• Jenn Kalchik

A Guide to Choosing Apples


My father is a 4th generation farmer. Our family farm has grown/raised several varieties over the years: cattle [dairy and meat], apples, cherries, oat, and barley. Now, our primary crops are cherries and apples. Since I am the daughter of an apple farmer, it only makes sense for me to share what varieties of apples are best for baking, eating fresh, salads, or for making sauces.


A little about my family farm first. It's located in Northport, Michigan, about a mile from Lake Michigan. You won't find us at a farmer's market or a fruit stand on the side of the road; we focus on the harvesting of crops themselves, then drive our products to different facilities where they're "graded" for their quality and then sent to production for companies like Smuckers, Welches, Motts, etc. Our fruit is mostly used in processed products (applesauce, jams, juice, pie fillings, etc.) but our fruit is sometimes available in the produce section. Weather can make or break our season, but luckily if it is a bad crop, our family has farm insurance to help cover some of the deficit in case bad weather damages the crops.


Now onto the apple varieties themselves. My family grows about 7-8 different varieties, so I'm partial to some types of apples over others. Granny Smith apples were "never allowed" in our house because that variety grows in the state of Washington, which is a competitor for Michigan farmers that also grow apples. So I'll be primarily focusing on apples that are grown in the state of Michigan. Of course, you may have your own apple preferences when using them in the kitchen.


Baking

When you think of using apples to bake, the first thing that comes to mind is apple pie. You would think as farmers we would make a mean apple pie, but pies are not a forte in my family. Instead, we make apple crisp or other apple-based desserts/entrees. I do make a good apple crisp (pictured below), which I may share the recipe here one day.

When choosing an apple, you want to select a variety that holds its shape after being baked. In addition, be cognizant of the amount of sugar or other sweeteners you're going to add, so I would choose a less sweet apple to help balance the recipe. Here are some of my favorite varieties:

  • Gala

  • Gingergold

  • Honeycrisp

  • Jonagold

  • Jonathan

  • McIntosh

Eating Fresh

When choosing an apple to eat fresh, make sure it is firm to the touch and doesn't have bruises on them. The firmer the apple, the longer it will last. If you're planning to purchase apples for eating fresh, keep them in the refrigerator. If I want a little extra protein while eating an apple, I like to dip it in peanut butter. Here are some of my favorite varieties:

  • Empire

  • Fuji

  • Gala

  • Gingergold

  • Honeycrisp

  • Jonagold

Red Delicious apples are what's considered the "pretty picture" apple. They're known for the "five little bumps" at the bottom. However, I personally don't like the texture or taste of it. This variety of apple is normally only good for eating fresh and browns easily, so it's not a versatile variety.


Salads

Apples are one of many fruits you can add to a salad. When choosing a variety, you want to choose one that not only holds its shape after being cut but also does not brown easily. Apples in salads are meant to help add to the salad and provide a good "crunch", so avoid apples that are gritty/mealy. Here are some of my favorite varieties:

  • Cortland

  • Fuji

  • Gala

  • Honeycrisp

Sauce

My grandma loves to make homemade applesauce from our family's apples. Applesauce is a bit more lenient in choosing the right variety; some recipes even call for a mix of apple varieties. You should select an apple variety that has a unique flavor but can also be mashed and cooked to the consistency you want for your applesauce. Here are some of my favorite varieties:

  • Fuji

  • Gala

  • Honeycrisp

  • Jonagold

  • McIntosh

There's a reason why apples are a popular fruit. Not only are they versatile for how you eat them, but they're also incredibly healthy. Aside from the numerous health benefits of apples, they also contain water naturally, so you can get a little hydration while eating an apple! As everyone says, an apple day keeps the doctor away.

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