years, while other attempts to copy the classic flavor combination, like Chex’s Apple Cinnamon flavor, have come and gone. Many have even managed to taste mildly like an actual Apple, although when push comes to shove with Apple cereals, none can match that astringent and cool crisp of a Fuji or Empire.
Apple Jacks has never tried to though, and that’s one thing I’ve always admired about the cereal. Simple, straightforward, and one-note, Apple Jacks was the “cool” cereal to buy growing up. “We eat what we like,” said those kids in the baggy jeans and wavy hair, as that goofy father figure stared dumbfounded at their apparent lack of taste. “But it doesn’t even taste like Apples,” the dad would say. Pssh, who cares?
Thing is, Apple Jacks does taste like apples. Kind of.
I spotted Apple Jacks on the cheap recently and couldn’t resist the fall flavors — even though the temperature in central Maryland was still registering above 90. Still, I felt it was time to revisit this classic. Pouring a half serving of the cereal to eat dry, I immediately noticed the crunch and sweetness. The crunch is light — say a 5 out of 10, and not as hearty as I remembered it — while the sweetness has a burst of cinnamon flavor. It’s sweet, very sweet, but there’s a nice and not overbearing tart flavor to it. It’s not the flavor of a fresh apple, but it is the flavor of a dried apples, albeit one with added sugar. It makes sense when you think about it, given that the cereal contains both dried apples and apple juice concentrate, but it also doesn’t make sense, given that the leading grain used to make the cereal is corn. Clearly, oat-based cereals lend themselves better to the Apple flavor, balancing the sweetness and tartness better than the more insipid blank canvas of corn flour.
I never ate Apple Jacks in milk as a kid, but overall I thought they had a good showing even when I sampled the rings in skim milk. The rings absorb a moderate amount of milk, with diffusion taking place so that the milk takes on a sweet and not overwhelmingly cinnamon flavor. Although the end milk flavor is mild and not overly spicy, the sweetness was outstanding, and did much to lift up the otherwise bland liquid.
I like Apple Jacks, but I don’t love it. It’s right up there with Apple Cinnamon Cheerios, but it’s also entirely one note and not quite as crunchy, lacking enough textural and flavor contrasts to keep each bowl new and exciting. That being said, it can be ‘hacked’ for the ultimate in autumnal cereal experiences. I first discovered the Apple Jacks-Granola hack during my freshman year of college. Using the naturally crunchy and brown-sugar cinnamon properties of granola (not to mention the affinity of raisins for apples) a spoonful (oh hell, a ladle) of granola can go along way towards making Apple Jacks truly great. If, that is, you’re into the sugar rush. But hey, I am. And you know what they say.
Why do we eat Apple Jacks?
‘Cause we eat what we like.
- Price: $2.00 (on sale at Safeway)
- Ranking: 7/10
- Chances I’d Buy Again: 40%