I love this time of year in Northeast Ohio because it is apple picking time! Just a little over a week ago, the customer favorite ‘Honeycrisp’ apples were being picked and sorted. Due to the May 25th & 27th freeze/frost events creating light to non-existent crops, the ‘Gala’, ‘Jonamac’, ‘Holiday’ and ‘Macintosh’ apples were quickly picked in the previous three weeks. I’m looking forward to tasting the purplish-burgundy colored ‘Macoun’ apples with their brilliant white flesh and unique flavor.
Everyone wants to know which apple is the best for eating or baking. Since taste is very subjective and based on individual preferences, I’m not even going to suggest anything about taste. I will recommend however, that you get out to your local orchards and try the apples that they are growing. Fully ripened, freshly picked apples right off the tree have a fuller, richer and more robust flavor, in my opinion. I know that locally in my area, most orchards have at least 15-20 different apples varieties they produce and one orchard has over 50 different varieties! Again, bear in mind that many varieties may be sparse or non-existent this crazy year.
Now the best baking apples are another issue entirely which is determined by what texture of fruit that you like in your apple pie! What do I mean by texture of fruit? When they are baked in the oven, do they hold their shape and remain relatively firm or do they turn soft, lumpy and go to mush? Flavor in baking is also a critical aspect for the perfect pie. You want to offset the sweetness (sugars) of the apple with a little “kick or zing” of tartness (acid). The best way to achieve this is to experiment and find the right mix of apples by matching of different varieties that work for your tastebuds! And while you’re experimenting, I’m sure many around you will offer to help you “evaluate” your apple mix… if not, I know an Extension office that would literally “eat those experiments up”!
Well, I personally like my apple pies with firm chunks and slices of apples after they are through baking. Therefore, I like ‘Granny Smith’ for the tart, firm slices with ‘Honeycrisp’ for the sweet, slightly firm slices and a lesser amount of ‘Golden Delicious’,‘Ginger Gold’ or ‘Jonagold’ to break down a little more, just to fill in the gaps. Don’t be afraid to try a “new” or “unknown” variety that you have never tasted. The only way to really know if you like the apple, is to literally stick it in your mouth and take a bite. So get out to your local orchards and try some apple varieties that you have never heard their names… It just might be a very delectable experience!