The sweet, crisp, tart, and juicy apple is a versatile ingredient in any culinary professional’s arsenal. Apples are great in all-American staples like the classic pie as well as French bistro dishes such as pork tenderloin with apples. They do well in soups, salads, appetizers, entrees, cocktails, and, of course, dessert, and are a go-to ingredient to feed the tastes of guests looking for fresh, local, and seasonal food.
Second only to Washington state, New York is the second-largest apple producing state in the country. The Empire State grows and markets more commercial varieties of fresh-market apples than any other region in the country. The top five varieties in terms of production are: McIntosh, Empire, Red Delicious, Cortland, and Golden Delicious. Here’s a look at some of the big apples of New York.
Comparing Apples to Apples
An all-purpose apple, the Cortland was developed at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva in 1898. Over the next decade it became one of the more popularly produced apples and won many awards. This sweet apple has a hint of tartness and softens nicely when cooked. Bake it into a cake, tart, cobbler, quiche and galette, or slow cook to make soup, sauce and preserves. Since they don’t oxidize quickly when cut, the tender, snow-white fruit stars in salads, kabobs, fruit plates, and garnishes. With charcuterie platters on trend, Cortland apples are a perfect accompaniment to savory meats and cheeses and can be used in lieu of crackers.
The top variety in terms of production, the McIntosh has been enjoyed since 1811 when John McIntosh discovered the first seedling. It’s versatile, like the Cortland, with a sweet and a tart tang. This juicy fruit is not as firm as other apples, and the soft flesh is sometimes described as creamy or mealy, so it’s best used in applesauce or apple butter. When using in pies, use a thickener to compensate for the juiciness of the apple.
The popular Red Delicious apple is grown across the country, but the New York Red Delicious variety has a characteristic crispness. They’re sweet and juicy, so raw applications such as salads are the way to go in showcasing this fruit’s freshness and flavor. They also have visual appeal, making it a good choice for displays.
Related to the Red Delicious in name only, the Golden Delicious is a honey sweet apple. It has a mild, sweet flavor so it’s a sweet treat on its own, but it’s also versatile and excellent for pies, baking, and freezing because it holds its shape well. Less sugar is required when using it in pies and sauces because of its natural sweetness.
The sweet-tart child of McIntosh and Red Delicious, the Empire is quintessential New York, taking its name from its home state. Developed at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in the 1940s, this versatile apple has a crisp bite and creamy flesh and it’s a great choice for pretty much any application.