Hurray for apple season! But are McIntosh apples sweet or tart? Are Ida Reds better for pies or for eating? Find out the flavors and uses for the 11 apple varieties that are the most popular, keep well, and are available in most areas.
The most popular apple varieties are Cortland, Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, Empire, Fuji, Gala, Ida Red, Macoun, McIntosh, Northern Spy, and Winesap. Olwen Woodier also offers descriptions for an additional 20 varieties of apples in this very useful and informative cookbook.
Cortland. This apple, a cross between a Ben Davis and a McIntosh, was developed by the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, New York. It entered the commercial market in 1915. Cortlands are grown mainly in the Northeast, the northern Great Lakes states, and eastern Canada. A medium-to-large red-and-green-striped apple, it is crisp, juicey, and sweetly tart. Because of its white flesh resists browning, Cortlands are favored for salads and fruit cups. It is also a good all-purpose apple.
Golden Delicious. Grown in most regions across the country, Golden Delicious is the second-most grown after Red Delicious, to which it is not at all related. The Golden Delicious (or Yellow Delicious, as it is sometimes called) was discovered in West Virginia in 1914, when it was called Mullin’s yellow Seedling. This is a medium-to-large pale yellow or yellow-green apple that is mild and sweet. Although it is crisp when harvested in September and October, its pale flesh often becomes dry and soft. Its skin shrivels when not kept under refrigeration. Particularly desirable for snacks, fresh desserts, and salads, the Golden Delicious is a good all-purpose apple.
Red Delicious. The Red Delicious is grown throughout the United States and is America’s most popularly grown apple. It was called hawkeye when it was discovered in 1872 in Peru, Iowa, and was renamed Red Delicious in 1895 by the Stark Brothers. This bright red apple is crisp and juicy when harvested in September and October. Although Red Delicious is considered a good keeper by the industry, its sweet and mild-tasting flesh is all too often a mealy, mushy disappointment. It is best used for snacks, salads, and fruit cups.
Empire. A cross between Red Delicious and McIntosh, the Empire was introduced into commercial production by the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in 1966. Grown mostly in the Northeast and upper mid-western states, this medium, red-on-yellow (sometimes all-red) apple is crisp and juicy. With its sweet and spicy flesh, it is one of the very best for eating out of hand, in salads, and in fruit cups.
Fuji. This flavorful, aromatic apple is the number-one seller in Japan, where it was developed in 1958 by crossing Ralls-Genet and Red Delicious. A pretty apple with yellowish green skin blushed with orange-red stripes, it has dense, crisp, and sweetly tart light yellow flesh. Fuji retains its flavor even when stored at room temperature and develops a better flavor when held in long-term storage. An excellent apple for eating out of hand, adding to salads, and making into applesauce.
Gala. Developed in 1934 in New Zealand by J.H. Kidd of Greytown, Wairarapa, Gala is a cross of Kidd’s Orange Red and Golden Delicious. The thin, red-orange skin — actually red striping over gold — encases aromatic, semisweet, yellowish white flesh. Crisp and juicy, it is a good apple for eating out of hand, using in salads, and pairing with soft, mild cheeses.
Ida Red. This apple was scientifically developed in 1942 at the University of Idaho Agricultural Experiment Station. It is a cross between a Jonathan and a Wagener. Although it is grown in greatest volume in the northeastern and upper mid-western states, its production is increasing by popular demand throughout the country. It is medium to large, bright red, and has creamy white flesh that is very firm, crisp, and juicy. All-purpose apples, the sweetly tart, deliciously spicy Ida Reds are especially good for snacks and desserts, and their firm quality makes them particularly desirable for baking. The flavor improves after several months in controlled-atmosphere storage.
Macoun. A cross between a McIntosh and a Jersey Black, this is a medium red apple that sometimes has an unattractive gray bloom. However, its snow-white flesh is supercrisp and juicy, and its honey sweetness makes up for its mild flavor. This is most desirable for eating fresh, for snacks, salads, and fruit cups. it also makes good applesauce. Macoun is a poor keeper — it gets soft and loses flavor in storage — so it is rarely available after November.
McIntosh. John McIntosh discovered this apple in Ontario, Canada, in 1830. Ranking third in volume in the United Sates, it is grown throughout the northeastern and upper Great Lakes states, eastern Canada, and British Columbia. It is a medium red-on-green apple, with sweet flesh that is crisp, juicy, and slightly perfumed. Macs are excellent to eat fresh in autumn; later, they are best used for sauce. McIntosh apples collapse when baked whole or in pies.
Northern Spy. This apple originated at East Bloomfield, New York, around 1800. Today, it is grown mostly throughout the Northeast, the northern Midwest, and eastern Canada. This is a medium-to-large apple with a pale green-to-yellow undercast, heavily striped with red. its mellow, creamy flesh is crisps, juicy, and richly aromatic — qualities that are prized by the commercial processing industry. it is an excellent all-purpose apple and freezes well. Because it is a biennial bearer, Northern Spy is declining in popularity with commercial orchardists.
Winesap. Thought to have originated in New Jersey in the late 1700s, Winesap is one of our oldest apples still in commercial production (Newtown Pippin is the other). Although it is grown in most apple-producing regions, its easiest volume comes from the Northwest and the Mid-Atlantic states. The Winesap is of medium size, with a thick red skin and crisp, crunchy, and juicy flesh. The flavor is sweetly tart with a winy aftertaste. it is an excellent all-purpose apple.
Adapted from Apple Cookbook, by Olwen Woodier. Copyright 2001 by Storey Communications. Excerpted by permission of Storey Books.