Not all apples are created equal! Some are best for apple pie, others for eating fresh or turning into apple sauce.
When are apples in season?
The early varieties start showing up in mid-to-late August with later varieties harvested into November. Apples can lasting into December when stored in a cellar. We’ll talk about different varieties (and when they show up) in a bit. See what else is in season at the same time: August, September, October, November, and December.
How to pick the best apples:
Apples from the grocery store might be a year old, or even older, thanks to technology in perfect storage conditions. While they are fine to eat, they aren’t as crisp and flavorful. They also start to get mealy after a few days, since they degrade a faster pace once leaving their perfectly controlled environment (and they are 8 or 12 months old!)
I like to buy in-season apples from the farmers markets, roadside stands, or go apple picking at the orchard.
Avoid apples with bruises – it’s that easy!
To store apples, it depends on the variety. A handful of types don’t store for very long, including Gala and Red Delicious. Store these in the refrigerator, away from other fruit that might spoil, as apples are high ethylene producers (the gas that causes things to ripen faster). They will last a few weeks. Some people suggest putting the apples in a plastic bag in the fridge so the ethylene gas doesn’t cause other things to go bad, like lettuce or other produce.
For apples that can store longer, the fridge is also good, but a cold cellar works as well. Ideally, store each one in an open paper bag. This prevents one bad apple from spoiling the bunch (due to the ethylene gas or a rotting apple). These can last a few months. Apples that are tart and have thicker skin tend to store longer.
Should I buy organic?
If you can afford it, it’s a good idea. Apples are attacked by coddling moths and they are very hard to control without excessive amounts of pesticides. Consumer Reports reviewed pesticide testing data conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency and found that it only takes 1-5 servings a day to exceed the ‘known to be safe’ limits of pesticide.
I don’t mean to scare you – so let’s put this in perspective: 1 glass of wine exceeds ‘known to be safe’ limits. And we all enjoy it and are doing just fine! This article explains more about organic vs conventional produce, with an honest (and unbiased as I can be) approach.
Apple varieties & general uses
Gala – An early variety, showing up as early as August. Great for everything, from eating fresh, to baking, to apple juice. A stand out variety for apple sauce. Store in the fridge, they only last a few weeks.
Honeycrisp – An early variety that shows up a couple weeks after Gala, usually in September. Great for eating fresh, but can be a little bit watery in apple sauce or pies. Perfect for apple juice!
Golden Delicious – Mid-season. and should be stored in the fridge (they only last a few weeks). Great for everything, and is a star in apple sauce and pies. Flesh browns slower than other apples when cut, making a great choice for salads.
Red Delicious – Mid-season. Eat fresh! It isn’t great for baking or apple juice. Makes a great base for apple sauce. This apple bruises easily and should also be stored in the fridge (it doesn’t keep long).
Braeburn – Late-season. Good for eating and baking, a favorite for pies.
Granny Smith – Late-season and an excellent storage apple. Great to eat fresh or turn into apple juice. Very tart! If you use it for apple sauce, either add extra sugar or enjoy a very tart sauce. Also add a small amount to your other apples for apple pie, to add complexity to the flavor.
Fuji – Late season and a great storage apple. Very sweet! A favorite for eating fresh and one of the best varieties for apple sauce.
What are the best apples for pie?
Braeburn and Golden Delicious!
What makes an apple good or bad for pie? Some apples end up too sweet or too mealy, don’t cook down or turn to apple sauce when cooked. The best apple pie filling has in-tact apple slices that hold their shape after cooking up nice and soft.
Serious Eats did an in-depth test of apples for pie and found that Braeburn and Golden Delicious are the winners. After you read that one, here is part 2 in the series, you know… for those of us who take our apple pie seriously. Very seriously!
But that’s not the only opinion. The fine folks at King Arthur Flour did a test of their own, with other varieties that you might find locally at a market. They concluded it really comes down to personal preferences but suggested a combination of apples. Check out their apple pie test (and by the way, their blog has a ton of awesome baking tests to answer our most pressing questions!)
Now what should I make?
That’s a good question! I scour the internet to find recipes that use fresh, seasonal ingredients, often with a fun twist. Follow Ask The Food Geek on Pinterest or Facebook to get access to the recipes I find every day.
Apple recipe collection
Each recipe below only uses ingredients that are in season at the same time as apples, or ingredients that have a year-round season.
Peanut butter toast with skillet cinnamon apples – recipe by Two Peas & Their Pod
Roasted butternut squash and apple soup with sage – recipe by My Diary of Us
Make this later in fall, when squash start to show up.
Apple harvest salad with cinnamon-roasted chickpeas – recipe by Ask the Food Geek
Autumn harvest pulled chicken sandwich with homemade apple BBQ sauce and apple slaw – recipe by Use Your Noodles
Honey mustard hummus chicken salad with diced apples – recipe by Nutmeg Nanny
Hummus instead of mayo? Sounds delish. If you can’t find the honey-mustard hummus product she features in the post, try your favorite hummus flavor, or add honey mustard AND hummus.