Ever since I can remember, our kitchen has been decorated in apple décor. When we re-modeled the kitchen a few years ago our grandson Wyatt asked if I was going to change the theme. “Absolutely not!” I said. He then said, “You have to be tired of apples, what about grapes, cherries or tomatoes and peppers?”
I was firm, “Nope, nope, and no!” Somehow decorating with apples just says “country.” It brings a cozy, rustic and simple ambience to any room, especially the kitchen. How can you help but conjure up sweet memories of Grandma’s apple pie, fresh-squeezed cider and applesauce simmering on the stove? Apples say “Come on in, kick your shoes off and enjoy a quieter life for a spell.”
Yes, fall is the season for apples. There are tried and true varieties that everyone remembers like Red Delicious, Golden Delicious and McIntosh. However, lately there are a host of new varieties on the horizon. How do you know which apple is best for eating, cooking and baking? Which ones store best? What about the flavors?
There are literally thousands of apple varieties grown around the world, with 100 of those varieties grown here in the United States. It is the most popular fruit enjoyed around the world, with 80% of the world’s population laying claims to enjoying a crisp and tart apple.
Here is a lowdown on some old standbys and some newer varieties to hit the fruit stands:
1. Red Delicious. This is America’s most popular apple, known for its five distinct bumps on the bottom. This is the variety that usually ends up on the teacher’s desk. It has reddish flesh with a crisp texture and has been around for over 100 years. It is sweet and is best eaten fresh or used in salads. However, it does not store well as it tends to get mushy quickly.
2. Golden Delicious. This is the most popular yellow apple and is the professional’s choice for applesauce or cider. These are crisp and sweet, your "good for everything" apple. Not only are they superb for eating fresh, baking and for applesauce, but they also freeze well.
3. Gala. This variety boasts a crisp, snappy bite over a mellow sweetness. It is Michigan’s third most popular apple because it looks great, smells sweet and eats like a dream.
4. Rome Beauty. This bright red variety is a good winter keeper and is great for baking whole as it holds its shape.
5. Jazz. This is a cross between a Gala and a Braeburn. Like its name implies, it is crunchy, full of sweet juice and dense. It is great for pies and baking as well as eating fresh.
6. Granny Smith. Green in color, this is an old-time baking favorite.
7. Jonagold. This one flourishes in Michigan’s cooler climate and is sweet with a hint of tartness. Large and aromatic, it is good both eaten fresh or for baking, it makes a wonderful pie apple.
8. McIntosh. This is a classic with ultra juicy white flesh and an excellent fresh apple aroma. It is crisp, juicy, tangy and firm, a good all-around apple with the exception that it does not hold its shape when baked.
9. Fuji. This is my personal favorite because of its excellent storage quality. I put these in the root cellar in October and they store well through March. They have a low acid content and are Japan’s favorite apple. Relatively new to Michigan, they are sure to become a favorite when people discover their crisp, juicy, tangy and firm flesh.
10. Braeburn. This is a very hard, tart apple that is great for baking as it stays firm.
11. Winesap. These have a strong sweet and sour contrast with a wine-like flavor and aroma. They taste great, look great and are widely used in store displays and at home in wreaths and fruit boxes because of their deep red color.
12. Honeycrisp. Relatively new to the lineup, these are amazing apples packed with extra crisp and crunch. They are crisp and sweet with yet a bit of tartness, hence their name.
13. Jonathon. Pretty and popular, this is a favorite for apple slices. They are slightly tart and their juicy flavor has a spicy tang. Dip these in a little caramel apple dip and you have a real treat.
14. Cortland. These are descendants of the McIntosh although they are a little sweeter than their ancestor. Tart and juicy, they are a great pie apple.
15. Empire. These make an excellent lunch box apple or crunch snack because they are both sweet and tart at the same time. When baking their texture remains firm and they are a good storing apple. These make a good choice for fresh apple slices and candy and caramel apples.
16. Ida Red. This is your good-for-every use apple. With white flesh, they are crispy and juicy and their texture holds up well when baked.
17. Northern Spy. This is an antique apple, popular for its acidic properties that cook up well in applesauce. They are hard apples that ripen later and store well.
All apples store best in the refrigerator because this helps to maintain their flavor and texture. Of course, if you buy a bushel or two to enjoy all winter, they are not going to go in the fridge. A root cellar is an excellent storage choice, just be careful to not let them freeze. Sort them occasionally because the old adage holds true that “one bad apple will spoil the whole bunch.”
After all these choices, are you thoroughly confused as to the best variety to choose? Nothing is cut and dry, it all boils down to personal taste. The only important thing is that you get your “apple a day!”