Fall Fest: Pick The Perfect Apple

by in View All Posts, September 29th, 2010
The Neelys' Apple Crisp
The Neelys' Apple Crisp

We’re teaming up with other food and garden bloggers to host Fall Fest 2010, a season-long garden party. Each week we’ll feature favorite garden-to-table recipes and tips to help you enjoy the bounty, whether you’re harvesting your own goodies or buying them fresh from the market. To join in, check out awaytogarden.com.

Bring on the apple crisp, baked apples and applesauce-d pork chops  — apple season is here! From popular supermarket varieties to the thousands of heirloom types you can pick up at a local farmers’ market, each apple has its own personality.

Some apples stand up to baking, while others fall flat in the oven. Some are too tart to munch on, but perfect for pies. So, how do you choose? Here’s a primer on picking the best apples for the job.

Best to Resist Browning

Apple MoonsApple Type: Cortland
Why They Work: Juicy, mildly tart Cortland apples don’t oxidize as quickly as some varieties, so you can avoid ugly brown apples in your salad or lunch sack. To discourage browning on any apple, dip in lemony water just after slicing.
Other Good Choices: Golden Delicious, Ginger Gold
Recipe to Try: Apple Moons

Best to Pair With Cheese

Paula's Nut-Glazed Brie with ApplesApple Types: Honeycrisps with blue cheese; Cortlands with cheddar; Granny Smiths with taleggio
Why They Work: The Honeycrisp’s honey-sweet flesh pairs well with bold cheeses, while mildly-tart apples pair well with nutty aged cheddar. For rich, soft cheeses like taleggio and brie, the Granny Smith’s acidic flavor helps cut the fat.
Recipe to Try: Paula’s Nut-Glazed Brie With Apples

Best for Apple Bobbing

Apple Types: Gala and Jonagold
Why They Work: Round, long-stemmed apples like these varieties are easiest to catch.

Best For Cooking Whole

The Neelys' Baked ApplesApple Type: Jonagold
Why It Works: This bumpy cross between Jonathan and Golden Delicious has a tough skin and firm flesh that holds its shape while cooking.
Other Good Options: Gala, Granny Smith, Jonathan, Golden Delicious, Braeburn, Gala, Rome Beauty
Recipe to Try: The Neelys’ Baked Apples

Best for Long-Term Storage

Apple Type: Arkansas Black
Why It Works: These crisp, dark red apples have a firm flesh that keeps very well when stored in a cool, dark place. To increase the shelf life, keep apples in the coldest spot in your refrigerator.
Other Good Choices: Blushing Golden, Bonnie Best, Rome Beauty

Best For Baking

The Neelys' Apple CrispApple Type: Macoun
Why It Works: To make pies,crisps and tarts, you want an apple that will remain flavorful and firm during cooking. This dark red cross between McIntosh and Jersey Black delivers.
Other Good Options: Granny Smith, Baldwin, McIntosh, Cortland, Golden Delicious, Baldwin
Recipe to Try: The Neelys’ Apple Crisp (pictured)

Best for Sauces

Apple Type: Idared
Why it Works: This cross between Jonathan and Wagener has a strong apple flavor that holds up well during the cooking process. Cook with the skin on and strain for a lovely pink applesauce.
Other Good Choices: Jonathan, Fuji, Golden Delicious, Paula Red, Macoun, Jonagold, Gala, Cortland
Recipes to Try: Alton’s 10-Minute Applesauce

Best For Raw Munching

Beet and Apple SaladApple Type: Honeycrisp
Why It Works: For eating out-of-hand and topping salads, you want an apple with sweet flavor and super-crisp flesh. Honeycrisp has the perfect combination of sweetness and crunch.
Other Good Options: Red Delicious, Gala, Golden Delicious, Fuji, Jonathan, Cortland, McIntosh, Braeburn, Pink Lady
Recipe to Try: Beet and Apple Salad

TELL US: What’s your favorite kind of apple?  Shout it out in the comments, or share your favorite apple recipes on Twitter at #fallfood.

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Comments (22)

  1. Stephanie says:

    Thank you for the run-down — I'm looking forward to trying the Black Arkansas!

    My contribution to fall fest this week is a homey apple chutney — perfect with a creamy cheese dolloped on a cracker: http://www.dollopofcream.com/2010/09/mrs-doucets-

  2. Tara says:

    This list is excellent – I may print it off for future reference. But you forgot my favorite: Northern Spy! Hard to find, but SO worth the effort! Especially for pies.

    We recently went apple picking for organic Cortlands, and ever since I have been making and canning batch after batch of apple butter. Makes the house smell amazing, and now I've got a pantry stocked with wonderful hostess gifts! http://abakinglife.blogspot.com/2010/09/apples-of

    • delieres says:

      northern spy is the best cooking apple but so hard to find! growers near me won't plant new trees because they take so long to start bearing.

      also love fujis for just eating–i read once that, while they are a japanese cultivar, one of apples that is their 'ancestor' is related to an apple tree than thomas jefferson planted that he brought from europe–of course, i don't remember the name! i think the 'genealogy' of apples is fascinating and should be a topic for alton brown!!

  3. Julie says:

    Thank you so much for that information. I have always wanted to know what the different nuances were in all the apple variety type. I have to admit I can't remember what apple I used in my apple crumb tart, but it had the perfect note of sweetness so maybe it was the macoun. I will pay closer attention now to the types of apples I get…


  4. I am actually curious about the Honey Crisp. I haven't tried that apple yet.

    Here is my contribution to Fall Fest: http://thehorttshearawho.blogspot.com/2010/10/app

  5. leahsinger says:

    I am so excited to participate in Fall Fest 2010 with my apple butter recipe: http://leahsthoughts.com/2010/10/04/apple-butter-

  6. ArizonaBorn says:

    Right now my two favorites are honeycrisp and jazz. I also like the ambrosia. All three are firm, juicy, and crispy. Grannysmith good for baking, but I do not like eating them in the raw.

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