Spotlight on Apples!
Apples are the ultimate fall and winter fruit staple: they can be eaten as snacks, in savory recipes, or at home in the dessert section. They’re also incredibly good for you, as they’re filled with soluble fiber (cleansing, detoxifying, and helps control insulin levels), pectin (lowers cholesterol levels), can reduce skin dieseases, have no fat or sodium, and are packed with vitamins A and C.
Versatile and diverse, with an excellent shelf life and health benefits, they go particularly well…with, almost everything! Read on for some key tips to buying, storing, and cooking/baking with apples!
First, it’s all about choosing your apple. You’ve got to choose which variety you want to buy. There are about 50 varieties of apples that are mass grown – some, like Red Delicious and Granny Smith, are well known, while others, such as Braeburn or Cortland, are hidden treasures. Epicurious made a lovely guide, which I’ve copied and expanded upon below.
- Jonagold: A lovely red hue with hints of yellow, this species is a hybrid of the Jonathan (not pictured here) and the Golden Delicious and bears a faint physical resemblance to both. Like the Golden Delicious, Jonagold is sweet and thin-skinned, but it takes from the Jonathan a smooth skin and tart flavor. It is versatile and can be used in any recipe calling for apples.
- Cameo: Although this apple was discovered in Washington State in 1987, it’s quickly grown in popularity. Juicy, crisp, and sweet with just a touch of tart, the Cameo is thought to come from both the Red and the Yellow Delicious. That explains its shape as well as the somewhat striated look of its red-and-yellow skin, which is thicker than the Golden Delicious but thinner than the Red. Try substituting Cameos for Goldens in baking and cooking recipes. This variety is especially delicious when eaten raw.
- Empire: A cross between McIntosh and Red Delicious, the Empire was developed by researchers at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in 1966. It is generally quite round, with a skin that’s bright red with hints of green. The interior is crisp and creamy white. The Empire is firmer than the McIntosh, so it makes for a good cooking apple.
- McIntosh: This apple is the least firm of all the ones rounded up in this illustrated guide. The soft flesh can be described as “creamy” or “mealy,” which makes this variety a good candidate for eating raw or for apple sauce or apple butter, but not necessarily for baking. If you bake with McIntoshes, use a thickener to keep the apples from becoming too mushy.
- Golden Delicious: This all-purpose apple may share part of its name with the Red Delicious, but the two are not related. Golden Delicious apples are a bright, cheery-looking yellow with a relatively soft texture, although not as soft to the touch as a McIntosh or a Cortland. Thin-skinned, the Golden Delicious doesn’t store well (it can bruise and shrivel), so try to use it as soon as possible. This apple is ideal for pies, salads, sauces, and freezing.
- Fuji: Created by Japanese growers in the 1930s, the Fuji apple’s popularity grew in the U.S. during the 1980s and it has quickly become one of the most popular in the country. It’s a large crisp apple—a relative of the Red Delicious—with an intense sweetness that makes this an ideal candidate for eating raw. Try adding Fujis to salads that require very little to no cooking to keep their consistency.
- Cortland: It’s understandable if you confuse this apple with the McIntosh. Both are on the squat side, with creamy white interiors and sweet-and-tart flavors. The Cortland is a relatively soft apple, although not quite as soft as the McIntosh. And unlike the McIntosh, the Cortland functions as an all-purpose apple, which means you can bake it, cook it, or eat it raw.
- Red Delicious: This is the most popular apple variety in the U.S. It’s top heavy and has a creamy white interior. While juicy, the Red Delicious is a soft apple and won’t cook well, so it’s best to eat them raw. They’re also ideal snacks for the lunchbox.
- Gala: You can’t miss this apple, originally from Australia, with its bright-green skin, hard feel, crisp bite, and extremely tart taste. When it’s really ripe, the green skin usually has a touch of rosy red. While some savor the tartness, others prefer to cook it, which sweetens it up. It is an ideal complement to savory foods such as onions and salty foods like cheese. On an aesthetic note: The green skin provides a great visual element to any dish.
- Braeburn: Originating from New Zealand, this apple has a skin that’s muted red with golden-yellow undertones and tinges of faint green. It produces a firm, crisp bite and offers a pleasing balance between sweet and tart. Firm to the touch, Braeburns are good for baking as well as eating just as they are.
Additional apple varieties:
Honey Crisp: A hybrid of Macoun and Honey Gold apples, this yellow apple with stripes of red has a juicy texture and produces a sweet, crisp bite. They’re good all around.
Turkey Winesap: This green apple has red/purple strikpes and makes for an excellent cooking apple. It has a crisp bite and a balanced flavor.
Granny Smith: With bright green skin and firm flesh, this is one of the most well-known varieties in the United States. It has a tart flavor that works well in pies and mixed apple dishes. They’re best fresh or cooked.
Buying and storing your apples
Now that you know which type of apple you want, you’ve got to buy and store these treats.
Apple-picking season begins in late August or early September and lasts through November. Because apples keep well in cold storage, they are available year-round.
Make sure to buy apples that are blemish-free and without breaks in the skin, which can encourage spoilage or decay. They should be firm for their specific variety. Look for fruit with shiny (but not waxy) skin. Dull skin hints at a lack of crispiness and flavor.
Keep apples in the fridge to extend their crispiness. Place them in a plastic bag in the crisper. Don’t store bruised or cut apples in the same bag, as the other apples will spoil as well. To keep apples for a longer period of time, wrap each one in black and white newspaper and store in a dark, cool place.
If you’re slicing apples and don’t want the exposed pieces to turn brown, drunk the slices in a bowl of three parts water and one part lemon juice.
Because apples are so versatile, they can be used in a number of dishes, from complementing a pork roast to a classic applesauce or cobbler. I’ve linked you to some of my favorite tried and true fall apple recipes below (3 breakfast, 3 main course, 3 sides, 3 sauces, and 3 desserts!).
– Sarah Tralins