What are they? Cooking apples are tart, either firm retaining their shape when cooked or quick to ‘fall’ and make a soft pulp, not all eating apples are good cooked.
What’s special about them? From earliest times apples have been enjoyed, both for their delicious taste and their goodness. They contain high levels of pectin, good for lowering cholesterol and for aiding digestion. They contain vitamins and minerals and are relatively low in calories – 80cal per medium fruit.
Where are they grown? Initially a temperate fruit, apples originated in Asia and Europe, were taken to America by the Pilgrim Fathers and with developing varieties that can withstand more extreme conditions have since spread to most parts of the world. The ease with which cooking apples can be preserved – apple butters etc, made them an essential part of the Pilgrim Fathers diet.
What is special about the different types? Britain, it is said, is unique in having an apple that is just for cooking – the Bramley, this large green apple cooks very quickly to a pulp and is often used in the traditional British apple pie. Other apples that are delicious raw as well as cooked – Jonagold, Jonathan, Golden Delicious are used all over the world in pies and preserves.
When are they best? In the UK and USA apples such as Jonathan and Jonagold are harvested in September, thanks to modern controlled atmosphere storage facilities and the varied storage times of other varieties fresh apples can be enjoyed all year round.
Should they be peeled?. Depends on the recipe, but wherever possible leave the skin on as it contains vitamins and minerals.
What are crab apples? Very small to medium sized fruits that are sharp in taste and generally used to make jelly. They are often grown alongside more mainstream apple crops to help pollination.
What to look for when buying:.Chose fruit that is unbruised, it is not necessary to look for perfect shape or totally smooth skin as this has sometimes been produced by a high use of pesticides.
How to keep. In the dark and cool, in a cellar or, for a few days, in the salad drawer of a fridge. To keep for longer, chose totally unblemished fruit, wrap individually in tissue paper and store so that apples do not touch each other. Some varieties keep better than others – check with grower.
How to core? Early corers were made from hollowed out bone, the Victorians invented hand turned ‘gadgets’ that peeled as they cored. Modern corers are usually made of metal with a sharpened edge.
How to cook: Simplest of all – baked apples, core, fill space with sugar, score a line horizontally round the fruit, bake in a moderate oven until tender. Apple pies are so delicious they’ve become synonymous with comfort and ‘home cooking’.
The last word: ‘An apple a day keeps the doctor away’ seems to have some truth to it – but recent research shows it might br truer still to say: ‘Two apples a day keep the doctor away.’!