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Nov 4, 2009 12:57 PM

Apples... t'is the season

I am curious... What are you preferred variety(-ies) of apples for pie, galette, cake, etc. Yes yes, we all know Granny Smiths, Northern Spies, etc., but are there any other varieties that you would recommend? Or, make your case for GS and NS. I'm particularly interested in purchasing local produce (I'm in southern Ontario), but I'd be interested in whatever it is you use, regardless of region.

Ciao, hounds!

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  1. I've made tarte tatin recently with two different apple mixes: one half Pink Lady and half Honey Crisp; the other all Honey Crisp. The honey crisps are firmer than the pink ladies and I prefer them. Both of these apples are just tart enough to be interesting.

    2 Replies
    1. re: mnosyne

      Honeycrisps keep their shape when baked just beautifully. 10 or more years ago I did a little project, buying 3 each of a couple of dozen varieties and trying one of each for eating raw, baked apple, and individual apple tartlet. Other than the ones you've mentioned, the absolute best for tarts was Empire, followed by Baldwin, Yellow Newtown Pippin, Macoun (delicious but mushy), and Hampshire.

      1. re: greygarious

        Agree on the Honeycrisps holding their shape. Macouns are good in flavor but just too watery for my taste for pies (which is why I abhor Macintoshes). Granny Smiths, Jonathans, Cortlands, Northern Spy are all good for tart apples for baking. I have yet to try Roxbury Russets; hoping to get some this weekend.

    2. I like Gala & Jonathan apples for use in desserts. They are firm enough not to fall apart, with a tart/sweet flavor that is great. I made a rustic apple pie last week with the Galas and it was perfect.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Cherylptw

        My MIL always used Cortlands for pies but the family orchard only grew a few varieties of apples here in NH. I was lazy, never learned to make a good pie, and only recently developed a love for eating apples. Now that my MIL is gone, I have a lot to learn about pie making and what apples to use. We are fortunate to have several orchards nearby. Here's a link to Gould Hill Orchard in Hopkinton NH which is known for growing an extensive variety of heirloom apples as well as the popular varieties. This page gives a description of each apple, when it is harvested and what it is good for. I love Ginger Golds for fresh eating early in the season when they are still crisp. I recently purchased an apple pie at another orchard. My husband commented on how good the apples in the pie were. Definitely not the usual Cortlands. This orchard, Apple Hill Farm, grows 32 varieties. Next time I visit one of these orchards I think I will take a handful of brown paper sandwich bags so I can label which varieties I buy so I can remember what they are and keep notes.

        1. re: dfrostnh

          That is what I did re upthread response to mnosyne:

          I did not include Cortland and a few other more commonly available apples that I knew well already. A friend used to live across the street from Applecrest Orchard in Exeter NH. As a result there were a number of "volunteer" apple trees on her property. These were unnamed varieties but each was wonderful. I particularly miss a small one that had a dark red skin and pink flesh. It made lovely sauce. She took some over to the orchard to ask if they could identify it, which they couldn't (we didn;t know about apple seeds not breeding true) but they asked if they could graft some. Not sure if that ever happened.

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        1. I live in Western Washington. I don't think I've ever seen some of the classic apples you guys are mentioning-- spies and pippins!

          My local favorite for baking is the Belle de Boskoop. I think it's a Dutch heritage variety. Super tangy and firm. The local Sonatas are good for baking too. Honeycrisps are also grown locally, and this is the first year I've even thought about baking with them. They're so lovely fresh, and so expensive, I could never quite think about baking them. I'll have to try.

          1. This year for some reason I'm craving apples, I mean I eat at least 3 a day. MY all time favorite is the Granny Smith. I love the tartness and the crunchy texture and the Granny Smiths that I've been getting are super good this year.

            I'm branching out though. I bought some Galas, which the few I bought I was very disappointed. They were mealy and almost every single one once you cut into it had brown spots. The produce person assured me I had purchased apples from a bad box...

            So while there at the store, I started looking at the bins. I bought a few called Cameo. The Cameo is sweet and crisp. Not too sweet, and actually a pretty good apple. I also purchased the Ambrosia apple, it claims to have hints of honey and to also be crisp, I've yet to try it perhaps later today. Anyway the point is. I never knew there was so much to learn about apples. As far as my apple knowledge went the Granny Smith and Red Delicious were about it. I'd never eat the yellow one and I can't think of the name because the last time I did it was mushy in texture. Golden Delicious??
            I bake with the Granny Smith because it holds up. I make a grat oatmeal, raisin and apple cookie with red delicious for the sweetness and the moisture it yeilds. Iuse the same deliciousin clafoutti. Granny Smith for filling for crepes.

            I'll have to experiment with baking further to give info on which apple I find best for baking.

            5 Replies
            1. re: chef chicklet

              PBS has been showing "The Botany of Desire", based upon his book and hosted by Michael Pollan. It has a lot of basic info about how apples are developed and grown. One interesting consideration is that when commercial orchards grow just a few varieties, these become increasingly vulnerable to crop failure caused by disease and climatic conditions. There is a relatively small number of orchards serving as museums and libraries of other varieties. Since apple trees are grown by grafting, not by seed, there is a genuine danger of extinction.

              1. re: greygarious

                really (hope this was directed to me gg :) ) I really am finding out how little I know about apples, so I thank you for the heads up! I'd never heard of ambrosia and the cameo, perhaps because I never went out of my way to find out, or perhaps they are a new variety. Why not grown from seed? Obviouosly would take forever, but there had to be a seed at some point in time. Or are you meaning when creating new varieties?
                I understand what you mean about the danger with grafting.

                1. re: chef chicklet

                  I think an apple farmer used to rely on grafting and it was encouraged by in our area, probably by Cooperative Extension. Results are quicker. There used to be an apple tree in front of our house onto which my husband's grandfather had grafted five different varieties.
                  Last fall, I took a complimentary Red Delicious apple from a bowl at a mid-western hotel. It was the most terrible tasting thing I had ever bit into. Possibly it had been picked too early although it was a good red color. If someone lives in an area with good apple orchards, they should take the opportunity to try different varieties (and also support local farming). Get going chef chicklet, this is your assignment should you choose to accept it!

                  1. re: dfrostnh

                    I accept! I hope I can find apples galore, I am willing but the suppliers may be lacking product. Good grief, I am like a new person with apples, they are so delicious and I can' t understand why I never really got into them. I loved them when I was a teenager very much. Never been a candy eater, there was a machine at school that held chilled Granny Smiths and Red Delicious apples.
                    I would buy at least 3 apples a day, loved that machine!
                    Then as I got older for some reason I stopped eating fruit all together. And now, I can't get enough. Go figure! (oh and I hated bananas, guess what, I LOVE THEM TOO! Body is changing...

                  2. re: chef chicklet

                    Apples are all - or virtually all - hybrids. Say you have a Chicklet apple, whose parent varieties are Granny and Rome. Plant the Chicklet's seeds and, statistically, a fourth of the saplings would be Granny, a fourth Rome, and half would be Chicklet. But that's only if Granny and Rome were purebreds, and since they are themselves hybrids, you wouldn't be able to predict what varieties you'd get. So, when growers come up with a new variety that they want to preserve, they graft it onto other root stock. If you want to create new varieties, you plant seed. If you want to reproduce a variety, you graft.