Apples to Apples

Fall delivers not only crisp autumn air and beautiful foliage, but our favorite crisp, autumn treat—apples! Supply is abundant with many varieties available. While pumpkins get much of the attention in fall, we think apples are the real shining star. We’re at the peak of the season and you’ll see no fewer than 30 varieties on our list, including heirloom options. Our selection constantly changes as we bring to you new varieties when they become available. So how do you know which apples are better for baking vs. cider? Which ones pair better with pork dishes or should be used as garnish because they don’t oxidize? Read on for a breakdown on taste, flavor, and preparation of our complete apple listing.

Apple Varieties

Ambrosia
• Creamy yellow flesh is crisp and juicy with a sweet flavor and low acidity.
• Adds sweetness and moisture to cakes, doughnuts, and muffins.
• They hold their shape and flavor when cooked, making them perfect for pies, tarts, and baked apples.
• Slow to brown when cut, making them perfect for adding to salads or serving as part of a cheese tray.
Arkansas Black
• Flesh is golden-hued and juicy with a fine-grained, crisp texture.
• Highly aromatic with sweet-tart flavor.
• Excellent cooking apple; bake, sauté, or roast, puree into soups or sauces.
• Juice is excellent for ciders and jams.
• Pairs well with winter squash, pecans, cranberries, vanilla, thyme, sage, cinnamon, and cardamom.
Braeburn
• Crisp flesh is creamy yellow and juicy.
• Perfect balance of sweet and just slightly tart with subtle hints of pear and cinnamon.
• Sweet-tart flavor mellows slightly when cooked.
• Slow to brown when cut, making them perfect for use in salads or as part of a cheese board.
• When raw, their flavor and crisp texture is best when served slightly chilled.
Cameo
• Thin skin with a delicate texture.
• Flesh is dense and creamy white to yellow in color with a crisp and juicy texture.
• Perfect balance of sweet and tart with nuances of honey.
• Resists browning when cut, making them a great choice for fresh presentations.
• When cooked, their dense flesh holds up extremely well and their flavor is enhanced.
• Pairs well with squash, bacon, pears, and flavorful cheeses such goat, cheddar, and ricotta.
Empire
• Creamy white flesh is crisp and juicy.
• Flavor is sweet like a Red Delicious and tart like a McIntosh.
• Pairs well with pumpkin, pear, sharp cheeses, and warm spices such as ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
• Sliced or cut apples stay white longer if put in a bowl of water containing two tablespoons of lemon juice.
• Their size and low susceptibility to bruising make them an excellent snacking apple.
Fuji
• Creamy white flesh is juicy and crisp.
• Low in acid, the flavor is mild yet very sweet with hints of both honey and citrus.
• Thicker skin, dense flesh, and sweet flavor hold up well when cooked.
• Roast, bake, sauté, or boil down into sauce.
• Pairs well with sharp cheeses.
Gala
• Dense flesh is creamy yellow and crisp, offering a mildly sweet flavor and floral aroma.
• Great for snacking as they are low in calories and high in water content, and offer a fair amount of vitamins A, C, and B.
• Delicate flavor and texture of the Gala apple shines in fresh preparations.
• Sweet flavor becomes milder when cooked, making them perfect in baked preparations when paired with stronger flavored apples such as Granny Smith, Arkansas Black, Pippin, and Mutsu.
• Flavor complemented when paired with pears, winter squash, onions, pecans, turkey, curry, brie, cheddar, and Swiss cheese.
Golden Delicious
• Firm, crisp, and white-fleshed. These apples have a balanced sweet-tart aromatic flavor, which has been described as honeyed.
• Sweet-tartness makes this a good fresh eating variety.
• Has the necessary acid content and stability for baking.
• Pairs well with savory items such as onions, cabbages, pork, cheeses, and strong herbs.
• Good option for juicing or drying.
Granny Smith
• Firm and juicy apple with thick skin.
• Flesh is bright white and crisp in texture with a tart, acidic, yet subtly sweet flavor.
• Great for baking because of their high acidity and ability to hold their shape when cooked.
• Slow to brown when cut; perfect for fresh preparations such as caramel apples, lunchboxes, salads, and salsas, or sliced and paired with cheese.
Honeycrisp
• Creamy white flesh is exceptionally crisp and aromatic.
• Balanced content of sugar and acid provides a pleasant sweet-tart flavor.
• Maintains sweet flavor when cooked; great for baking.
• Remove the skin and slow-cook slices to make applesauce, preserves, and apple butter.
• Crisp texture shines in raw preparations.
Jazz
• Crisp, juicy apple is great for snacking and eating fresh.
• Combines the sweetness of a Gala with the tartness and crunch of a Braeburn.
• Bears a likeness to pears with slight floral flavor and gritty texture.
• Firmer flesh softens but stays nicely intact for cooked dishes where some texture is ideal, such as apple crisp.
• Not ideal for cooking applications where a smooth texture is desired, such as applesauce.
Jonagold
• Flesh is juicy and creamy yellow in color.
• Offers the sweet-tart taste found in the Jonathan and the aromatic honey-like scent of the Golden Delicious.
• A popular dessert apple; can be used in a variety of sweet preparations such as pies, tarts, muffins, and cakes, or baked whole.
• Perfect for use in sauces, preserves, and jam.
• Sweet-tart flavor complements savory applications as well.
Kanzi
• Rounded crimson red color has eye-catching attractive look.
• Deliciously well-balanced sweet and sour flavor that comes from a blend of a juicy Gala and tangy, sweet Braeburn.
• Crisp apple with a mild but pleasant apple flavor; slightly sharp rather than sweet, and quite juicy.
• Mainly used for fresh consumption.
King David (Heirloom)
• Crisp and juicy; flesh is creamy yellow with a coarse texture.
• Rich spicy flavor with nuances of wine complements sweet and savory dishes.
• Excellent cooking apple—bake, sauté, or roast; also great in stuffing.
• Perfect for cider, sauces, juice, and preserves.
MacIntosh
• Later-season apples take on a slightly sweeter taste than those picked earlier in the season.
• Crisp flesh is exceptionally juicy and bright white in color.
• Early-season apples have a strong sweet-tart taste with nuances of spice.
• Use cooked or raw and in both sweet and savory preparations; flesh is delicate and will break down when cooked.
• Slightly spicy flavor and juiciness makes them perfect for juice and cider.
Mutsu
Firm white flesh is crisp and juicy.
• Sweet-tart flavor has subtle hints of spice.
• Sweetens with cold storage.
• Chosen as an excellent dessert apple; it also complements savory dishes.
Newtown Pippin
• Light green skin with yellow tinge. Flesh is yellow and crisp.
• Complex, tart, sprightly aromatic flavor.
• Great for pies and other desserts as well as cider.
• One of the best storage apples.
Northern Spy (Heirloom)
• Juicy and sweetly tart, with flesh that is crunchier than most.
• Bruises easily; handle gently.
• Versatile apple that can be eaten out of hand, baked, roasted, or pureed. It is considered the ideal pie apple.
• Well known for cider making qualities.
Opal
• Bright yellow with distinctive firm texture.
• Floral aroma and sweet, tangy flavor.
• Naturally non-browning after cut.
• Great for salads, lunchboxes, and garnishes.
Pacific Rose
• Distinctive rosy-red blush makes this apple too pretty to resist.
• A natural Gala/Splendour cross, this apple gets its signature pink hue from Splendour and its unique taste profile combines both parents’ flavors .
• Refreshing, sweet, and crisp.
• Best eaten out of hand, but its delicate sweetness lends well to salads, sandwiches, and desserts
Philo Gold
• Light golden skin speckled with small spots called lenticels.
• Sweet flavor and firm crisp texture.
• Left unwaxed, their natural perfume comes through.
• Great cooking apple that retains both color and shape.
• Long-standing reputation for eating out of hand.
Pink Lady
• Crunchy texture and a tart taste with a sweet finish.
• White flesh is juicy and crisp, and offers a “fizz”-like burst of flavor.
• Ideal for fresh, out-of-hand eating.
• Retains shape when baked or poached.
• Slow to oxidize when cut, making it good for cheese boards, sandwiches, and salads.
Pinova
• Creamy white inner flesh with a crisp, crunchy texture; great for out-of-hand eating.
• Sweet flavor has subtle tropical undertones, such as banana and pineapple.
• Holds up to high temperatures when cooked, so they are ideal for pies, tarts, and baking.
• Can be refrigerated for up to two months.
Red Delicious
• Dark and intense crimson color makes it the quintessential red apple that is also high in antioxidants.
• Fresh and sweet with very mild flavor; few notes of acidity.
• Flesh is juicy and has a light crispness.
• Beautiful red color makes it a nutritious choice for smoothies and juice.
Rosalynn
• Deep red color and mildly sweet-tart flavor.
• Flesh is firm, crisp, and juicy.
• Best suited for eating out of hand.
• Does not turn brown when cut, making it a great for raw preparations including salads and lunchboxes.
Sierra Beauty (Heirloom)
• Fine-grained flesh is crisp and juicy with a creamy yellow color.
• Balanced sweet-tart flavor with nuances of spice and a floral aroma.
• Excellent for use in desserts or savory dishes.
• Serve as an accompaniment to aged meats and cheeses.
Skinner Seedling (Heirloom)
• Greenish-yellow apple, blushed pink.
• White and fine-grained flesh with tender, juicy, mild sub acid flavor.
• Good for eating fresh, sauce, or other dishes.
Smitten
• Yellow base with a cheeky blush and natural “wild apple” coloration.
• Complex aromatics and hints of tart behind the sweetness.
• Refreshing crunch makes for the perfect fresh eating apple.
Spitzenberg (Heirloom)
• Fine-grained flesh is creamy yellow with a crisp bite.
• Highly aromatic; has a rich and sweet taste with slight hints of nuts and spice.
• Excellent for desserts, sauces, and preserves.
• Slightly spicy flavor makes them a great choice for juices and ciders.
Splendour (Heirloom)
• Thin skin; light green with faint pink blush.
• Sweet, crisp, and juicy with low acidity.
• Stores well, but bruises easily.
• Pairs well with nuts, seeds, or nut butter.
• Flavor lends well to eating fresh, other raw preparations, baking, and cider.
• In New Zealand, considered the Prince of Apples.
Sweetie
• Sweet flavor with mild spice-like undertones. Lack of tartness makes the Sweetie a very sweet apple.
• Juicy, yellow flesh with a firm and crisp texture, like its Braeburn parent.
• To balance the sweetness of the hybrid Sweetie apple, combine with a tart apple for sauces or pies. Can be poached or baked, allowing its naturally sweet flavor to be enhanced.
Swiss Gourmet
• Red with yellow flush and some russeting at the bottom.
• Well-balanced sweet-tart dessert apple.
• Ideal for eating fresh and raw preparations such as salads.
• Pairs well with sharp cheeses.
Winter White Permaine (Heirloom)
• Pale yellow skin with streaks of reddish blush.
• Cream-colored flesh is fine-grained, crisp, juicy, and aromatic with a rich, sub acid to sprightly flavor.
• All-purpose apple; especially for fresh use.
• Believed to be the oldest known English apple.

What is Heirloom?

Heirloom varieties are older varieties that sometimes date back hundreds of years to when apples were grown for specific purposes such as cooking, baking, juice, or hard cider. In the mid-1800s, there were thousands of apple cultivars in the United States, some of the most astounding diversity ever developed in a food crop, with each one prized for its unique characteristics. These heirloom apples were diverse in shape, size, color, texture, and taste. Over time, many apple varieties fell out of popularity and gave way to apples that were uniform in color and shape and bred for transportation hardiness. Many of the heirloom varieties became commercially extinct, but not quite biologically extinct. However, many orchardists such as Apple Farm, Mount Hood Organics, and Heirloom Orchards continue to revive and grow delicious heirloom varieties. Check out the heirlooms currently in season:

  • Arkansas Black (1870, Benton, Arkansas)
  • King David (1893, Arkansas)
  • Northern Spy (1800, New York)
  • Sierra Beauty (1900, Northern California)
  • Skinner Seedling (1887, Santa Clara, California)
  • Spitzenberg (Late 1700s, Hudson Valley, New York)
  • Splendour (1948, New Zealand)
  • White Winter Permaine (1200, England)

 

Merchandising Corner

Apple Merchandising

We are hitting the peak of apple season, and that means an explosion of apples in produce departments everywhere. After months of dealing with delicate stone fruit, it is a welcome change to start stocking hardy apples.

Apples can be displayed in a cold case or on an unrefrigerated dry table. With so many heirloom and standard varieties, having multiple display locations is a great way to push apple sales and create interest. Try having an heirloom apple display separate from the other more common varieties. Grouping all your heirlooms together calls attention to their uniqueness, and will create interest and promote sales. Most customers are curious about the history behind the different varieties and the flavors that make them so special. Providing a little history and flavor profile on shelf talker cards is a great way to get this information to your customers. Many heirlooms are also great for baking and making applesauce, so a general use of the apple would be great information to include on the shelf talker too.

Honeycrisp and Fuji are generally the most popular apples. A big tall display of one or both of these apples in the front of the store generates excitement and usually will trigger an impulse-to-buy reaction. Also try cross-merchandising with gallons of apple ciders and mulling spices into the display. All of these items together make for a nice fall display that is very much in the spirit of the season.

As for displaying the standard varieties, it’s important to create color breaks with all the apples so that it is easier for customers to tell the difference between the varieties. Maintaining the freshness of apple displays is essential to keep the apples moving. Since apples are firm and hold up well unrefrigerated, they don’t need to be rotated every day. A complete rotation of product every other day is sufficient but displays should be checked daily for fruit that is breaking down or starting to wrinkle. Provide your shoppers with easily accessible bags and they will fill them up with their favorite apples as they enter the store to continue shopping.

Another strategy to boost apple sales is through interactive sampling. Apples are not ideal items to sample out on a free-standing sample tray since many varieties oxidize and turn brown after being cut. Taking a piece of fruit around and cutting and offering samples is a great way to have conversations with your customers. It gives you a chance to talk up product, answer questions, and build a reputation for excellent customer service.

 

Apple Recipes

Apples are a versatile ingredient for both sweet and savory recipes. Think apples are only good for apple pie? Think again! Apples are showing up in savory meat dishes, hearty side salads, baked into chips, and in cocktails! Pick your favorite recipes and print them out for shoppers to grab. Cross-merchandise the ingredients they might need in one display for easy shopping.

Apple and Fennel Soup

Apples Baked in Cider

Apple, Celery Root and Carrot Salad

Apple, Sausage, and Smoked Cheddar Breakfast Casserole

Baked Cinnamon Sugar Apple Chips

Blue Ribbon Apple Pie

Brussels Sprouts with Apples

Chickpea Waldorf Salad

Chunky Pork and Apple Stew

Cinnamon Apple Tahini Muffins

Easy Apple Butter

Fresh Apple Shrub

Kale & Bulgur Salad with Brown Butter Apple Vinaigrette

Quick Pickled Apples

Mom’s Apple Cake

Skillet Apple Crisp

Slow Cooker Pork Belly with Braised Apples and Cabbage

Smoked Trout Apple Hash

Spiced Apple Cookies

Vegan Apple Brownies

We acknowledge Specialtyproduce.com for their contributions to the above copy.