This past weekend, a friend and I ventured to an apple orchard in the north Georgia mountains. I’d never been to an orchard before, and was honestly (pleasantly) overwhelmed. Everywhere we turned, we were faced with different varieties of apples, plenty I’d never even heard of before. We were allowed to pick apples straight from the orchard and fill our box (a peck, i.e. 10-12 pounds) with whatever varieties we wanted. It was basically a fall wonderland and I’d highly recommend the experience, if you ever have the opportunity. So now that I’m in a full-on fall mood, I vote we celebrate apple season… by sorting through the basic varieties of apples you’re likely to encounter out there. Here is a guide to help you make the best choices for your pies, caramel apples, applesauces, and whatever other autumnal apple recipes you intend to dive into this fall with the most widely available apple varieties you’ll be seeing this season.
1.) Red Delicious
Description: Large and ruby red, this apple looks just the way we all envision an apple should.
Flavor: A mildly sweet flavor; fairly one note.
Uses: While the red delicious is hugely popular, it’s prone to having a dry interior and thick skin,which means it’s not the best candidate for baking, but a superb apple to use in making applesauce.
Description: Rosy and tinged with yellow, picturesquely round.
Flavor: This apple is super crisp, boasts a thicker skin, and is juicy sweet, balanced by a very delicate tartness.
Uses: Because this apple is structurally strong, is great for sautéing, baking, or just munching raw.
Description: Mostly red, but with yellow or green coloring near the stem.
Flavor: Refreshing with a sugary sweet bite.
Uses: The Fuji apple originated in Japan in 1958 and has since become a best-seller. This apple is crunchy and also stands up well for baking applications. Raw slices are an excellent addition to autumn salads, but these are likewise a solid choice to include in apple pies.
4.) Golden Delicious
Description: A soft golden yellow or green color.
Flavor: Sweet, slightly buttery, and gently tart.
Uses: Golden delicious apples are great all-purpose apples for use in salads, baking, or snacking. But they are a bit softer and prone to bruising easily, so handle with care. While these are a great apple to include in an assortment for pies, I would not recommend using them exclusively–you’ll want to match them with a heartier apple variety.
5.) Granny Smith
Description: Large in size with a bright green color and glossy skin.
Flavor: Tart and delicately sweet.
Uses: This is a classic choice for a quintessential fall apple pie, but Granny Smith’s are also an excellent choice to include on cheese boards and on sandwiches.
6.) Pink Lady
Description: Soft rosy in color with a glossy skin.
Flavor: Juicy-sweet and faintly floral.
Uses: These apples have a thin skin, making them great for kids’ snacking (fiber!). They also have a great crunch factor and addictive sweetness that makes this variety ideal for eating in the raw.
Description: Mostly red, with some yellow coloring.
Flavor: Sweet and lightly floral.
Uses: These apples share a lot of similarities between pink lady and gala apples. In fact, at the supermarket, you’ll probably see all three varieties side by side. Their respective sweetnesses vary slightly, so try them all and see what suits you best. Honeycrisp apples are also a great choice for tarts and pies, as they maintain their structure during baking very well.
Description: Deep red with patches or bright green or yellow.
Flavor: Bold both in sweetness and tartness.
Uses: Avoid baking or sautéing with this variety as it doesn’t stand up to heat very well and has a slightly softer texture. Use this variety for apple sauce, caramel apples, or salads.
If you’ve been craving apple pie since you started reading this, don’t worry, you’re not alone. Apple season is definitely a cause for celebration, and what better way to celebrate than with a skillet of pure deliciousness? This skillet pie is everything you want out of an apple pie with less than half the hassle. Check out the video below to see just how simple it is to whip up.