The apple buying guide

You baked your first apple pie and ended up with applesauce running out from between two soggy crusts. This won't happen again because the fix is simple: Know which kind of apple to buy and success is yours. 

Some apples meet heat and melt away into gorgeous sauce; others hold their shape. For pies, pancakes, sautés, stuffing, roasting and baking whole, you want the firm varieties. For sauces, apple butter, sorbets and purees, use the creamy apples.

Above all, don't waste money and time on bland fruit, which means sidestep the "Delicious" family; and if possible, try organic apples. Aside from the environmental and health benefits, organic fruit often tastes better than its conventional counterpart.

Keeping Apples: Most apples hold for one to three weeks in the refrigerator. They need a little moisture, so poke holes in a plastic bag, sprinkle the apples with a little water, bag them and store in the warmest part of the refrigerator.
 

Pie and Baking Apple Picks

Go for firm, tart/sweet apples with interesting flavor. You want fruit that stands up to sugar and spices and won't dissolve in the heat. I've had great results mixing different varieties like Granny Smith with Winesap, or Empire, Pippin and Honeycrisp.

Tip: No matter what the recipe says, always taste your apples before adding sugar. Tart fruits might need more; sweeter apples will need less.

Granny Smith: tart and crunchy. Braeburn, Fuji, Pink Lady, Jonathan and Empire: sweet/tart and crisp. Winesap: rich, wine-like sweet/tartness. William's Pride and Honeycrisp: crisp, wine-like and complex. Newtown Pippin and Prairie Spy: snappy/tart. Ashmead's Kernel: puckery tart and bold. Chestnut Crab Apple: Lush with spicy accents. Clara's Creek: puckery tart with big flavors.
 

Sauce Apple Picks

Get the most interesting flavors in your sauce by cooking the whole apple -- seeds and peel along with the flesh. Then pass it through a food mill.

Try flavoring your sauce with a split vanilla bean or pure vanilla extract for a soft and mellow effect. A little dark rum cooked into the sauce doesn't hurt either.

Cortland: slightly tart and creamy. Ginger Gold: tangy and sweet/tart. Gravenstein: sweet and melting. Idared: tart/sweet and creamy. Macoun: super sweet. Manitoba: spicy and tart. Nittany: plush and rich. Rome Beauty: tart and assertive. Staymen: snappy and tart.

This recipe appears in Eating In with Lynne Rossetto Kasper, Issue 1, which is available as an e-book.

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