Fall is finally here, and a trip to the apple orchard is definitely in order. The trees are bursting with fruits, and branches laden with the seasonal bounty will delight the eye and warm the soul in the chilly autumn air.
Apples are plentiful in the markets all year long, but it’s in the fall when local varieties make their sweetest and juiciest appearances. McIntosh, Golden Delicious, Fuji, Northern Spy, Granny Smith, Gala, Envy—these are just some of the thousands of apple varieties that are available. Each has its own unique character.
To keep this article from reading like a scientific journal, I’ll only list a few of the most distinct and widely available ones. Which one is the apple of your eye?
Golden Delicious apples are yellow, with thin skin; firm, crisp flesh; and sweet flavor. They’re perfect for eating raw, packing in lunch boxes, or gently baking with a little sugar and cinnamon.
McIntosh apples are mostly red, with firm skin and flesh and a sweet-tart flavor. This is a workhorse for sauces, pies, and other desserts.
Granny Smiths are pale green, with thick skin, fluffy flesh, and a tart flavor. They’re perfect for savory pies and for any dish in which the apples need to hold their shape while cooking.
Honeycrisps are red with yellow and orange streaks, thin skin that bruises easily, and sweet, light, and crisp flesh. They’re perfect for snacking, cooking, and making cider.
These versatile fruits add flavor, texture, and color to both sweet and savory dishes. Slice them into salads (Waldorf salad comes to mind as a classic, made with walnuts and grapes and served on a lettuce leaf), pair them with cauliflower to blend into a delicate creamed soup, or roast, sauté, or grill them with pork for a classic autumnal combination. On the sweet side, apples can be battered and transformed into crisp-golden fritters, juiced and fermented into cider, or baked into seasonal variations of cobblers, crisps, pies, and cakes.
The three recipes I’m sharing here are all fall favorites, ones I make often with huge success.
Cinnamon-baked apples are a simple dessert that can be dressed up or down. After coring the apples, I like to fill the cavities with dried fruits, a splash of brandy (if not served to children), and a cinnamon stick for a charming presentation.
Mini apple cakes, moist with grated apples and sweetened with maple syrup, are also easy to make, and their aromas as they bake will fill your kitchen with the smells of autumn.
Finally, braised pork tenderloin with apples and sage is quick to make and a crowd-pleaser, perfect for both a midweek dinner and weekend entertaining.
I encourage you to get to your nearest orchard and make the best of your local apple season while it lasts. Happy picking!