Autumn is a fun time of the year. Temperatures are cooler, trees are turning beautiful colors and everybody’s favorite fruit is coming into its own (and to a grocery store or farm stand near you). Nothing beats the effect of biting into a perfect, crisp apple and having the tangy, sweet juices run down your hand. It’s nature’s parting kiss on your lips.
Have you ever noticed the increasing varieties of apples available? Although all varieties of apples look similar, they don’t all act the same when cooked. Some apples are raised solely for eating, others only for cooking and most do a good job at both tasks. We went to the grocery store in our area to see just how many apples we could find. We came back with 11 varieties. Although apples can vary by regions of the country, most of the apples on our list you can find at your own store.
HERE’S A DESCRIPTION OF WHAT WE FOUND AND POSSIBLE USES FOR THEM. AT THE END IS A QUICK HEALTHY RECIPE FOR BAKING APPLES.
- THE DELICIOUS FAMILY – This group includes Golden Delicious and Red Delicious apples. A Red Delicious apple can be good eaten out-of-hand, but don’t try cooking it. You’ll just end up with a mess of mealy-tasting mush. Some people cook with Golden Delicious apples, but with so many great-tasting cooking apples, why not just eat Goldens for their sweet, tangy flavor?
- JONAGOLD - This cross between a Jonathan and a Golden Delicious apple is a superb eating and cooking apple. They can grow to be quite large and they make great apple pies, because they keep their shape (they don’t turn into applesauce pies). This green-yellow, brindled colored apple gives you an aromatic, sweet-sour taste when eaten out-of-hand. In an apple pie, it’s simply delectable. This is one of the best apples for baking.
- McINTOSH - This is a squat apple that kind of feels like a baseball in your hand. It bruises easily, so choose carefully when you pick your McIntosh apples off the displays in the grocery store. It makes a good apple pie, but it makes even better apple sauce, because the flesh is fine-grained and it cooks down beautifully. Bite into a “Mac,” and you’ll notice a tart flavor from the tender white flesh. This makes a great baked apple.
- GRANNY SMITH - A Granny Smith is the green monster at the grocery store. It comes with a big, bold flavor. It kind of tastes like a sweet tart candy. The Granny is an excellent pie apple. This green apple has a crisp texture and it doesn’t bruise easily. We’ve kept Grannies in the fridge for over a month and they were just as good the day we baked them as the day we bought them. Our daughter (who likes to suck lemons) loves the taste of Granny Smith apples because of their tartness. This is the very best apple for baking.
- FUJI - The Fuji apple was first marketed in the U.S. in the 1980s. Growers and produce managers love this apple, because it’s a very long keeper. We love it because it tastes good. It’s an apple we reach for when we want to eat an apple out-of-hand. Its firm, juicy and slightly tart flesh also makes it a good pie and applesauce apple. Plus, its blushing green skin looks pretty in a fruit bowl on your table in the fall or winter.
- CORTLAND - The Cortland resembles the McIntosh apple in form and fineness of flesh. Its taste is sweeter. The white flesh against the red skin is so startling, it makes a great dessert apple, something you can serve your guests all by itself. The Cortland also makes good apple sauce. It doesn’t hold its form quite as well in a pie. But, it sure makes a creamy, rich baked apple.
- HONEYCRISP - Like its name implies, Honeycrisp is a firm, tart/sweet apple. It’s a perfect out-of-hand eater. The firm flesh also makes it a great pie apple. However, they’re a more expensive apple and they taste so good, why would you want to hide that flavor behind cinnamon and spices in a pie? By the way, the Honeycrisp is a great long-keeper in a cool, dry situation.
- BRAEBURN – A Braeburn apple is a wonderful thing. It has firm flesh with a burst of sweet tartness when you bite into it. A Braeburn doesn’t bruise easily and it makes great apple pies and applesauce. This is truly a beautiful apple.
- GALA - The Gala is a lot like the Braeburn as far as texture is concerned. It makes a great eating apple. It contains a sweetness not found in other varieties. Gala apples also make a very good apple pie and applesauce. This thin-skinned apple contains a grainy flesh. It’s also not prone to bruising. We like Gala apples.
- HARALSON - This cool-climate apple is a good eater and an excellent cooking apple. It contains a crisp, juicy, tart flavor. Make an apple pie out of Haralson apples and you can’t go wrong.
QUICK HEALTHY HOT APPLE RECIPE
To help you enjoy the wonderful flavor of a cooking apple, here’s a fast recipe for hot apples made in the microwave. When we come in after a hard day of working outside, such as cutting our winter supply of firewood, and we yearn for a sweet autumn pick-me-up, we often whip this recipe out in no time.
4 cooking apples
4 teaspoons margarine or butter
4 teaspoons sugar
4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
Wash the apples.
Remove the core and seeds from the center of the apples, but leave the flesh and skins intact. Place the apples in an 8″x8″ glass baking dish.
Place a teaspoon of margarine/butter in the hollow center of each apple, followed by a teaspoon of sugar and a teaspoon of cinnamon.
Cook the apples in the microwave at 80% for 12-15 minutes, or until apples are softened and you can push a fork through the skin with little resistance.
Serve these apples by themselves, or with a dollop of vanilla ice cream and the juices from the bottom of the baking dish drizzled on top. Makes 4 servings.
CHECK OUT FRESH APPLES
So, grab some apples at your local grocery store. Or better yet, head for your local orchard or farmer’s market. The apples out of a local orchard are a tremendous experience for your taste buds. The fresh flavor and juiciness can’t be beat.