Few things so solidly confirm fall in New England as freshly picked apples and the aroma of a piping hot crisp or pie. When you spend an afternoon at an orchard or stop by a farmstand to buy apples, the signs on the fruit often don’t tell you which apples are suited for baking and which are better eaten mouthful by mouthful.
A few varieties are particularly popular for baking and especially plentiful in October. Many area orchards have already started storing apples so local fruit will be available for Thanksgiving’s pie baking time.
“The varieties are peaking,’’ says Frank Carlson, co-owner of Carlson Orchard in Harvard. Carlson says late-season Cortlands and Jonagolds will hold up especially well for the November holiday. At Cooks Valley Farm in Wrentham, the last apples picked are Suncrisp, which are tart and crisp and stay firm and flavorful in pies. And thanks to the abundant rain in spring and early summer, Carlson says this season’s apples are especially large, yet still tender and juicy.
Baldwin Tart and crisp, great for baking.
Cortland After peeling, these do not brown. Excellent baking apples, often the go-to for pies and salads.
Fuji Sweet, juicy, and crisp; bake or snack.
Golden Delicious Mellow and sweet, great for snacking and salads; in pies they require little added sugar.
Honeycrisp A favorite for snacking and salads; keeps well and has a beautiful honey-yellow hue.
Ida Red Sweet, with a hint of tartness; excellent in sauce, which turns pink colored. Use for baking and snacking.
Jonagold A blend of Jonathan and Golden Delicious; crisp with a unique honey flavor. Favorite for snacking and baking.
Mutsu Also called Crispin; pale green, firm apple with a moderately sweet taste and spicy flavor. Great for pies, tarts, and snacking.
Northern Spy Juicy and tart, this apple stores well and is the preferred variety for many seasoned bakers.
Rome Beauty Best for baking, stays firm in pies.
Suncrisp One of the last to ripen; crisp texture, taste ranges from sweet to tart; excellent for sauce, pies, salads, snacks.