Most apples are harvested from autumn to early winter, which means that apples are at their most bountiful right about now. Which is perfect, since a crisp, sweet-tart apple is not only the ultimate handheld snack, but also a fantastic ingredient to highlight in cooking, baking and preserving. Keep reading for some of our best bets when it comes to choosing and prepping apples, plus a number ways to prepare these fruits in simple, elaborate, sweet and savory recipes.
Apples: Everything You Need to Know
What to Look For
Apples should have unbroken skin with good color and no soft brown spots. Whenever possible, buy newly harvested local apples. Because they continue to ripen at room temperature, refrigerate them in the cold back part of the refrigerator for one week or longer. If you plan to eat them soon after purchase, they can be held at room temperature for a few days.
Sweet, thin-skinned apples are best for eating raw, as a snack out of hand or paired with aged cheese, while tart apples are ideal for making pies, cakes, pastries or applesauce. The most recognizable varieties for eating fresh include Red Delicious, sweet Golden Delicious, tart and green Granny Smith, red- and yellow-streaked Gala and the red-marbled McIntosh. Bakers seek out varieties such as Jonathan, Cortland, Pippin, Winesap, Gravenstein and Braeburn for their sturdy texture that balance sweetness with pronounced tartness and hints of spiciness. For more tips on the best varieties for specific uses, see our Apple Guide.
A small, sharp knife is all you need for peeling and slicing apples, although a vegetable peeler may be faster and easier. Specially designed apple corers are also useful tools. Exposed apple flesh will brown quickly unless it’s rubbed with lemon or other citrus juice. Since the skin of the apple contains so many nutrients, it is a good idea to leave it on when possible.
Because apples continue to ripen at room temperature, refrigerate them in the cold back part of the refrigerator for 1 week or longer. If you plan to eat them soon after purchase, they can be held at room temperature for a few days.
Your Apple Toolkit
- Apple Peeler/Corer, for peeling, coring and slicing apples (and pears and potatoes!)
- All-Clad Essential Pan, to cook apples into applesauce and apple butter, and to make fillings for pies and desserts
- Glass or ceramic pie dish, for baking individual or large whole apple pies
- Cuisinart 8-cup Food Processor, for making crusts and crumble toppings
- Adjustable Apple Corer & Divider, to uniformly slice apples
- Apple Pie Spice, for adding flavor and aroma to crisps, pies, cobblers, tarts and turnovers
Slice, wedge, julienne or chop thin-skinned apples for raw preparations, such as savory or fruit salads, lightly-dressed slaws or a fall cheese plate. Save the most tart of apples for baking; they add a nice layer of acidity to pies, cakes, pastries or applesauce.
Looking for a few simple, recipe-free ideas for serving apples? Here are several of our favorite no-brainer preparations below.
Shaved Apple & Fennel Salad: Whisk together apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, chopped fennel fronds, canola oil, salt and pepper. Using a mandoline, thinly shave peeled Granny Smith apples and fennel. Toss with vinaigrette and garnish with fennel fronds.
Pork Chops with Apple-Calvados Sauce: Sear bone-in pork chops in saute pan until browned; transfer to a baking sheet and finish in oven. In same pan, saute thinly sliced shallots and Gala apples until golden. Deglaze pan with Calvados. Add chicken stock and simmer until apples are tender. Whisk in butter, chives, salt and pepper. Serve over pork chops.
Smoked Trout and Apple Salad: Whisk together white wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, olive oil, salt and pepper. Toss mixed greens with vinaigrette and thin slices of Fuji apples. Top with pieces of smoked trout and a dollop of creme fraiche.
Cabbage and Apple Coleslaw: Combine thinly sliced red or green cabbage (or a mixture) with coarsely grated Granny Smith apples and thinly sliced green onions. Whisk together mayonnaise, cider vinegar, salt and pepper. Drizzle dressing over cabbage mixture; toss to combine.
Baked Apples with Walnuts and Raisins: Toss chopped walnuts and raisins with brown sugar, melted butter, cinnamon and nutmeg. Fill 8 cored apples with walnut mixture; place in a buttered baking dish. Bake at 350ºF until apples are tender and filling is bubbly, 40 to 50 minutes.
Savory Apple Tart with Gruyere: Place chilled puff pastry on a parchment-lined baking sheet; brush pastry with olive oil. Sprinkle with thyme leaves, salt and pepper; top with grated Gruyere and tart apple slices. Bake at 350ºF until golden brown, about 20 minutes.
Some of our most beloved apple preparations may be more elaborate and time-intensive, but they highlight the apple’s versatility in starters, salads, entrees and desserts.
When winter chicories come into season, start any meal with a Radicchio Salad with Roquefort, Apples and Hazelnuts. Use a crisp, dense and sweet apple, like a Fuji, to counterbalance pleasantly bitter radicchio and pungent Roquefort cheese.
Fresh and crisp apple slices complement a fall grilled cheese. For this Apple and Artisan Cheddar Panini, opt for a tart red apple, like a Pink Lady, to counterbalance the fat in a rich cheddar cheese.
This simple fall dish of pork chops with apples and sage comes together quickly for an easy yet elegant weeknight meal. Serve it with a hearty green salad and crusty bread.
Think of these cider-braised chicken thighs with caramelized apples as apples two ways—it calls for caramelizing tart Granny Smith apples, as well as braising chicken thighs in apple cider.
This Savory Apple Tart with Onions, Cheddar and Thyme puts a fresh spin on the classic apple tart, transforming it into a savory version by adding caramelized onions, cheddar cheese and thyme. Serve as a hearty appetizer, or pair with a tossed green salad for a light lunch or supper.
A Brown Butter Crisp with Apples and Blackberries, which takes advantage of late-summer blackberries and early fall apples, is the perfect sweet finish to an August or September meal.
Perfect for a picnic, these adorable little apple hand pies have the added surprise of pistachios. You can make these in any shape you like: in rounds as instructed, as squares, or folded over into triangles or half circles.
Frozen puff pastry makes this apple galette so much easier than most. Serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Learn more about how apples are harvested and enjoyed at one of our favorite apple farms, and find more tips and recipes for peak-season produce here.