There is, perhaps, no ingredient more representative of autumn than a crisp, sweet-tart apple. The fruit's widespread popularity is reflected in the incredible number of varieties available: In North America alone, there are 2,500 types of apples, and over 7,500 kinds grown around the world. Not all apples serve the same purpose; particular types work better in certain preparations. Gala, Granny Smith, and Red Delicious are best eaten raw; those in the McIntosh family, including Cortland, Empire, and Macoun, are good for both eating out of hand or making applesauce; and Jonathan, Jonagold, Pink Lady, Mutsu, and Rome are all well suited to baking, since they tend to hold their shape well. Mix and match flavors and textures to achieve your ideal combination.
HOW TO BUY
Choose apples that are firm and unblemished. The old adage "a bad apple spoils the barrel" has a scientific basis: Apples emit ethylene gas, which accelerates the ripening process. The riper they are, the more ethylene they produce, which can rot other produce stored nearby.
HOW TO STORE
Store apples in a cool, dark place away from other ethylene-sensitive produce. Early in the season, they are best eaten as soon as possible. Midseason apples will keep for weeks, and late-season fruit is good for up to a few months.
HOW TO PREPARE
To core apples, cut them into quarters and use a paring knife to remove the stem and seeds. Cut apples will oxidize quickly; a squeeze of lemon over sliced apples will prevent browning.