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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: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6514...

          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.

      2. 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.

            2. I really like winesap apples. They're good for apple sauce and cider; not sure about baking. Here in Germany, we have a variety called Elstar that's also really tart-sweet, crisp, and delicious. I think it's available in parts of the US, too. It's great for baking.

              1 Reply
              1. re: ChristinaMason

                I've baked 10 apples pies this fall. Northern Spies were always my favorite for their ability to hold their shape, balanced tartness, and keep in the fridge for months (the veggie drawers at home and at the office (sorry co-workers) are full of apples wrapped in newspaper right now).

                I say "were" my favorite because I recently started making winesap pies and wow! When I ate it raw I didn't think it would make as good a pie as the Spy but it the flavors really came out when baked. They are juicy so I usually add a little extra thickener. Winesaps are hard to find though, even at Farmer's Markets, so part of the allure could be their elusiveness

                Early in the season (end of August/early Sept) I like the gravenstein- perhaps a little mushier than I like but great flavor.

                If I'm looking for something tart to balance out a sweet crumb topping I usually go with the Rhode Island Greening although they almost hold their shape too well (i.e. a crunchier pie as oppose to melting in your mouth texture).

                Cortlands are my grocery store standby. Ginger Golds were good texture-wise but a bit boring taste wise which also makes them a good candidate for gussied up apple pies such as those with sour cream or crumb tops or sharing a pie with some cranberries) I had only so-so results with William's Pride (early September) and Zstar. Phew! And that's just what I bake with!

                For eating I love those honeycrisps but they are more expensive, so I also eat of lot of cameos which are light, crisp, sweet, and tart. An apple I tried for the first time this year was the Swiss Gourmet. Man, that was a dense apple! It was very tightly compacted but without being overly hard. It's not my favorite but it was interesting.

                Can you tell that I love to talk about apples?

              2. The Northern Spies should be good at this time of year in your neck of the woods (I'm originally from London, Ont.) - and I thnk they make the best pie ever.

                1. My father had an orchard, and I miss Grimes Golden and Winesap the most.... Rome beauties too! Unfortunately, now I really don't care to eat them...... just too many as a kid perhaps?? I do, however love to serve fried apples with just about any meal this time of year! Try out this recipe. It's fabulous!

                  Fresh Apple Cake with Caramel Glaze
                  Post | on 11.21.03No Comment
                  by Edna Lewis and Scott Peacock
                  from The Gift of Southern Cooking
                  (Alfred A. Knopf, 2003)
                  Serves 12
                  When apples are in season, there’s nothing finer than a simple apple cake. Although easy to make, this cake is anything but ordinary. It’s bursting with fresh apple flavor and spices, while the crunch of pecan, which places the cake unmistakably in Southern territory, adds just the right bite. And, well, the coat of rich caramel makes this an over-the-moon dessert.
                  convert Ingredients
                  For the cake
                  1 cup light-brown sugar, packed
                  1 cup granulated sugar
                  1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
                  3 large eggs
                  3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
                  1 teaspoon baking soda
                  2 teaspoons ground Ceylon cinnamon (see note)
                  1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
                  1/2 teaspoon salt
                  5 fresh apples (such as Winesap or Granny Smith), peeled and diced into 1/2 inch pieces
                  1 1/4 cups not-too-finely chopped pecans
                  2 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
                  For the glaze
                  1/2 stick unsalted butter
                  1/4 cup granulated sugar
                  1/4 cup light-brown sugar
                  Pinch of salt
                  1/2 cup heavy cream
                  Make the cake
                  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F (160°C).
                  2. Put the sugars and vegetable oil in a mixing bowl, and beat until very well blended. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt, and gradually add to the sugar and eggs, mixing just until well blended.
                  3. Stir in the apples, pecans, and vanilla, and pour into a buttered and 9-by-13-inch baking pan.
                  4. Bake in the preheated oven until a skewer or toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, about 1 1/4 hours (begin checking after 50 minutes). Remove from the oven, and allow to cool in the pan while you prepare the caramel glaze.
                  Make the glaze
                  1. Melt the butter in a saucepan, and add both the sugars and the salt. Stir until blended, and cook over medium-low heat for 2 minutes. Stir in the heavy cream, and boil for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.
                  2. Use a skewer or toothpick to poke holes all over the top of the cake, and pour the warm glaze over the surface. Serve warm or at room temperature.
                  Note: The quality of cinnamon can vary greatly, and most that you find on supermarket shelves is harsh and hot in flavor. Ceylon cinnamon is the exception and we use it a lot in our recipes. Ceylon cinnamon is best purchased in stick form, kept tightly covered away from sunlight, and ground in a spice mill or with a mortar and pestle for each recipe (we keep a small electric coffee grinder that we use only for sweet spices like cinnamon and clove). Unlike common cinnamon, which is thick, hard and brittle, Ceylon cinnamon is paper thin and crumbles easily in the hand. It is complexly smooth and sweet, and very refined, both in aroma and flavor. We recommend seeking it out, as it makes all the difference in a dish. If, however, for some reason you simply cannot find Ceylon cinnamon, reduce the amount called for in our recipe by half if you are using an ordinary supermarket brand.