Choosing the Right Apple for Your Recipe

A list of apple varieties and the best use for each type.

Fall is the best time of the year for apples in the North America as many varieties are coming into season. Some are good for eating out of hand, while others are excellent for baking, juicing, or making apple sauce. Knowing which ones are best for particular recipe or snack will make fall a flavorful time of year for you. Look for heirloom or hard to find varieties at your local farm market or orchard. See my article on how to make apple cider at: https://knoji.com/how-to-make-sweet-apple-cider-at-home/

Apple Varieties

Baldwin

A red-skinned apple that has streaks of yellow and is heavily speckled with russet spots. It is an all-purpose apple has a sweet-tart flavor with a slight spiciness to it. It has a crisp texture, which holds up well when cooked. Its slightly spicy flavor makes it a good choice for making cider and pies. Baldwins are not always easy to find. Developed in Massachusetts in 1740.

Braeburn

This apple originated in New Zealand in the early 1950s, as a chance seedling with Lady Hamilton and Granny Smith as possible parents. Now grown in the United States, Braeburn is a multipurpose apple good for all types of apple uses. Its color varies from orange to red over a yellow background. This crisp, juicy apple has a rich, spicy-sweet flavor. U.S. Braeburns are available beginning in October through July.

Cortland

This variety originated in the late 1890s in New York state, a cross between McIntosh and Ben Davis developed at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station. Sweeter than its McIntosh parent, with only a hint of tartness. Cortland has tender, snow white flesh that resists browning, making it an excellent choice for salads, kabobs and garnishes. The Cortland is available September through April.

Crabapple

Small, rosy red, hard tart flesh, too sour for hand-eating, makes great jellies, jams and good with pork and poultry, available during the fall months.

Empire

Empires premiered in 1966 in the Empire State of New York, a cross between Red Delicious and McIntosh developed by the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station. This crisp, juicy apple has a delightful sweet-tart flavor and creamy white flesh, making it a good all-purpose apple. Stake out your Empire between September and July.

Franklin

Franklin is a cross between McIntosh and Delicious and has a fine flavor and aroma. Harvest is normally during late September.

Fuji

Originally developed in Japan in the late 1930s and named after the famous Mt. Fuji, U.S.-grown Fujis began appearing in markets in the 1980s. Fuji is a cross between Ralls Janet and Red Delicious. This variety's popularity is skyrocketing, thanks to its sweet flavor and firmness. Fuji apples are bi-colored, typically striped with yellow and red. They are available year round, beginning in September.

Gala

This variety originated in New Zealand, a cross between Kidd's Orange Red and Golden Delicious. The Royal Gala strain was named in honor of Queen Elizabeth II, who deemed it her favorite during a visit to New Zealand. It was brought to the United States in the early 1970s, and is now one of the country's most popular apples. This crispy, juicy, very sweet apple is ideal for snacking. Galas can vary in color, from cream to red- and yellow-striped. U.S.-grown Galas are harvested beginning in mid-July, and are typically available year-round.

Golden Delicious

This old favorite was discovered as a chance seedling in 1890 in Clay County, W.Va., and was originally named Mullin's Yellow Seedling. Renamed in 1916, its parents are thought to be Golden Reinette and Grimes Golden. Goldens have a pale yellow skin, sometimes with a red blush. Mellow and sweet, all-purpose Goldens are great for eating out of hand, baking and salads. Golden's crisp, pale yellow flesh resists browning, making it a good choice for salads and other dishes. Goldens appear on the market in September, and are available year-round. Cooks, note that you can reduce the amount of added sugar when making pies with Goldens.

Granny Smith

This Australian native was discovered in 1868 as a chance seedling by "Granny" Anne Smith of Ryde, New South Wales. One parent might have been a French Crab Apple. Grannys are known for their distinctive green flesh, which sometimes bears a red blush, and their very tart flavor. An all-purpose apple, Grannys work equally well as a snack or in pies and sauce. U.S. Grannys are harvested beginning in August, and are available year-round.

Honeycrisp

This honey of an apple has a honeyed, mild flavor and a crispness deemed explosive. Crispy, juicy and sweet, this popular newcomer is a cross between a Macoun and a Honeygold. Honeycrisp's skin is a distinctive mottled red over a yellow background, with coarse flesh. This apple is good for snacking, salads and sauce-making, and stores well. Honeycrisp is college educated, developed by the University of Minnesota. Harvested beginning in September, supplies are limited but growing.

Idared

Introduced in 1942, this Idaho Agricultural Experiment Station product is a cross between the Jonathan and Wagener apples. It has a tangy flavor like the Jonathan, but is much larger. It has a bright red skin, and firm texture. This apple is good for snacking and holds its shape ideally for baking. Available from September through June.

Jonagold

A blend of Jonathan and Golden Delicious apples, New York native Jonagold offers a unique honey-tart flavor, and crispy, juicy nearly yellow flesh. It debuted in 1968, a product of the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station. With a yellow-green base skin color and a red-orange blush, it is excellent both for eating fresh and for cooking. Jonagold is typically available October through July.

Jonathan

This variety of apples was discovered in Woodstock, N.Y., in the 1920s and is known for its use in pies and applesauce. This crimson apple with occasional touches of green has a spicy tang that blends well with other varieties in sauces and cider. Jonathan is typically available from September through April.

Melrose

A variety of apple that is red over a green to yellowish background. The red skin is speckled with tan spots. Its white flesh is crisp and its flavor is sweet but slightly tart. It is a good eating apple and works well as a fresh apple in salads. It also makes good pies and applesauce. Melrose is a cross between Jonathan and Delicious. The fruits are large with good flavor and texture. They ripen around the middle of October.

McIntosh

This is old, well-known variety, was discovered as a chance seedling by John McIntosh in 1811. Its deep red finish sometimes carries a green blush. Juicy, tangy tart McIntosh has a tender, white flesh. It is best used for snacking and applesauce, but some people enjoy its tart flavor in pies as well. (Cook's hints: McIntosh's flesh cooks down easily; if pie making, cut your slices thick or add a thickener). This apple is typically available from September through May.

Newtown Pippin

Also known as Albemarle Pippin, a favorite variety of Thomas Jefferson. Discovered on Long Island in 1759, this apple is one of the oldest original U.S. varieties, helping to launch the U.S. fruit export industry. Newtown Pippin is a distinctive green, often with yellow highlights. Its aromatic, tangy flesh makes the Newtown great for use in pies and applesauce. Primarily a processing variety, most U.S. supplies are used commercially. Newtown Pippin is typically available from September through December.

Northern Spy Apple

Large, sweet-tart apple, red skin with yellow streaking, all-purpose, available October through March, also called spy apple.

Red Delicious

This most widely recognized of all U.S. apple varieties originated in Iowa in the 1870s. This sweet, crispy, juicy apple varies in color from striped red to solid midnight red. Western Red Delicious are elongated in shape, with pronounced "feet"; Eastern-grown Delicious are more round. This apple is best eaten fresh or in salads. Red Delicious apples are available year round, starting in September.

Rome Beauty

Referred to as the "baker's buddy," this apple was discovered as a chance seedling in the early 1800s on a farm near Rome Township, Ohio. Famed for its storage qualities, this mildly tart apple is primarily used for cooking and is especially good baked or sautéed. The Rome apple is typically available beginning in September.

Stayman Apple

Striped, dull red color, off-white flesh, juicy, crisp, tart, good for hand-eating and cooking, available from October to April.

Pie Apples

Since pie apples are the hardest to choose, here are some that are better made for baking than others.

1. Granny Smith: These tart and firm apples are probably among the most turned-to for pie fillings. Mix with a sweeter apple for a different balance of flavor.

2. Jonathan: These tart, tangy apples have been favorites for pies for years.

3. Golden Delicious: Goldens are less firm than other apple varieties, so they are good for individuals who prefer a sweeter, softer pie.

4. Jonagold: If you like the taste of Golden Delicious apples and Jonathans, try this hybrid of the two.

5. Honeycrisp: These are sweet and slightly soft apples, but they won’t break down much during baking. Grab these apples quickly because they have a limited window of availability.

6. Winesap: The tough skin of these apples enables them to be stored for a long time. Plus the firm, white flesh holds up well to baking.

7. Braeburn: These apples are known for their spicy-sweet flavor.

8. Rome: These round, attractive apples have a mild flavor, but hold up well. So for a more intense apple flavor, mix Rome slices with another variety.

9. Gala: Crisp, sweet Gala apples offer the perfect balance of firmness for pies. With natural sweetness, a baker can use less sugar than with other apples.

Summary of Apples for Specific Uses

Fresh

• McIntosh

• Cortland

• Jonathan

• Red Delicious

• Golden Delicious

• Stayman Winesap

• Melrose

• Franklin

Applesauce

• Golden Delicious

• McIntosh

• Cortland

• Jonathan

• Stayman Winesap

• Rome Beauty

• Lodi

Pies

• Cortland

• Jonathan

• Rome Beauty

• McIntosh

• Golden Delicious

• Stayman Winesap

• Lodi

Baking

• Jonathan

• Golden Delicious

• Stayman Winesap

• Rome Beauty

• McIntosh

• Cortland

Freezing for Slicing

• Jonathan

• Golden Delicious

• Stayman Winesap

• Red Delicious

• McIntosh

Freezing for Sauce

• Cortland

• McIntosh

Freezing for Baking

• Baldwin

• Northern Spy

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