Tuesday, November 22, 2011
"As American as Apple Pie." Though apples aren't native to North America, they are certainly associated with the US. They were brought from the Old World to the US early in our history, but these trees didn't fare well here. Most of our apple varieties were actually bred here, making the apple truly American.
Apples are available year round now. US apples are put in cold storage in the fall and shipped out most of the year. And if that isn't enough apples for you, they are shipped from temperate regions in the Southern Hemisphere, such as New Zealand, in the northern spring.
The fact that apples are kept in cold storage is a clue to how you should store them once you get them home. They should be refrigerated to maintain their crisp texture. Unrefrigerated apples quickly turn mealy which is definitely not a good eating apple.
Many people are bewildered by the seemingly endless variety of apples available in your average US supermarket. Who can blame them? How do you pick an apple for a pie? To put in your lunch? To make pork and apples? Here's a list of the most widely known apple varieties, their characteristics, and best uses from the Apple Journal, a great site for all things apple.
Braeburn: an excellent eating and cooking apple with a nice sweet-tart flavor. It's a good keeper. Great for salads because it doesn't turn brown very quickly.
Cameo: like Braeburn, an excellent eating and cooking apple that doesn't brown quickly. It stores well and holds its shape when cooked. More sweet than tart; the balance of the two makes for a mild, tasty apple.
Cortland: a good fresh-eating apple but it doesn't store well, so get it in fall before it's been sitting in storage. Another apple that browns slowly, making it an excellent choice for salads.
Empire: a good all-purpose apple with a firm texture and sweet flavor. It stores fairly well.
Fuji: an exceptional apple both for its excellent mild flavor and its keeping qualities. Even Fuji's stored until into the spring are fine fresh eating apples.
Gala: a sweet, mild apple best for fresh-eating. Not a good keeper so enjoy while in season in the fall.
Golden Delicious: a mild eating apple, some would say kind of dull. Best in season, not out of storage. Good for cooking in pies or sauces.
Granny Smith: quite tart, very crisp and it holds up well in shipping and storage. More a cooking apple than a fresh-eating apple but if you like your apples tart, this is the apple for you.
Honeycrisp: the new apple on the block. Many consider this the best fresh-eating apple around and it often commands prices to match that popularity. Crisp, juicy and perfectly tart-sweet. Good cooking apple.
Jonagold: a good juicy eating apple with a complex flavor. Best in season.
Jonathon: excellent eating apple that keeps well. It does not hold its shape in cooking so best for sauce or fresh-eating. It is a 200 year old variety from New York state, making it truly American.
MacIntosh: A tangy spicy apple in season but their texture goes soft (though not necessarily mealy) in storage. Best eaten in season. Good for pies and sauce but doesn't hold its shape in cooking.
Red Delicious: the iconic-looking apple with shiny red skin. Unfortunately, its flavor doesn't live up to its name and it is often stored way too long.