As we enter the fall months, it’s time to look forward to favorite seasonal activities, such as pumpkin carving, leaf peeping and, of course, apple picking.
Whether you can’t wait to mix your favorite variety into a seasonal fall salad, or you anticipate filling your home with the aromas of apples baking inside some tasty pastry treat, you want to be sure to pick the best apples possible, both for whatever it is you plan to cook or bake, as well as just for quality.
To help you out at the orchard this year, here are 3 tips for picking the best apples.
1. Know Your Varieties
Different types of apples are best suited to different purposes. If you’re at the orchard or farmers market, talk to one of the farmers about the varieties they have on offer, as well as their recommendations. (And if you talk to farmers often enough, you’ll quickly learn that apple varieties can differ from year to year, depending on the weather, so if you’re looking for a specific taste or texture, you might need to look for certain varieties, certain years.)
There are some recognizable varieties that are pretty standard orchard stock, and that you can consistently rely on for certain uses (Honeycrisp and Fuji are good for baking; McIntosh is good for an apple sauce; Pink Lady and Empires are good for salads, etc.). However, try some new-to-you varietals as well, and see what you discover!
2. Give it a Feel
As you’re walking through the orchard rows, basket or bag in hand, you’ll likely spot lots of apples that look perfect and pristine at first glance — but don’t judge an apple just by its cover (or color!). While a beautiful exterior can be tempting, you’ll want to give that apple a squeeze before you take it home. Apples should be firm and the flesh should not give or indent under your thumb.
3. Pick with Care
You could be coming across the best, freshest, highest quality apples in the orchard — but if you pick them carelessly, you’ll end up with apples that are bruised and worse for wear by the time you get home. Pick with care in order to maintain your apples’ peak condition and keep them in peak condition until you’re ready to eat or use them.
When picking the apples, tear the apple upward, not downward, so that you keep the stem intact (otherwise, the apple may go bad, sooner). As you test the apple for that desirable firm feel, don’t press too hard. You don’t want to bruise it. Then, place the apple gently in your bag, basket or bucket, and carefully take it home.
Between Orchard and Oven
Once you get your apples home from the orchard or farmers market, place them in the fridge, in your vegetable drawer. However, do note that storing apples alongside other produce can make that other produce ripen faster. While this is a handy hack if you really want to quicken the ripening process for other fruits and veggies, if that’s not what you have in mind, maybe move the other fruits and veggies to another part of your fridge, for the time being.