Magnificent or floury: which apple to choose? | Food and recipes
Cooler days and even colder nights are just around the corner, all sure-fire signs that peak apple-picking season is here.
But when it comes to apple picking, there is a fine line between the magnificent and the floury. With so many varieties, which one is the best choice for your needs? And how do you know if the apple you’re picking is nice and ripe – and not a mushy mess – before you take a bite?
Timing and color are essential
There is a big difference in taste and texture depending on when an apple is picked. “And no one likes a soft apple,” says Paul Rasch, owner of Wilson’s Orchard & Farm in Johnson County, Iowa.
If an apple is picked before it’s ripe, it can be rather disappointing, advises Rasch. “But, when an apple is picked just at the dawn of maturity, it’s spectacular,” he says.
When choosing an apple from your local grocer or orchard, consider the undertones, especially in the red varieties. As the apple begins to ripen, the background hues will start as a strong, shiny green becoming a duller green over time and then yellow in color.
“You want to catch the apple during that light green or just yellow stage, before the color turns deep yellow,” Rasch advises.
Adapting the right variety of apple to your needs
Homemade applesauce, lunch box snack, salad or cider? Knowing how you will ultimately use your apple can guide you to an ideal selection.
For example, if you’re hungry for an apple to snack on, a good balance of sweet and tangy is essential, such as in the flavors of a Braeburn or a Fuji. For baking you might want a firmer texture, in which case Jonagold is a good bet. And, when making a sauce or soup, a smoother, smoother apple is perfect, making McIntosh a smart choice.
To determine which apple is right for your needs, check out our helpful rundown of popular grocery store and farm stand varieties.
Braeburn: A favorite of growers and grocers, Braeburn has a tangy, complex flavor and makes a great all-purpose apple.
Cortland: An older American apple, the Cortlands is an integral part of growers in the United States, particularly in New York City, where it consistently ranks among the top 10 apples produced each year. Cortlands are slow to brown, making them perfect for charcuterie boards and salads.
Fuji: Named after Mount Fuji near the Japanese city where they originated from, Fuji apples arrived in the US market in the 1980s and quickly gained popularity. It’s an incredibly versatile variety and one of the top 10 selling apples on the market today, according to the US Apple Association.
Gala: Gala recently dethroned the 50-year race defined by Red Delicious as the best-selling apple in the United States, according to the American Apple Association. Its thinner skin and sweet-sweet flavor make it a popular snack apple.
Delicious golden: Golden Delicious has remained a popular choice over its cousin Red Delicious for a myriad of reasons. The first supermarket apples were grown to look pretty, and growers played around with ways to make the apples look even better. Mutations developed – and flavor waned in the red variety. But Golden Delicious retains a chewy, sweet flavor, making this staple a great choice for everything from salads to baked desserts.
Granny Smith: As all-American as apple pie, Granny Smith’s crisp flavor and crunchy bite helped him maintain a top 10 ranking in US apple sales for several years.
Honey crumble: A star in the apple world, Honeycrisp is a super juicy and crunchy apple at the same time. Considered the first apple to shift public preference from appearance to taste, Honeycrisp was bred by the University of Minnesota in the 1970s and is now the fifth most cultivated apple in the United States.
Jonagold: Developed at Cornell University, Jonagold is a cross between a Jonathan and a Golden Delicious. Jonagold apples have a balanced, sweet and sour flavor. It’s a great apple to eat right off the tree, and delicious in baked dishes, swirled in apple butter, and dried for apple chips.
McIntosh: Originally produced in Canada, McIntosh has become a popular all-round apple. It is easy to peel and pleasant to snack on and cook. It’s also a great table apple that pairs well with other varieties in both sweet and savory recipes.
Pink lady: One of the first apple varieties to be tabled, Pink Lady apples are known for their distinctive flavor and color. It’s a wonderful combination of sweet and tangy, and very versatile. Slow to brown, Pink Lady apples are well suited to charcuterie boards and to salads and coleslaw.
Lodi: An early harvest apple, Lodi has a sweet flesh and a lovely tangy flavor. Because of these sweet and sour characteristics, this is not a very good apple to snack on.