General Description: The apple (Malus pumila) is a small round fruit with crunchy flesh. This is one of the earliest fruits to have been cultivated, originating in Kazakhstan and carried by traders on the Silk Road. As early as the second century BC, people were producing apples of a consistent variety by taking cuttings of a tree and grafting them onto suitable rootstock. This must be done because the exact same type of apple won’t grow from a planted seed.
Immigrants to America brought apple seeds, which gave rise to entirely new varieties further diversified by breeding with native American crabapples. The spread of American apples was encouraged by the aptly monikered folk hero Johnny Appleseed, born John Chapman in Massachusetts in 1774, who collected large amounts of seeds from cider mills and planted them on his travels.
About 2,500 known varieties of apple are grown in the U.S. and more than 7,500 are grown worldwide—all of which must be picked by hand. Apple varieties are categorized as eating (or dessert), cooking (or baking), cider, and crab.
The Braeburn apple’s color varies from orange to red over a yellow background. This New Zealand apple is aromatic, juicy, and crisp with a very firm texture. Braeburns are best for snacking and baking.
Cortland apples have very white flesh and are an excellent dessert apple. Their flavor is sweet, and their skin has a flush of crimson against a pale yellow background sprinkled with short, dark red stripes and gray-green dots.
Crabapples are quite tart, but they are excellent for making jellies because of their high pectin content.
Apples qualify as crabapples only if the fruit size is 2 inches (5 cm) or less in diameter. Native American crabapples remain green even when ripe, but some hybrids and Asian varieties turn red, yellow, or purple when ripe.
Crispin, developed in the 1930s, doubles as a fresh apple and a processing apple. It is typically green outside and creamy white inside with firm-textured juicy flesh and moderately sweet flavor.
Empire combines the mild tartness of McIntosh with Red Delicious sweetness. It is redder and firmer than McIntosh, and because it stores longer it provides the marketplace with a McIntosh-type apple well into the spring. Some claim that storing improves Empire’s flavor. It is excellent for eating out of hand and for use in baking and cooking.
The Fuji apple was introduced to the U.S. from Japan in the 1980s. The Fuji holds its texture well when baked, and it is known for its firm, crisp texture and tart-edged sweetness. Cool weather in the late fall helps develop its reddish-pink color and outstanding flavor.
The Gala apple has pinkish orange stripes over a yellow background and crisp, sweet, aromatic flesh. Galas are best for snacking and salads.
Golden Delicious is an all-purpose apple with mellow, sweet flavor. Golden Delicious hold their shape well when baked.
Green, extremely tart, crisp, juicy, and versatile, Granny Smith apples are a favorite of pie-bakers. They’re also excellent for snacking and salads.
The Gravenstein, a round, irregularly shaped apple with a very short stem, varies in color, but is usually greenish yellow covered with broad red stripes. It is crisp, juicy, aromatic, and full of tart-sweet flavor. Gravensteins are excellent for sauces and pies.
Idared is a bright red, firm apple that keeps well and has a tangy, tart flavor. It is widely used in sauces and pies, and it retains its shape when baked.
The juicy, orange-tinted Jonagold has a tangy-sweet flavor and is excellent for fresh eating, cooking, and pies.
The Jonathan is a crimson apple with touches of green. It has a spicy tang that blends well with other varieties in sauces and cider, and it is also great for eating.
The Macoun apple is small to medium-sized with pale yellow skin almost completely blushed wine red and tender snow-white flesh. It’s crisp, very juicy, sweetly tart, and aromatic—an all-purpose apple especially good for eating out of hand.
In 1796, Canadian John McIntosh transplanted wild apple saplings, one of which produced fruit with tangy allure and fragrance. Years later his son propagated the McIntosh Red. It has juicy white flesh and a rather tough skin with mixed red and green coloring. It’s a favorite apple for eating out of hand but also is widely used in salads, sauces, and pies and is a mainstay in fresh cider.
Firm, crisp flesh and a unique tangy-tart, sweet flavor are characteristic of the Pink Lady apple. Snackers and bakers give the variety high marks. Crisp fall nights bring on the bright pink color that gives the apple its name.
Red Delicious is America’s classic snacking apple. The heart-shaped fruit, with its characteristic “sheep’s nose” bottom, is bright red and sometimes striped. Crunchy and mildly sweet, they are also great in salads.
The Rome Beauty variety is named not for the Eternal City but for its discovery in Rome Township, Ohio, in 1816. It is a colorful round apple, nearly solid red. It has firm flesh and a tough, smooth skin and is well suited to baking because it keeps its shape along with its sweet flavor.
The Winesap is an eastern U.S. apple that is good for eating fresh and for cooking because it has firm, crisp flesh and sweet aromatic flavor. Its skin is deep red against a bit of yellow background, and it is somewhat oblong in shape. Winesap is also used to make cider.
The York (or York Imperial) has yellow skin blushed with pinkish red and faintly striped with bright red. Its flesh is yellowish, crisp, and moderately juicy.
Season: Many apples are available year-round. Crab, Jonathan, and Macoun are generally available in the fall and winter. Cortland, Crispin, Jonagold, McIntosh, Pink Lady, and Winesap are available September through April or May. Later-season apples, from October through June or July, are Empire, Idared, Rome Beauty, and York.
Purchase: Choose apples with smooth, clean, shiny skin and good color for the particular variety.
Avoid: Overmature fruit will be unpleasantly mealy without firm crunch. Avoid apples with dull skin, bruises, or punctures (which result in decay spots).
Storage: Store apples in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Apples may be left out for up to 48 hours before they turn mealy. For long-term storage, apples must be absolutely sound with no blemishes or bruises, and must be kept in a dry, cool place without touching each other.
- Wash under cool water.
- Remove the stem by twisting it until it comes off.
- Peel, if desired, using a vegetable peeler or knife.
- Core the apple using a special coring implement or by cutting off the four sides around the core. Discard the core.
- Mix cut-up apples with apple juice to keep them from browning and to preserve the apple flavor.
Serving Suggestions: Bake cut-up apples into a variety of desserts, including apple crisps, cobblers, pies, cakes, strudels, and tarts. Add apple pieces to salads. Cook apple cider down to a thick syrup then combine with apple cider vinegar, Dijon mustard, and vegetable oil to make a salad dressing. Make applesauce from crabapples. Dip apple wedges in peanut butter.
Flavor Affinities: Allspice, apricots, celery, cinnamon, clove, curry, ginger, green onions, nuts, onion, pork, poultry, vanilla.
from Quirk Books: www.quirkbooks.com