Apples: Fall's Favorite Harvest
Apples have been an American favorite since even before the United States became a country. The first apple trees in the U.S. were planted in the Massachusetts Bay Colony when the pilgrims arrived and today, there are literally hundreds of varieties of apples; although, only a limited amount make their way to markets on a regular basis.
During the fall, apple harvests abound, making it a perfect time to go apple picking at local orchards. If you have the opportunity to pick fresh apples, you'll never enjoy a fresher or more delicious fruit.
Some of the more common apple varieties include the Braeburn, Cortland, Crispin, Fuji, Gala, Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, Jonagold, McIntosh, Pink Lady, Red Delicious, and Rome Beauty.
A Healthful ChoiceRegardless of which apple varieties you like best, "an apple a day" is still worthwhile advice. Apples contain a healthy quantity of dietary fiber, and the water-soluble fiber in apple pectin has been shown to lower cholesterol. Furthermore, apples have no fat or sodium, helping reduce the risk of cancer and high blood pressure.
Apple Storage Tips
Apples are interesting in that they remain alive after they've been picked - they actually continue to "breathe." Consequently, apples respirate more rapidly in warmer storage areas and will spoil more quickly. Apples bruise really easily, so they should be handled carefully - never squeezed or dropped. You should only plan to store an apple if it is blemish-free and lacks "water core" - areas that look glassy on the flesh.
And yes, the old adage does remain true: one rotten apple will spoil the barrel, so remove any apples that show signs of deterioration. Apples should be kept quite cool - close to but not below 32 degrees F with about 90 percent relative humidity. Apples can be stored in polyethylene bags to maintain the proper levels of humidity, but don't seal or tie the bags.
How To Choose Apples For Baking And Cooking
Some apple varieties are more suitable than others for different types of recipes.
Generally speaking, when it comes to baking, you want to choose an apple that offers a good balance of sweet and tart flavors and won't break down and lose it's shape during cooking.
Each apple variety brings a slightly different flavor to your recipes - everything from tart and tangy to sweet and spicy.
Here's a general guide to help you make the right choice.
- Braeburn ~ Crisp, sweet and slightly spicy, a multi-purpose apple, good for both baking and snacking.
- Cortland ~ Tender and slightly tart with white flesh that resists discoloration and holds together when cooked - good for salads, garnishes and baking.
- Crispin ~ Sweet, crisp and very juicy - best when eaten fresh or roasted whole.
- Fuji ~ Sweet, crisp and firm fleshed, but loses it's flavor and shape when cooked - best eaten fresh.
- Gala ~ Juicy, crisp and very sweet, but like the Fuji, loses it's flavor and shape when cooked - best for snacking.
- Golden Delicious ~ Soft textured and quite sweet with pale yellow flesh that resists browning and holds it's shape when cooked - good for baking (reduce sugar in recipes).
- Granny Smith ~ Crisp, tart and full-flavored, holds it's shape nicely when cooked - a top choice for apple pie (try combining with Golden Delicious).
- Jonagold ~ Juicy and crisp, with a honey-like sweetness - a good multi-purpose apple, good for both snacking and baking.
- McIntosh ~ Juicy, tart and tangy with soft white flesh that cooks down quickly - good choice for applesauce or eating fresh.
- Pink Lady ~ Sweet-tart, complex flavor with firm, somewhat dry flesh - best for salads and snacking, but okay for baking.
- Red Delicious ~ Sweet, slightly mealy in texture with a bitter skin - best when eaten fresh, not recommended for baking.
- Rome Beauty ~ Firm and slightly dry in texture, mildly tart - a good choice for sautéeing and combining with savory ingredients.