It’s apple-picking season! From apple pies to luscious butters, this all-time favorite fruit is how we Americans officially kick off the fall season.
And as much as we love apples, the question of what to do with them once we pick or buy them seems to never go away.
Each year around this time, my husband and I head out to the country for our annual apple picking to stock up for the winter baking season and begin my fall canning of apple butter and apple sauce.
And so, being the consummate connoisseur of good things to eat, I thought I would share an easy, go-to guide that I trust will help you as you decide what to pick for you and your family.
This is a list of the most common varieties:
This variety tends to be on the larger side with bright green color with a reddish blush. Braeburn apples are typically ready late in the season which runs to just before Thanksgiving. Very similar in taste to Granny Smith, which would make sense since it was developed from the Granny Smith variety. With a bite that is crisp with a sweet and slightly spicy flavor, this apple is great for eating and baking.
With a flesh of yellowish-orange and a red skin, fuji apples are best eaten fresh as opposed to in a cooked dish. This apple is especially popular because the shelf life tends to be longer than other varieties.
Conic-shaped with a long stem, this yellow to green skinned apple with yellow flesh is not the prettiest in appearance, due to its russet-colored specks, but my is it good for biting into. This is also a favorite for use in apple butter and apple sauce and also works well as a topper for salads. If you are looking for an apple to store, this particular variety should not be your first choice as it tends to bruise very easily thereby encouraging spoilage.
Like golden delicious, gala apples are conic-shaped and small to medium in size. This bright red apple has excellent flavor and stores very well. Gala apples are usually ripe for the picking very early in the season. Gala apples are excellent for baking due to its firm texture which holds up quite well when cooked.
This is one of my favorites for baking pies and crisps. Round, green to slightly yellow skin with a firm, crisp flesh, this apple also stores well when kept in a cool dark place. If you prefer a tart flavor be sure to harvest early as they tend to sweeten the longer you wait to harvest.
A yellowish skin with red stripes, with a sweet and mild flavor, Jonagold apples are great for either eating or baking. A mid-fall harvest, this particular variety, if stored properly can be around for Christmas dinner.
Because of its high water content, red delicious apples are not the best for baked dishes. These are best eaten fresh and perfect for lunch boxes.
Cortlands are juicy and slightly tart, with bright red skin and bright white flesh. This variety is perfect for baking in pies, cobblers, and crisps. When sliced, Cortlands are also excellent for salads and cheese plates, since the flesh doesn’t brown and discolor quickly.
A wonderful variety for baking and applesauce, this variety is relatively new to the apple family. Honey-sweet with a tart flavor, this is one of my favorites for snacking.
A classic variety, Ida Reds are tangy in flavor with a flesh that is sometimes a pretty rosy pink. It makes beautiful applesauce when cooked with the skin on in order to get that beautiful pink color. They tend to hold up well when baked and make a nice topper for fresh salads. This apple also freezes well freezing.
Sweet and aromatic, Macouns are a good go-to for snacking as well as a great topper for salads and for apple sauce. This apple also makes a nice showing on a cheese plate.
A classic bright red apple with green undertones, juicy, crisp McIntosh apples are the not the best choice when it comes to cooking as they tend to break down when heated. They are delicious when eaten fresh or can be made into a nice apple sauce. If you absolutely must have the flavor in a pie, pair with a firmer, more tart apple for the best results.
Storage tips: Store apples in a dry, cool place. They keep best if the individual apples don’t touch. I wrap each apple in parchment paper or you can pick up disposable large muffin tins to keep them separated.: If stored in the refrigerator, keep them away from lettuce and other delicate produce, as the ethylene gas naturally produced by apples causes fruits and vegetables to ripen and/or spoil faster.