Cold weather is all about cozy foods and warm bakes, and there’s no better ingredient to use than the ultimate winter fruit: the apple.
Not all apples are created equal, however. There are over 100 varieties of apples grown here in the United States, and each variety differs in taste, textures and tartness. If you know how to choose the right apple for the right dish, you can draw out a huge variety of flavors by cooking those different apples in different ways.
Here are some popular apples, some not-so-popular apples and some pretty unique apples that you can bake or cook with this winter and all year long!
Apples you can bake or cook with
These apples are perfect contenders for your next pie, cake or pastry, as their sweetness caramelizes beautifully in the heat and pairs wonderfully with warm spices like cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and allspice.
Cameos don’t yellow quite as fast as other apples do once cut, making them excellent choices for salads, parfaits, desserts and as a simple snack!
These were bred to thrive in the New York apple-growing regions, where the cooler weather creates these beautifully crisp fruits. These are best eaten fresh, rather than cooked!
These apples keep their shape even when baked, so they are great for dishes that require a whole-cooked apple. Cortlands are a good balance of sweetness and tartness, so they are also a good all-around apple you can use for filling, baking and cooking.
Cosmic Crisp apples have the sweetness of a Honeycrisp and the tartness of an Enterprise apple, both of which are the parent species of this particular variety. Unlike most other apples, these take longer to oxidize once cut — meaning they won’t go as yellow as quickly — so they are a good option for enjoying both fresh and baked.
Crispin apples are refreshing and sweet and are well-suited for sauces, pies and pastries, as well as on a cheeseboard as a simple sweet snack.
These apples are a good all-around variety because they go well in almost everything — sauces, cakes, pies, savory dishes, juices, ciders, salads and more. They’re a great variety to take on a picnic or a hike, too, as they don’t bruise nearly as easily as other apples do.
Grown in the warm valleys of Washington State, these sweet, crispy, crunchy apples are a dream both fresh and in a gooey apple caramel cake.
The skins on these apples are a little more flavorful than many of its neighboring varieties, giving the apples a nutty, sweet flavor. If you’re looking to try your hand at making apple cider, then Firecrackers are the apples to go with, for sure!
Fuji apples can be baked or cooked into anything, thanks to their firm structure and flavorful flash, though be aware that they are certainly sweeter than most. If you need a large amount of apples for a pie, cake, or sauce, then add a few other varieties into the Fuji-dominated mix to balance the sweetness a little.
There’s a reason these tried-and-true apples are still the go-to for pies and fillings — they’re sweet, their skins get beautifully caramelized when cooked and they keep their shape beautifully. You can’t go wrong with a good ol’ Golden!
These tart apples are known for their firmness, but they tend to lose that crispy, crunchy firmness when exposed to too much heat. Use them for fillings and sauces in sweet bakes, and they’re always a good hit with pork in savory dishes.
This apple variety is named after the state from whence it came — Idaho — and is a popular apple for everything from baking to cooking to snacking to juicing and more! They are crisp, sweet and tangy, and they are also known to have some of the highest levels of antioxidants out of all the apple varieties!
These Jazz apples are more pear-like, with a softer flesh and a mild flavor that’s half sweet and half tart. Put them in a pie and you’ll never go wrong!
These sweet, slightly tart apples pair well with warm flavors, making Jonagolds an ideal choice for pies, cakes, apple fritters and sauces.
Jonathan apples are best eaten fresh, as they don’t keep their shape and structure well in high heat. They can manage in an apple pie fairly decently, but it’s still a good idea to add some firmer apples to the mix, too.
Lucy varieties come in a variety of colors, tastes and textures, from soft yellow-skinned varieties to bright-red crunchy ones! Lucy Glo apples are red on the inside and yellow on the outside, so they’re a real eye-catcher for baking apple turnovers or colorful apple pies!
This apple has a strong, sweet aroma that pairs well with its sweet-tart flavor. If you’re making a homemade applesauce or some stuffed apples with brown sugar and butter, then these are the ones to use.
Opal apples keep their structure and sweetness for much longer than many other yellow varieties, making them a great choice for baking things like bread pudding, stuffed apples or roast chicken!
This apple tastes as good as it looks! Its bright pink exterior is matched by its delightfully-crisp sweet-tart interior, making the Pink Lady a great choice for baking, cooking, snacking and juicing!
These large, red-and-yellow-mottled apples are great for eating fresh and raw, but they’re also a hit in ciders, thanks to their mildly-tart flavor.
This is another one of those apples that loses its shape and structure if baked too long, so these Rave apples are best used for caramel apples or with dipping caramel, as that’s about all the heat this gentle variety can take.
Unlike the Rave variety, this apple variety thrives in the heat and holds up well in longer bakes. The tart apple caramelizes the longer it is cooked, giving the flesh a perfectly sweet and tart flavor that’s a great addition to bread puddings, sweet breads and more.
Fun fact: this apple was so named thanks to the cross-pollination between a Honeycrisp and one of its nearby neighbors in the foothills of Eastern Washington State. The apple growers credit honeybees for the creation of this ultra-sweet, unique variety — hence the name SugarBee.
These apples hold up well when preserved, keeping their shape long after canning, baking and drying. They're sweet, mildly tart and a great choice for any kind of baking or cooking recipe.
This tart, juicy, crisp apple is best eaten fresh, as it holds its crunchiness well in salads or on its own on a cheese board.
Give these a go next time you’re looking to bake something with these wintery fruits!
Featured photo courtesy Pixabay/pixel2013