‘Tis the season for cooking with apples. From apple pies and apple fritters to apple butter and applesauce, this delectable fruit is an affordable option for healthy snacks, as a side dish, and sweet or tart desserts.
I’ve been cooking with apples for as long as I can remember. Growing up, we had access to fresh apples in our backyard. Many memories were created as mom and I picked the Granny Smith and Red Delicious apples from the tree and worked together in the kitchen to create something special for the family.
It wasn’t until a few years ago that I returned to my apple-cooking roots. When my mom passed away, I inherited her recipe box which was filled to the brim with apple cobblers, apple pies, and baked apple recipes.
In order to stay true to mom’s recipes, I went on the hunt for information about all things apple. I was surprised to discover how many apple varietals exist. My experience had been limited to Granny Smith, Red Delicious, McIntosh, and Golden Delicious. Now, I am experimenting with all kinds of apples to create homemade apple butter, applesauce, and apple ciders. It is an exciting time around our house!
Today, I’d like to share the information I discovered during my quest to become better at cooking with apples, along with a tasty recipe for homemade apple crisp.
Top 6 Apple Varietals
Red Delicious apples are the most common and popular red apple. They are best consumed fresh and not recommended for baking. Red Delicious apples have a softer texture and while they still offer a crunch, they aren’t as hard as an Arkansas Black or Baldwin apple.
Mom used to make an apple, celery, raisin, pecan salad as a side dish with pork chops. It consists of 2 Red Delicious apples, 1 celery stalk, 1/2 cup of raisins, and 1/4 cup chopped pecans mixed with 2 tablespoons mayonnaise and about 1 teaspoon of sugar. The apples are chopped into bite-size pieces and the celery is diced. Combine all ingredients, mix well, and chill for at least one hour.
Granny Smith apples have a light green skin and tart flavor. My fondest memory of Granny Smith apples is dipping them in homemade caramel sauce and decorating them with raisins. Granny Smith apples are great for making homemade applesauce, but can also be used in pies or sautéed in a pan with butter and cinnamon.
Mom used to make a yummy side dish consisting of Granny Smith apples sautéed in butter, than topped with a cinnamon-sugar mixture. This dish is super easy to prepare and ready in less than 10 minutes.
To make sautéed Granny Smith apples, cut 2 apples in quarters and remove the core and seeds. Cut into 1/4-inch slices. Melt 2 tablespoons unsalted butter in a small skillet. Add apples and cook over medium heat for 5 to 6 minutes or until fork-tender. Add 1/2 cup brown sugar and 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon and cook for 1 minute.
McIntosh apples are referred to as ‘dessert apples’ due to their sweet flavor. They are perfect for apple tarts, apple pies, apple scones, and applesauce. To the best of memory, mom made homemade caramel coated apples using McIntosh.
One of my favorite caramel apple recipes is to melt one bag of individual wrapped caramel candies (wrappers removed) with 2 tablespoons of half-and-half cream using a double-boiler. Lightly butter a baking sheet or line with parchment paper. Remove apple stem and insert a wooden Popsicle stick. Use the stick to roll apples in the melted caramel and place apples on baking sheet until caramel is set. You can also roll caramel coated apples in finely chopped nuts or drizzle with melted chocolate.
Crab apples are miniature in size and resemble oversized Bing cherries. They have a tart flavor and are often used when making apple butters and jellies. We had an enormous crab apple tree in our backyard that I used to climb as a child. One day, I lost my footing and grabbed a branch covered in thorns. To this day, I still have scars in my hand from those thorns and was certainly ‘crabby’ when the incident occurred.
Mom used to make warm apple chutney with crab apples. She combined 1 pound of crab apples with 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar, 2 cups granulated sugar, a pinch of salt, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon of cloves, 1/2 cup green seedless grapes, juice of one orange, and 1 cup water. Cut the crab apples in quarters and remove seeds. Combine all ingredients in 1-quart saucepan, except water. Pour water on top and simmer for one hour.
Golden Delicious apples are a good choice for baking and applesauce. As the name suggests, these apples have a light golden skin and semi-firm meat. Golden Delicious apples are one of the sweeter varietals and are great for snacking.
I recently made a batch of Whole Grain Cranberry-Apple Scones using a recipe from Epicurious.com. Since scones are best served warm, I cut the recipe in half and substituted the buttermilk for half-and-half. I must say, these were some of the best scones I’ve ever tasted and this recipe is certain to become a family favorite.
Braeburn apples are tart and sweet. The apple meat is very firm and the skin ranges in color from a greenish-gold to deep red with golden hues.
During the fall, mom made a delightful apple crisp using Braeburn apples. If we were really good, mom would serve the apple crisp with vanilla ice cream. She certainly knew how to make her children behave with food bribery. Once mom began preparing her famous apple crisp, we kids became quiet as church mice.
Mom’s Famous Apple Crisp Recipe
Yields: 6 servings
4 cups Braeburn apples, cored and sliced (about 4 to 6 medium apples)
1 cup Brown Sugar
1/2 cup all purpose Flour
1/2 cup Steel Cut Oats (quick-cooking)
1/3 cup unsalted Butter, softened
1 teaspoon ground Cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground Nutmeg
3 cups Vanilla Ice Cream, optional (1/2 cup per serving)
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly grease bottom and sides of 8-inch square pan with butter.
2. Wash and dry apples. Cut into quarters and remove seed core. Cut into 1/2-inch thick slices and place in baking dish.
3. Combine all ingredients, except ice cream, in a medium bowl and mix well. Sprinkle over apples.
4. Bake for 30 minutes or until apples are fork-tender and topping is medium golden brown.
5. Cool for 30 minutes and serve with ice cream.
Whole Grain Cranberry-Apple Scones from Epicurious.com