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15 Apples We Love Down to Our Cores

Few foods feel more American and wholesome than an apple. Littered throughout history inside art, mythology, and scientific discoveries, apples seem to have their hands in a little bit of everything (and it seems people have always been desperate to get their hands on apples). Apples are at their peak in the US from late September through early March. While you most likely can buy apples all year round at a grocery store, they’re best if you can get them from a local orchard as they’re more likely bred for taste and don’t have to compromise durability in shipping for flavor. Apples thrive in cooler climates of the country and more than half come from the state of Washington.


Health Benefits of Apples

Let’s get down to brass tacks and nutrition facts. A typical medium sized apple (around 3” in diameter) contains around 4.4 grams of fiber and 8.4 milligrams of Vitamin C. This is fortunate as it’s estimated the typical American consumes an average of about one apple per week, which equals about 19 pounds per year! Even if you’re not consciously grabbing an apple on your way to work, chances are you’re still inadvertently consuming apples in juices and smoothies. Go you!


Why are some Apples Better for Certain Things?

Apples are generally considered a universally tasty and non-offensive fruit, but with over 7,500 varieties not all of them are destined to be all around winners. That luxury in diversity does ensure one thing for the average American though- a lot of options. All apples have a balance between tart and sweet, but with varying degrees, and the differences between textures also totally alter the tasting experience. You may have read recipes before that call for either “cooking apples” or “baking apples” and stressed out that you couldn’t find any labeled as such in the grocery story, but this specification actually refers to a wide category of apples.

Cooking and baking apples are valued for their ability to retain their flavor when heated. Between baking and cooking apples, baking apples should hold their shape relatively well and have a less mushy texture than a cooking apple so the apple tart you painstakingly arranged doesn’t turn to an indistinguishable mush in the oven. In contrast, most recipes that call for “cooking apples” are usually looking for a variety that has a more tender texture and breaks down easily to make sauces and stews.

The differences in textures are variations of the apple variety’s genetic code, which determines the cell structure, acid content, and amount of space between the cell walls. Two apples might look identical to you, but depending on what two species each variety was bred from their applications might be completely different.

To further geek out about apples, one issue you might encounter when using apples with your cooking is the unappealing brown color that you’ll find quickly develops once the fruit has been cut. This phenomenon is a process known as “oxidation,” which is when a special enzyme inside the apple reacts to being exposed to oxygen. While most moms and lunch ladies have probably educated you on the fact that there is nothing wrong with eating some apple slices after they’ve been out for a few hours and gotten brown, there is actually a gradual loss in Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid) that occurs during this reaction. An easy way to slow down this process is by squeezing some lemon juice on the sliced apples, or sprinkling a little of our Lemon Juice Powder on them.

The real beauty of apples though, is that they possess a wide variety of flavors that, to a trained palate, can provide as many subtle nuances as the grapes used in creating the best wines.

So do you know your apples?

Here are some of the best tasting and most popular apples we think you might be interested in, along with recommendations for all your various apple-cations using our very scientific rating system of “Yes”, “No” and some “Eh.” Click here to skip ahead and see our ratings side-by-side.


Our Top 15 Apple Picks (In alphabetical order, because how could we possibly choose our favorites?):


Ambrosia

If you read our blog post Greek Gods and Goddesses and Herbs, Oh My!, you may have picked up that the ancient Greeks took their food very seriously, and were constantly incorporating their everyday life and diet with their religion and belief system. Despite what its name might suggest, these apples are actually not from Mount Olympus, but British Columbia in the 1990s. Ambrosia apples are known for a pleasantly sweet taste, and a beautiful yellow and pink skin.

Eating fresh- Yes

Baking- Yes

Cooking- Yes


Braeburn

Originally bred in New Zealand, Braeburn apples are the predecessor of Fuji and Gala apples. These apples are richly tart with hints of sweetness and would make a great snacking apple. Braeburns are also popular for juicing, but because of their firm texture you would probably want to make sure you strain it very carefully.

Eating fresh- Yes

Baking- Yes

Cooking- No


Cortland

An offspring of McIntosh and Ben Davis apples, Cortlands are tart, tangy, and very juicy. Because of their high acid content they are more resilient against the effects of oxidation, making them a great candidate for salads. Yay for fancy apple garnishes!

Eating fresh- Yes

Baking- Yes

Cooking- Yes


Empire

As a cross between McIntosh and Red Delicious apples, Empire apples are quite tart if eaten fresh but mellow a bit with storage. Can also be used in cooking or making sauce, but will not have the natural sweetness like some other apples. For baking, these apples are only so-so. Using them in your recipe might take some trial and error to get it just right.

Eating fresh- Yes

Baking- Eh

Cooking- Yes


Fuji

Fuji apples were developed in Japan by crossing two American apples - Red Delicious and Ralls Janet. Fuji apples are especially popular as a snacking apple as they store well for longer periods of time compared to other apples. They are sweet off the tree and become sweeter and richer in storage. We recommend this apple for cooking but not baking because it breaks down too quickly with heat for it to properly hold its shape.

Eating fresh- Yes

Baking- No

Cooking- Eh

apples


apples

Gala

Galas are one of the most widely grown apples and another apple introduced to the US by the Kiwis (as in New Zealand, not the fruit). The name “Gala” is meant to commemorate Queen Elizabeth II’s trip to New Zealand, where she reportedly fell in love with the apple. They are sweet and juicy with a firm crispness and a lively kick. This is one of our favorite apples for eating fresh or drying but not for cooking as their flavor fades after they have been stored.

Eating fresh- Yes

Baking- No

Cooking- No


Golden Delicious

These are one of the most important types of apple that has come out of the 20th century. Not only are they extremely popular in the commercial apple market, but they are also a parent of many other apple varieties. They are thin skinned, yet crisp and considered sweet but highly versatile. Because they remain chunky when cooked they are ideal for baking or making pies or sauces. This apple is also a good eating apple, is great in salads, and one of the best for drying or freezing slices.

Eating fresh- Yes

Baking- Yes

Cooking- Yes


Granny Smith

Granny Smith apples are grown in Australia and we couldn’t be more grateful to the Aussies for them. These apples are a bit acidic and tart with a crisp skin which makes it a favorite in all types of baking. A great apple if you love something with a good bite, this is a perfect candidate for both sweet and savory apple dishes (such as something along the lines of our Baked Bean recipe).

Eating fresh- Yes

Baking- Yes

Cooking- Yes

apples


apples

Honeycrisp

If you like to follow all the apple drama in the produce world this next variety will be very familiar to you. Honeycrisps are the up and coming apples taking farmer markets and supermarkets by storm and are projected to leapfrog to the top of the most popular apple list within the next 5 years. Called Honeycrisp or Honey Crunch interchangeably, these apples were developed specifically to be grown in cooler climates. They have become wildly popular in the last four years due to their juicy and bold crispness and perfect balance of sweet and tart, and their name refers to the slight honey taste you get when enjoying it. While this apple is extremely popular and demand is so high, supplies are still limited for it, explaining why the cost for it is often so high, but this is one of our top choices for eating raw.

Eating fresh- Yes

Baking- Yes

Cooking- Yes


Ida Red

Another apple with its origins spelled out in its name, Ida Red Apples hail from Idaho (from the University of Idaho’s Agricultural Experiment Lab, in fact). Ida Red apples are firm with a juicy and tangy flavor that is not overpowering. They are most notable for the length of time they can be stored. Because of their thin skins people often choose to not peel these apples when using them, resulting in a beautiful and eye-catching pink color for the finished dish.

Eating fresh- Yes

Baking- Yes

Cooking- Yes


Jonagold

A mix of the Golden Delicious and Jonathan (maybe the name would tip you off). Jonagold apples first debuted in 1968 and was a product of the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station. Jonagolds have a sweet tanginess with hints of acidity that gives this apple a wide appeal. We hear this is a great apple for making juice or hard cider.

Eating fresh- Yes

Baking- Yes

Cooking- Yes


Jonathan

Jonathan apples are another all-round apple that is tart but has enough sweetness and crispness that it feels balanced. There are a couple theories regarding which “Jonathan” this apple was named after, but most sources report it was likely Jonathan Hasbrouck (who first introduced the apple to the Albany Agricultural Society). This is a great apple that gave birth to equally wonderful apples, like the aforementioned Jonagolds.

Eating fresh- Yes

Baking- Eh

Cooking- Yes


McIntosh

Maybe one of the best known of the apples these pack a crunchy, juicy bite while being a bit on the sweet side. The flavor is uncomplicated with a refreshing acidity and wine undertones. We also know Steve Job really, really liked them. Even if you’re a diehard PC user, we’re pretty sure you’ll still like this apple.

Eating fresh- Yes

Baking- Yes

Cooking- Yes


Orin

Not a well-known apple, but worth seeking out. Considered a very sweet apple (very little tartness is present) with a fruity aroma and hints of pineapple. The complex flavor is highly prized by apple aficionados and it makes an outstanding eating apple.

Eating fresh- Yes

Baking- Yes

Cooking- No


Rome Beauty

Alright, so the origins of this apple might be more misleading than others on our list. Actually from a township in Ohio named Rome, this is a quintessential American apple. Thick red skin and crisp tartness make this a great candidate for making ciders or a traditional apple pie.

Eating fresh- Yes

Baking- Yes

Cooking- No



Read More

The Difference Between Apple Cider and Apple Juice
7 Fall Fruits You Don't Want to Miss
Pumpkin vs Apple: The Fall Throwdown
The Best Place to Go Apple Picking in Every State

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