We all love apples and everybody has their favorite. Mine is Gala, while my husband enjoys Granny Smiths and Honeycrisps. Many people are surprised to learn that “eating” apples aren’t necessarily the best for cooking, although some apples can be used for both. Below is a list of the most common apples and their best uses in recipes. If you don’t see your favorite apple listed, it’s probably best enjoyed raw.
Jonagold – a lovely red hue with hints of yellow, this species is a hybrid of the Jonathan and the Golden. Like the Golden Delicious, Jonagold is sweet and thin-skinned, but it takes from the Jonathan a smooth skin and tart flavor. It is versatile and can be used in any recipe.
Cameo – although discovered in Washington State in 1987, it’s quickly grown in popularity. Juicy, crisp, and sweet with just a touch of tart, the Cameo is thought to come from both the Red and the Yellow Delicious. Try substituting Cameos for Goldens in recipes.
Empire – a cross between McIntosh and Red Delicious, the Empire was developed by researchers at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in 1966. It is generally round, with a skin that’s bright red with hints of green. The interior is crisp and creamy white. The Empire is firm, so it makes for a good cooking.
McIntosh – this apple is the least firm of all the ones listed here. The soft flesh can be described as “creamy” or “mealy,” which makes this variety a good candidate for eating raw or for applesauce or apple butter, but not necessarily for baking. If you bake with McIntoshes, be sure to use a thickener to keep the apples from becoming too mushy.
Golden Delicious – this all-purpose apple may share part of its name with the Red Delicious, but the two are not related. They’re soft apples, though not as soft to the touch as McIntosh or Cortland. Thin-skinned, the Golden Delicious doesn’t store well (it can bruise and shrivel), so try to use it as soon as possible. This apple is ideal for pies, salads, sauces, and freezing.
Fuji – created by Japanese growers in the 1930s, the Fuji apple’s popularity grew during the 1980s and it has quickly become one of the most popular in the country. It’s a large crisp apple—a relative of the Red Delicious—with an intense sweetness that makes it an ideal candidate for eating raw. Try adding Fujis to salads and slaws that require very little to no cooking to keep their consistency.
Cortland – it’s easy to mistake this apple with the McIntosh. Both are on the squat side, with creamy white interiors and sweet-and-tart flavors. The Cortland is a relatively soft apple, although not quite as soft as the McIntosh. And unlike the McIntosh, the Cortland is an all-purpose apple, which means you can bake it, cook it, or eat it raw.
Gala – taller than it is wide, the gala’s shape is similar to that of the Golden and Red Delicious apples. It has a pleasantly mild, sweet taste and a crisp texture. It’s also a relatively small apple. Like Fujis, Galas are easy to eat uncooked thanks to their thin skin and overall sweetness, making them an ideal fruit for kids. They’re also good for cooking.
Granny Smith – this is one of my favorite types of green apples. You can’t miss this apple, originally from Australia, with its bright skin, hard feel, crisp bite, and extremely tart taste. When it’s really ripe, the green skin usually has a touch of red. While some savor the raw tartness, others prefer the way it sweetens when cooked. It is an ideal complement to savory foods such as onions and cheese. On an aesthetic note: The green skin provides a great visual element to any dish.
Braeburn – originating from New Zealand, this apple has a skin that’s muted red with golden-yellow undertones and tinges of green. It has a firm, crisp bite and offers a pleasing balance between sweet and tart. Firm to the touch, Braeburns are good for baking as well as eating just as they are.
Honeycrisp – this apple was developed in 1974 at the Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station’s Horticultural Research Center at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. It has rapidly become quite popular due to its sweetness, firmness, and tartness which make Honeycrisps ideal for eating raw. It has much larger cells than most apples, which rupture when bitten to fill the mouth with juice. The Honeycrisp is both an excellent eating and cooking apple.
Now that you’re familiar with some different types of apples, here are a few tips on how to buy, store, and prevent them from browning — plus, one of my favorite apple recipes! When buying apples, choose those without any bruises or soft, mushy spots. They should be firm for their specific variety (a McIntosh will not be as firm as a Granny Smith). Look for fruit with shiny skin—dull skin hints at a lack of crispness and flavor. Apples quickly lose their crispness at room temperature. To keep apples in the fridge, place them in a perforated plastic bag in the crisper. Do not store bruised or cut apples since that will make the other stored apples spoil. To keep apples for an extended period of time, wrap each one in newspaper (don’t use paper with colored ink) and then store in a dark, cool place like the cellar or the garage. If you’re slicing apples and don’t want the exposed pieces to turn brown, dunk the slices in a bowl of three parts water to one part lemon juice.
ROASTED BUTTERNUT SQUASH AND APPLE BISQUE
3 lbs butternut squash, peeled and cubed
1 large carrot, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
6 red apples, quartered
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 large white onion, sliced
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
4 cups apple cider
4 cups chicken stock
2 sprigs thyme
1 bay leaf
Pinch nutmeg (to taste)
Pinch cinnamon (to taste)
1 cup heavy cream (optional)
½ c slivered almonds for garnish (optional)
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
2. Mix together the squash, carrot and apple in a large bowl and coat with 1-2 tablespoons olive oil; spread across two baking pans. Roast until well browned (about 40 minutes). Set aside.
3. In a pot, heat oil. Then, add onion and garlic. Lower heat to medium and cook until slightly browned and translucent (about 10 minutes).
4. Add roasted squash, carrot and apple to saucepan. Pour in cider, vegetable stock, thyme, bay leaf, cinnamon and nutmeg and return to medium-high heat. Simmer until all vegetables are soft. Discard thyme and bay leaves.
5. Puree (using a blender or an immersion blender) and taste for seasoning, adding an additional pinch of nutmeg and cinnamon as desired.
6. Serve with warm, crusty bread.
I also have an awesome recipe for hot apple cider – if you’re interested, send me an email an I’ll send you the recipe.