As the weather starts to get a little crisper and the leaves begin to change color, my thoughts naturally turn to the fall season. Like many, baking is one of the ways I enjoy the fall season and apples are the quintessential fall fruit. There is such an abundance and variety of apples out there right now that you can’t help but be tempted by them. Because there are so many varieties I often forget which types are best for what I am trying to make. I made this handy chart to help myself and you pick the proper apples for your baking, cooking or saucing needs. Please note the seasonal times noted below are for the Northern Hemisphere.
Braeburn apples are available from October through April and are best for baking pies and tarts because they retain their shape and do not release a lot of juice during baking. The taste of a Braeburn is a combination of sweet and tart. They are also ideal for eating fresh as they are slow to brown after being cut.
Cortland apples are available in mid to late September and are best for pies, applesauce and apple butter. They are slow to brown and their flesh is white so they offer a good contrast when cut up into a fresh salad. Cortland apples are sweeter than McIntosh apples and make a good dessert apple.
Fuji apples are a hybrid of Red Delicious and Ralls Janet developed in Japan in the 1930’s. It is one of the 15 most popular apples in the U.S. Available in late October, its sweet taste and juiciness means it is best eaten fresh or as a dessert apple but will do fine in pies and sauces as well.
Gala apples are available in early September and are best eaten fresh or juiced into ciders. When eaten fresh they are fragrant and juicy. Galas lose some of their sweetness when baked, so if using them in a baked dish it may be best to mix them with other apples that do well under heat.
Golden Delicious are one of the most versatile apples. Their sweet and mellow flavor make Golden Delicious good for cooking into apple butter and apple sauce. Available in early October through winter, they can also be used in pies and other baking. They are prone to shriveling and brown spots and should be gently handled.
Granny Smith apples may just well be the apple that was referred to in the famous saying, “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.” Granny Smiths are quite high in antioxidants, potassium and dietary fiber, making them an excellent healthy dietary choice. Granny Smiths are probably most well know as the ideal apple for pie baking, but they are also an excellent choice for ciders. The harvest period for Granny Smiths in the Pacific Northwest is September – October and they have a long shelf-life.
The Honeycrisp apple has become one of the most sought-after apples in recent history because of its versatility, shelf-life and taste. The honey-flavored sweetness and clean, crisp texture make Honeycrisp an excellent candidate for pies, ciders and eating fresh. Harvested in September – November, Honeycrisps are also one of the most expensive apples on the market due to the special handling they require during picking, different ripening intervals and a trellis system needed to support the weak trees.
McIntosh apples are harvested late September – November and are an excellent choice for apple sauce, pies and as a mix in juices. Another good, all-around choice, McIntosh require less cooking time, has a mild tartness and is easy to peel. McIntosh stores well but will lose its aromatic flavor over time.
The apples I have listed above are some of the most easily obtained at a typical grocery store. There are many other varieties that are harder to obtain depending on where you live and the time of year. Here are few more worth looking out for next time you are at the farmers market or store:
- Jonathan: Excellent flavor with a sweet/sharp balance
- Empire: Crisp and sweet, good for roasting, baking and sautéeing
- Winesap: Wine-like flavor good for pies, applesauce and cider
- Pink Lady: Known by the brand name “Cripps Pink”, they have a sweet/sharp balance and are versatile in the kitchen
- Jazz: A cross between Braeburn and Royal Gala, Jazz has a sweet/tart flavor good for baking and savory dishes
My Deep-Dish Apple Pie recipe is a way to try your new fall apples.