Pick perfect apples for fall, winter delights

Dana Cizmas

Comparing apples to apples is more complicated than the idiom suggests.

In fact, the fruit is multifaceted and complex. There are about 7,500 varieties of apples grown around the world, and 2,500 varieties just in the United States.

“Because there are so many apple varieties, each with their own unique flavor profile, texture and best uses, there’s really an apple for everyone,” said Julie Bancroft, executive director of PA Apple Marketing Program.

Apples in Pennsylvania, which is the nation’s fourth-largest producer, are harvested between mid-August and mid-November. That being said, varieties such as Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, McIntosh, Jonagold and Cameo can be purchased year-round because they are stored in controlled environments that maintain their freshness, Bancroft said.

Here’s a look at the best time to buy particular varieties of apples:

Early-season (August)

Gala is one of the most popular types of apple. With a skin tinted in places with yellow-gold shades, it is a mix between Kid’s Orange Red and Golden Delicious. The crunchy Gala is sweet and has a mild taste. It is best enjoyed fresh as a snack, in salads or paired with cheese and meats. It also holds up well in baking and cooking.

Ginger Gold surfaced in the 1960s from an accidental seedling and represents a cross between Golden Delicious and Albemarle Pippin varieties. It is sweet, yet tart and juicy, and lends itself well for snacking and baking, as well as in salads, pies and sauces.

Summer Rambo originated in France and represents one of the oldest varieties. It embodies an aromatic, sweet-tart flavor and is crisp with a very juicy flesh. It’s a wonderful choice for applesauce as well as for snacking and cooking, and typically is picked in late July or early August.

Midseason (September/


Jonagold was introduced in 1968 by Cornell University’s New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, New York. It’s a cross between Golden Delicious and Jonathan varieties. It’s crisp while showcasing a honey-tart flavor, making it ideal for snacking and baking. It’s harvested in September.

Granny Smith was discovered by Maria Ann “Granny” Smith in Eastwood, Australia, in 1868. It was propagated through a chance seedling and is considered to be related to the French Crab. October is the best month to buy it. Being tart, crisp and juicy, it’s great for snacking, baking, salads and sauces.

Honeycrisp was pioneered in 1991 by the University of Minnesota. It is sweet, tart and very crisp, and works best as a snack or in salads. It is harvested in September.

Rome was coined via a chance breeding by Joel Gillet on the banks of the Ohio River in 1817. The variety was initially called Gillett’s Seedling but was renamed the Rome Beauty in 1832. It has a somewhat tart flavor profile, with a firm, crisp and juicy flesh. It’s picked in October and holds up well in baking and applesauce.

Stayman is the product of a chance seedling discovered by J. Stayman in Kansas in 1866 and introduced in 1895. It is harvested in October and has a mildly tart and rich flavor profile similar to Winesap. It is an all-purpose apple great for snacking, baking or sauce.

Late-season (November)

Pink Lady was created in Australia as a cross between Lady Williams and Golden Delicious varieties. Preferred for snacking, salads and pies, the crisp apple is both sweet and tart in taste. It’s best in November.

10-Minute Pancakes

These pancakes are grainy, tasty and ridiculously easy to make. They’re like eating a nutty oatmeal in a pancake-form. I used whole milk and vegetable oil and the results were excellent.

For batter

3/4 cup oats

Handful of pecans or almonds (about 13/4 ounces)

2/3 cup milk of choice

1 grated apple

1 medium banana

Vegetable oil

To finish

2 apples

Juice of 1/2 lemon

Pinch of cinnamon

Tiny grating of nutmeg

Maple syrup or honey

Yogurt of choice (optional)

Blend oats until you have a scruffy flour. Add nuts, milk, grated apple and banana, and blend until combined.

Heat a nonstick pan over medium heat and add oil.

Add ladlefuls of the batter to make small pancake rounds. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or until bubbles rise to the surface. Use a spatula to carefully flip the pancakes over and cook on the other side. The pancakes in the first batch are always more delicate, so don’t worry if they look a bit scruffy. Keep them warm while you cook the rest.

Once all of your pancakes are done, peel apples into long pieces. Place them in a bowl and toss with lemon juice, cinnamon and nutmeg.

Serve pancakes stacked, and topped with apple strips, maple syrup and, if you like, a little yogurt.

Makes 6 pancakes.

— Adapted from “A Modern Way to Cook: 150+ Vegetarian Recipes for Quick, Flavor-Packed Meals” by Anna Jones, (Ten Speed Press Berkeley; Aug. 30, 2016; $35)

Apple-White Cheddar Grilled Cheese

These sandwiches are crunchy, cheesy and the perfect mix of savory and sweet with a pleasant kick from the pepper flakes.

4 slices whole wheat cinnamon-raisin bread

4 slices sharp white cheddar cheese

1 small apple, thinly sliced

1 thin slice red onion, separated into rings

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, optional

1 tablespoon butter, softened

Layer each of two bread slices with one slice cheese and half of the apple and onion. If desired, sprinkle with pepper flakes. Top with the remaining cheese and bread. Spread outsides of sandwiches with butter.

In a large skillet, toast sandwiches over medium-low heat for 3 to 5 minutes on each side or until golden brown and cheese is melted.

Makes 2 servings.

— Kathy Patalsky in Taste of Home (August/September 2016)

Scandinavian Apple Cake

The cake is very moist, loaded with apples, studded with raisins and walnuts, packed with flavor and a delicate warmth from the mix of spices. It’s an elegant fall dessert with a glossy finish. I used amaretto instead of apple brandy, which worked beautifully and added a faint booziness to the delicious dessert.

11 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus extra for greasing the pan

5 firm apples, such as Granny Smith, divided

3/4 cup light brown sugar

2 eggs

21/4 cups plain flour, plus more for the pan

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

11/2 cups golden raisins

1 cup walnuts, roasted and chopped (see tip)

4 tablespoons apple brandy or amaretto (optional)

Apricot glaze, to decorate (see tip)

Sifted powdered sugar, for dusting

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour 8-inch springform cake pan.

Peel and grate 4 apples in a bowl. Add brown sugar and butter, and combine. Add eggs and mix well.

Sift flour, baking powder and spices. Add to the apple mixture and fold in. Stir in raisins, walnuts and brandy or amaretto, if using.

Pour mixture into the prepared pan. Peel and slice the remaining apple, then arrange on top of the cake in neat circles.

Bake for 60 to 70 minutes until golden and a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. (The cake will be very moist, but that’s normal.) Leave to cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack.

Brush with a little apricot glaze and leave to cool, then serve with a light dusting of powdered sugar.

Tip for nuts: Spread nuts on a baking tray and roast them in oven at 350 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes, or until golden and crisp. (Be sure to watch them, as they can burn quickly.) Leave to cool, then chop.

Tip for glaze: Place some apricot jam in a small saucepan and gently warm through and remove lumps. Using a pastry brush, brush glaze over cake. Leave to cool.

Serves 8 to 10.

— Adapted from “Eric Lanlard’s Afternoon Tea” by Eric Lanlard, (Mitchell Beazley; July 5, 2016; $24.99)

Winter Sangria

This sangria is essentially a fruity mulled wine, warm and comforting and ideal for wintry nights. The recipe called for a slow cooker, but slowly simmering the concoction on the stove for about an hour works just as well.

2 bottles fruity red wine, such as shiraz or malbec

1 cup pomegranate juice

1/2 cup brandy

1/4 cup triple sec

1/4 cup sugar

1 pear, cored and thinly sliced

1 apple, half diced and half thinly sliced

1 orange, thinly sliced

1 bag frozen cherries, thawed

In a large pot, mix all the ingredients.

Bring to a boil and then turn the heat to low and simmer for about an hour or until the sugar has dissolved and the fruit has softened.

Stir and serve each drink along with the fruits. Serves 8 to 10.

— Adapted from “Slow Cooker Family Favorites: Classic Meals You’ll Want to Share” by Maggie Shi, (The Countryman Press; October 2016; $19.95)