Our Orchard Manager, Susan, has a wealth of knowledge and opinions about apples. We asked her to share some of her favorite varieties and what they are best for:
During this time of year, the orchard is buzzing with activity as we get the apple harvest in. Over the next three months, with the help of hundreds of volunteers, we will pick over 3,000 apple trees with the majority of the apples going towards hunger relief.
One of the most frequent questions I get asked by the volunteers at the orchard is what my favorite kind of apple is. That’s sort of like asking me which child of mine is my favorite! The answer I give is, I don’t have a favorite, but rather, I have several that I love equally for different reasons.
The Best Baking Apple: In my opinion, using a mix of different apples is best when baking. Each apple lends its own flavor and texture to your pie or crisp and the results are delicious. But if you did have to choose just one apple for your Thanksgiving pie, choose Cortland. This apple variety is widely known as the best baking apple for good reason. It cooks to a perfect texture, not too mushy, like its parent the McIntosh and not too crunchy. It has the tartness you want with a baking apple but a hint of sweetness, as well. Fun fact: Cortland apples have beautiful white flesh and are slow to brown so use them on your cheese and fruit platter or in salads too!
The Best Fresh Eating Apple: Again, it’s impossible to choose just one! Macoun tend to be my go-to around this time of year. To me they are one of the very best fresh eating apples. Crisp, and juicy, with a complex sweet-tart flavor, this apple is a New England favorite. Macoun, like its McIntosh parent, is also very good for apple sauce. Other delicious fresh eating favorites: Esopus Spitzenburg is an explosion of flavor in one bite (if you can find it, try it!) and Honeycrisp, of course, are rated one of the best.
The Best All Purpose Apple: The Ginger Gold apple fits easily into this category. They are a very good baking apple and are also excellent for fresh eating. This early season apple is the first to ripen at our orchard so I look forward to these beautiful yellow apples as they mark the start of apple season. They are not great keepers so get them while they are in season! Runner up: Baldwin apples are not easy to come by these days even though they were once one of the most widely planted varieties in the U.S. They ripen late in the season and are another great all-purpose apple. Unlike the Ginger Gold, they store very well.