What's better than a fresh-from-the-oven apple crisp or a bowl of homemade applesauce on a dreary winter day? Thanks to the many varieties of apples available—Red Delicious, Fuji, Gala, McIntosh, Granny Smith, and so on—the possibilities are limitless for apple-themed menu items.
But with all of those apple varieties out there, how do you know which one to use for which purpose? What makes a good eating apple, a good baking apple, or a good applesauce apple? How about apples for salads? With dinnertime approaching and little time to waste, let's explore the world of apples!
Please note: While it's true that some apple varieties are particularly well-suited to a specific task, it's also smart to keep in mind that many apple types can pull double or even triple duty. So you may often find a particular type of apple that not only makes great pies, but also works well in salads, or even for eating fresh as a healthy snack option. No matter which apples you find on hand, there's sure to be a good use for them in the recipe file.
You can use a single variety for applesauce, or you can mix up multiple varieties (apple varieties good for cooking are Granny Smith, Pippin, Gravenstein, Mcintosh, Fugi, Jonathan, Jonagold and Golden Delicious) to achieve the precise flavor you desire; this can sometimes be helpful if you're trying to produce an applesauce without any added sugar. In any case, some good "applesauce apples" include:
The sweet and soft Golden Delicious is an excellent choice for applesauce in part because it's not as firm as some varieties, so the fruit cooks down easily. Still, it can also be useful for the occasional pie, cider, and other uses. The bright yellow color is cheery and fun, and the more circular shape of the Golden Delicious is quite different from the Red Delicious variety (the two apples are, in fact, not related at all).
The McIntosh variety is more than 200 years old, so if you enjoy the tradition of a perennial favorite, this apple is for you. McIntosh apples are very soft and cook rapidly, making them an excellent applesauce choice but limiting their usefulness in pies; they also have a slightly tart flavor that is sometimes described as “spicy."
Sweet and crispy, the Fuji apple is well known for the bold flavors it packs into each bite. The Fuji is somewhat versatile and can multitask if needed, but it makes a great choice for applesauce, and is where it really shines.
When you think of “baking with apples," you may first think of pies, but don't forget about apple crisps, cobblers, and other baked apple recipes as well. The general goal for a baking or cooking apple is to choose a variety with a firmer texture that will hold its shape well, even after cooking. The other ingredients in the dish will contribute additional flavor as well, so baking apple varieties don't necessarily have to be ideal for fresh snacking. Is there an apple pie in your dinnertime future? If so, consider:
Some bakers notice that the Rome apple's flavor doesn't become fully expressed until the fruit is cooked. This, along with the fact that Rome apples possess a crisp, dense flesh that holds up well during baking, makes it a great pie apple.
Everyone knows that Granny Smith apples are tart—often too tart for fresh snacking. But that's just fine—because the Granny Smith apples are a perfect go-to option for baking because they are very slow to cook. You can always try to cover up the natural tartness, or you can do what some clever cooks do and use the Granny Smith's tartness to your advantage in savory dishes!
An apple with plenty of versatility, the New Zealand-native Braeburn apple is an excellent pie apple; it's also good for general baking and cider, as well as snacking. The Braeburn flavor is a combination of sweet and tart.
What happens if you cross a Jonathan apple with a Golden Delicious? You get a “Jonagold," and it's among the most versatile apples you'll find. Use it in your pies, toss it in your crisps, count on it for snacking, but just make sure you have room for a few in the fridge!
Snacking and Salad Apples
It's always a delight to whip up a favorite apple recipe, but don't forget to simply enjoy a fresh apple straight out of the fridge for tasty—and healthy—snacking! Or, add some apple slices to your next salad. Either way, the goal for a snacking or salad apple is to use a variety that can stand alone in terms of texture, crispness, and—most importantly—sweetness. Some jumping-off points include:
No question, the Red Delicious is a must-have variety for your fruit bowl or snacking drawer. This very popular and famous fruit features a deep, solid red color on the outside and sports a sweet, crispy texture inside. It's perfect for eating raw, as millions of fans have discovered!
The Gala might be small, but its flavor is huge! Another New Zealand import, the Gala has become popular worldwide as a perfect snacking apple, tasty and sweet. The Gala doesn't always perform as well in recipes as other apples, so try using it for what it's most suited for—fresh munching, and salads!
Cripps Pink (Pink Lady)
f you're feeling adventurous, why not try a snacking apple that—while still sweet—also delivers a hint of delicious sour tang? Cripps Pink (also known by the Pink Lady brand name) offers this fun blend of flavors in an apple with a firm texture. Toss it into your next salad, too—it works great there as well.
In case you missed it, apples on the whole are a versatile fruit, and the Honeycrisp is no exception (it makes a nice choice for applesauce). But thanks to the Honeycrisp's juicy, delightful flavor (some claim it really does taste like honey!), fresh snacking is where the Honeycrisp truly shines.