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Apple Varieties for Cooking, Baking & Cider

G.A. Moulton and J. King

WSU – NWREC, 16650 S.R. 536, Mount Vernon, WA 98273

What to do with your apples after they are picked?

“Which apple is the best for baking? Can I use the same apples for sauce and for pies? What does it mean, ‘cider apple’?” Questions like these often come up when characteristics of the many different apples are mentioned. A hundred years ago, when most apples found in stores were grown close to home and there were as many as 20 or 30 different varieties available through the season, this knowledge was basic to successful apple cookery.

In the years since, with the expansion of supermarkets and the reduction in varieties offered to consumers, the question became not “which is the best” but “what do they have.” Now, markets are expanding their variety selections again with old favorites and new discoveries, and people are growing fruit in their backyards both to eat fresh and to use in other ways. Once again we hear the question, “Which apple is best?” for a specific purpose.

The list below, derived from several sources, is offered as a guide to the best uses, culinary or otherwise, for a broad selection of apples. Individual tastes vary, so don’t hesitate to try something new. We will do our best to keep the list current and to update it when new information comes to our attention.

Apples and Their Uses

Keeper (K) – indicates apple that stores well after harvest
Dessert (D) – apple can be used for eating fresh out of hand
Cooking (Co) – apple for culinary uses; (P) good
for pies, (S) good for sauce
Cider (Ci) – apple can be used for making fermented (hard) cider

*tested in western Washington conditions

Variety K D Co Ci Comments
Arkansas Black X X P firm, fine grained, moderately juicy
Ashmead’s Kernel* X X X russet skin, very firm dense flesh
Ashton Brown Jersey X bittersweet; produces high quality juice and full bodied medium
bittersweet cider
Baldwin X P X former commercial, replaced by McIntosh; high sugar levels;
good for pie when slightly on the green side
Braeburn* X X P tangy-sweet, very firm and hard, also for baked apples
Bramley’s Seedling* S,
classic culinary apple in England, excellent high-acid cooking
Bulmer’s Norman* X produces sweet, astringent, fast-fermenting juice and mildly
bittersweet cider
Calville Blanc d’Hiver X P X classic dessert apple of France, very high in vitamin C, tart,
Chisel Jersey* X produces bittersweet, astringent juice and a full bittersweet
cider. The term ‘Jersey’ denotes a bitter apple.
Cortland, Redcort* X S,
X flavor between sweet & acid, fruit very juicy, good for
salads as it discolors very slowly after being cut. Redcort is a redder
colored sport.
Cox’s Orange Pippin*   X P X classic English dessert apple; pear-like aroma when baked,
high in vitamin C
Elstar* X S,
on the tart side when picked, flavor mellows after storage;
also very good for baking whole
Empire* X X S,
X flesh white, sweet, crisp, juicy & firm
Esopus Spitzenberg* X X S,
late ripening, very firm crisp flesh
Foxwhelp* X bittersharp, produces aromatic, musky flavored cider
Fuji X X S sweet, firm flesh (western WA plant early clones like Beni
Shogun, Jubilee)
Gala X X small, with rich sweet flavor, very juicy, dries well
Golden Delicious X S,
X crisp, juicy flesh, especially good for pies or baking whole;
some say best flavor develops in cooking
Golden Russet* X S,
X russet skin, sweet, crisp, fine textured flesh, dries well
Granny Smith X X S,
very late ripening, hard, firm, tart; develops mellow flavor
when fully ripe after storage
Gravenstein* X S X top rated for sauce; thin-skinned, juicy, sweet, not recommended
for pie; short storage only
Grimes Golden X S X very high sugar content
Hyslop Crab X X too astringent for fresh eating, excellent for jelly, pickling,
cider blending; dries out quickly so use immediately
Idared* X P highly aromatic, slightly tart, juicy; thick skin
Jonagold* X P,
very good balanced sweet-tart flavor, large fruit, holds up
well in baking whole
Jonathan X P X bestseller in early 1900s; small, slightly tart
Lady (Pomme d’Api) X X very small and colorful, sometimes used in swags and decoration,
tender, crisp, juicy flesh
McIntosh* X S X important commercial apple in eastern U.S.; highly aromatic,
spicy, does not keep well
Michelin* X medium bittersweet, produces sweet, mildly astringent juice
and medium bittersweet cider
Mutsu X X S X commercial name Crispin; firm, crisp, sweet-tart at harvest,
very sweet after storage
Newtown Pippin
(Albemarle Pippin)
X X S,
X crisp, tender, sweet-tart flesh; very good for pies, not for
salad as it browns quickly
Nonpareil X X sweet-tart flesh; makes a good cider by itself
Northern Spy X P X juicy flesh high in vitamin C, blends with crab apples for cider; may be late to start bearing
Northwest Greening* X P,
flesh firm, tart, juicy; tough skin
Pitmaston Pineapple X very old russet variety, small and very sweet; flavor sometimes likened to pineapple
Red Delicious X popular commercial market apple, can reach very good quality if properly harvested & stored
Rhode Island Greening* X X P one of the best for pies, tart greenish flesh also dries well
Rome Beauty S X crisp, tart flesh, very thick skin, excellent for baking whole, holds shape & has marvelous texture; not recommended for pie
Roxbury Russet* X X S X old russet variety, U.S. origin; very high sugar content, medium-acid fruit yields fine clear cider with aromatic flavor and 6% alcohol
Smith’s Cider X origin Bucks Co., PA; still cultivated for cider
Spartan* X X McIntosh cross, very flavorful, firm white flesh
Stayman Winesap X S,
X seedling of Winesap, juicy, firm flesh; in 1900s it was a commercial apple in eastern U.S.
Swaar* X X late ripening, flesh very dense, firm, high sugar and acid, mellows in storage; hangs till winter on tree
Sweet Coppin* X low tannin apple from Devon, produces a sweet juice with no astringency and a sweet to mildly bittersweet cider
Virginia (Hewe’s) Crab X native North American crab; juice ferments very slowly for highly flavored dry cider
Winesap X S,
X important in early NJ cider industry; very juicy flesh, vinous strongly sweet-sour flavor, best blended in cider with bland, sweet varieties; good when baked whole
Yarlington Mill* X vintage English cider apple known for high yields, produces sweet, slightly astringent juice and a medium bittersweet cider
York Imperial X S,
originated near York, PA and characterized by its “imperial” keeping quality