Have you ever stood in front of the myriad apples at your grocery store and wondered what the difference is? Rather than make a mistake, do you grab the same apples you’ve always purchased?
If so, then you are really missing out. There are lots of different varieties of apples available here in Phoenix, and with a little knowledge, you will be able to select the type that suits your needs perfectly.
I always seem to have red delicious and Granny Smith apples in my fridge. They are my favorite apples for eating; however, they are not so great if I want to make applesauce. For that, I need an apple that will get soft, such as golden delicious.
Depending upon the intended use, I vary the types of apples I buy. For example, if I want to make an apple pie, it is always nice to mix a few varieties of apples for great flavor and texture. I like to mix apples that hold their shape (Braeburn and Granny Smith, for example) with apples that get soft (such as Cortland and McIntosh) to get a chunky, thick texture. A rule of thumb on selecting the right apple for a pie: If the texture is firm, flavor is good and the apple is juicy, it will most likely make a good pie or tart.
When people think of apples, they lean toward desserts, but do not limit yourself. One of my favorite ways to enjoy apples is with savory dishes. I like to use them with pork. Just marinate a pork roast or chops in frozen apple juice concentrate laced with apple-friendly herbs and spices, such as sage and thyme. For a side dish to that pork, I like to sauté apples and make a brown rice pilaf. Sautéed apples with thyme are nice, too.
Typically we think of cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg as the spices for apples, since apple pies tend to be the first thing that comes to mind. There are other spices and herbs that work well. For example, I love to use sage, rosemary and thyme with my savory apple dishes. Caraway seeds are also nice with apples. The combination makes me think of an Oktoberfest meal.
Raw apples are great in savory dishes, too. Add chopped apples to chicken salad or coleslaw for crunch. One of my favorites for this is a Granny Smith apple. It’s tart and crunchy. It will not make your savory dishes sweet, but will add a wonderful flavor and texture to otherwise ordinary dishes.
There are so many ways to use apples. All you need to do is let your imagination be your guide.
• Judy A. Toth is the owner of Simply Impressive Cooking School in Mesa. Her column appears the second Wednesday of the month. Reach her at (480) 654-1981 or www.SimplyImpressive.com