I thought with the arrival of fall, it might be a good time to review the different varieties of apples. There are so many kinds to choose from, it can be overwhelming. Hopefully, this short lesson will help you navigate your way to the best variety of apple for what you’re doing.
Honey Crisp – This is my all time favorite eating apple because it’s sweet-tart, juicy, and a crisp crunchy texture. Honey Crisps (photo below) have a high water content which makes them delicious for eating but unsuitable for cooking. As an added bonus, Honey Crisps keep really well either in a cool garage or refrigerator.
Sweet Sixteen – They’re one of the most delicious eating apples if you can get your hands on them. They have a complex sweet flavor with a great crispy texture. They will keep 4-5 weeks in cold storage.
Pink Lady – The Pink Lady is also a favorite apple of mine because of it’s unique sweet-tart flavor unlike that of other apples. The texture of this apple is harder than most eating apples, but I’ve found their harder texture is easily overcome by cutting them into slices before eating. This one is also a good keeper in the garage or refrigerator.
Note: I’ve never baked with a Pink Lady but I’d like to try it out this winter because of it’s great flavor and it doesn’t have as high of a water content as most eating apples do.
Fuji – The Fuji is a good all around apple; crispy, sweet, and juicy. However, that being said, sometime they can be a little bland sometimes. I’ve found as a general rule to choose the apple with the brightest color because they seem to have more flavor. The Fuji keeps well, and can even be made into applesauce if the flavor’s a little dull.
Gala – The Gala apple (above photo) is a sweet, crisp apple when it’s fresh in season. Towards the end of the season they make great applesauce. This one needs to be kept refrigerated as it can turn mealy quickly at room temperature.
Braeburn – The Braeburn is only good for eating when the crop is fresh, otherwise they can be mealy. After you purchase them, keep them in cold storage for the best texture. If you find your apples to be too soft, these make really good applesauce.
Spartan – This is another good all-purpose apple from eating to baking. The flavor of the Spartan tastes like an heirloom and traces it’s ancestry back to the McIntosh. It’s sweet, crisp, and juicy. This apple keeps pretty well if it’s refrigerated. I usually buy them for baking, not eating so I’m not too worried if they’re a bit softer.
Granny Smith – These are known for their appearance in apple pie, but they make for a good eating apple, especially when you’re dipping them in something sweet and delicious.
Transparent – The Transparent apple was developed specifically for it’s flavor when cooked. It makes the best applesauce I’ve ever had.
Tip: When making anything apple from pies to crisps, it’s great to use a 50/50 mixture of Transparent and McIntosh apples for an incomparable flavor! The Transparent apples break down creating a kind of sauce around the McIntosh which hold their shape in your baked dessert. My mom discovered this little secret and let me tell you, it’s pure gold!
Golden Delicious – The Golden Delicious can be a good eating apple, but I’ve found that the ones available in my area are usually on the soft side, so I use this variety for applesauce only. A related apple, the Ginger Gold is much more to my liking with a firmer, crisper texture and more flavor.
Gala – The Gala apple is crisp with a mild flavor and can be good for eating, but they seem to be on the softer side more than not, so I use this one for applesauce as well.
McIntosh – (photo below) They have a sweet-tart flavor combination that makes the best pies and crisps. They’re also good for eating if you enjoy a bit of tang in your apple.
Granny Smith – This one is the most available baking apple with a tart-crisp texture that cooks into a flavorful pie, crisp, or cobbler
Gravenstein – The Gravenstein has a tart flavor making it great for baking, apple cider, and applesauce. It’s not a keeper, so it’s only available for a short season.
Rome Beauty – The Rome Beauty is a milder baking apple that’s not super sweet or tart, but it holds it’s shape and develops flavor during baking. This variety is a good keeper.
I’ve made the Apple Pie Skillet Cake (below) with both Sweet Sixteens and McIntosh with awesome results both times.
Let me know what your favorite apple is!