This post was written by Stacy Toth and originally appeared on her wildly popular blog, Paleo Parents
All Things Apple
When we first started the blog I remember putting out this really old recipe (talk about a trip through the time warp machine) and someone asking what kind of apple did we recommend. Wow, I hadn’t even thought of that. It’s so inherent to me to know the different types of apples, their flavor profiles, and how that works in cooking or baking application that I’d completely missed the mark on such an important factor. So, here’s where we teach you how to learn those things yourself, too!
First: Beware apples are on the dirty dozen list!
As noted in Alex Boake’s earlier guest post on our site, apples are not the kind of food to buy in the “regular” section of the grocery store. Organic apples can be found in bags at almost all local stores, and you won’t need to worry about distracting texture and taste of “protective wax” that the shiny perfect ones have.
Organic vs. Not
We personally patron local farms or farmer’s market for our apples. Farmers are often willing to part with “second” quality apples which have bruises or imperfections for less than half the cost. Recently we got an entire bushel of apples for $9, and frankly because they weren’t all ripe it made for fantastic cooking apples. Our kids are pretty picky about eating raw apples, however, so we did also purchase a half-bushel of first quality for $14. Compared to an equal quantity in a grocery store, we saved at least 75%! Now, this farm couldn’t advertise their apples as organic because they hadn’t gone through the costly and difficult process for that label, but we did ask about their practices and found that they avoided spraying with toxic pesticides.
When trying to figure out if a farmer’s produce quality meets your standards, don’t be afraid to ask. For us, that means a few “bug bites” in some of our apples, which is something we actually look for now as a measure of how much pesticide a farmer actually uses. We can also gauge a farmer’s honesty in the amount he or she is willing to talk about the farm, and the kind of information offered. If you feel shamed or ignored when you ask a farmer about the quality of their product, it is probably because they have something to hide. Most farmers are proud of their hard work and are happy to talk about it with you!
Store it at home in a chilled area (outside if it’s cool enough or inside if you have a cellar, or else in a refrigerator) until ready to eat or use. Keeping the apples cold will keep them crisp for as long as possible. If we leave our organic apples out at room temperature for more than a week not only do they start to soften, but we inevitably will get fruit flies and need to throw them out. No one wants that!
Also of note, if you buy “second” quality apples that are already softening or partially bruised it’s essential to peel and cook with them as soon as possible. I wouldn’t recommend keeping them for more than a couple days, and they will need to be chilled during that time. We’ve learned this lesson way too often, time sneaks up on you and is not kind to bruised apples!
Cultivars & Flavor
When considering apples, if you have a choice, there are several aspects to consider:
What purpose are you looking to use your apple for? If you intend to cook with it, some varieties, such as Granny Smith or Jonathan are ideally suited for it while some, such as McIntosh, will not hold up at all.
How long do you intend to keep your apples? Golden Delicious are notorious for bruising and rotting early while others, such as Fuji, could be kept in a cool basement for a very long time.
Do you prefer a tart apple or a sweet one? Stacy’s favorite apple for use with Chicken Liver Mousse is the Pink Lady variety because it has a good balance of sweet and tart. If you’d prefer a sweeter apple, Gala might be your choice. For a tarter apple, Gold Rush would be a good choice.
Here are the top 15 apples produced in the US:
Braeburn – An excellent multipurpose apple that balances sweet and tart and is tasty to eat raw while it holds up well in baking.
Cortland – A squat, soft apple, similar to a McIntosh, but firmer and sweeter and best suitable for cooking.
Empire – A cross between McIntosh and Red Delicious, the Empire is a crisp, sweet variety with multiple uses that stores well.
Fuji – Our boys’ favorite! Fuji are sweet and crisp and are best known for keeping for up to a whole year with refrigeration.
Gala – Gala apples are small, soft and great for lunch boxes. They also make an excellent sauce.
Ginger Gold – Ginger Gold are a Virginia native, so we often see them around here. Tart, crisp and good for eating, they’re also known to produce early in the season.
Golden Delicious – Known for it’s distinctive yellow color and sweet taste, Goldens also have a thin skin, making them great for eating.
Granny Smith – So tart, it’s almost sour! While some people enjoy the taste, Granny Smith is most commonly used in cooked apple recipes.
Honeycrisp – Sweet-tart and crisp, Honeycrisp is a great apple for eating, and known to be extremely juicy.
Idared – Idareds are very mild in flavor and not considered great for eating, but because they sweeten when heated they are perhaps the best cooking apple.
Jonagold – Jonagolds are sweet-tart multi-purpose apples that are a cross of the Golden and the Jonathan varieties.
Jonathan – A tart cooking apple that we have used as a base for our applesauce.
McIntosh – Small, sweet and soft apple that’s great for eating or in sauces, but dissolves in baking.
Red Delicious – The most popular variety of apple known for its dark red color and sweet flavor.
Rome – Rome apples are sweet and juicy and excellent for use in cooking.
When peeling and coring apples we have tried many tools.
Spiral Slice and Peel Tool – We own one of these and honestly they can be a little temperamental. Unless it’s all lined up perfectly, you won’t get all of the core and the peeler might just gouge your apple (especially if it’s bruised or soft). But in a perfect world, these will easily get your apples to a state ready for saucing.
Paring Knife and Corer – You can go all French chef and peel with a knife and core with a coring tool. This will take a lot of precision to pull off. Honestly, the best use we’ve found for the corer is to take out the core of a cupcake to fill it with chocolate, like we did in Eat Like a Dinosaur!
Vegetable Peeler and Apple Slicer – The best tools we’ve found is to use a simple vegetable peeler with a metal apple slicer. You’ll be left with a cleanly peeled apple and individual tiny apple sections, perfect for your tasks.
We’ve gotten some questions about our applesauce recipe not really being applesauce. Well, here’s the thing: applesauce can have many forms. We love the taste of a roasted, chunky sauce so we use the oven to roast apples, which naturally caramelizes their natural sugars, then mash them with a potato masher. This leaves us with the perfect flavor and consistency for what we prefer. For you, maybe you want a smooth, more liquid sauce. If that’s the case, use a crockpot or stove top to cook it soft with water, then use a food processor to puree it smooth. You can also do this to our roasted applesauce; we do this too when we make our Apple Butter.
When fall arrives, go pick apples with your family at a farm that doesn’t use pesticides. It’s a bonding experience that our family loves! In fact, Cole was quite upset that our family missed out on picking a lot of the crops at you-pick farms this summer, because we were busy writing Real Life Paleo each weekend. He was ecstatic to return to a farm, pick apples, and wants to make crispy apple chips with the many pounds we still have from two weekends in a row from visiting farms! It’s also much more affordable when you do the work yourself.
Give them as Gifts
Just this week Matt made batches of our Applesauce as well as the Apple Butter BBQ sauce in Real Life Paleo to share with my co-workers as a thank you gift for their hard work (see, I share all kinds of good info on Instagram). People were thrilled! Because picking apples can be fun and affordable, and cooking them is so simple, it’s the perfect gift – great for planning ahead over the holidays if you are good at canning, freezing, or have a dehydrator to make apple chips or apple rings. See the recipes below for a ton of ideas!
There are endless ways to use this hearty nearly year-round fruit. We’re particularly fond of simple recipes that require the least amount of work as possible, which is why we’ve created what we think is the best apple crisp at the bottom of this tutorial that’s really super simple. If you use our techniques for choosing the right apples, peeling and slicing them, all of these recipes should not only be delicious but also a healthful way to enjoy this autumnal fruit!
Here’s some of our favorite apple recipes to get you started:
Chunky (cinnamon) Apple Sauce
Butter Pecan Apples
Sweet Potato Apple Hash
Holiday Bundt Cake
Apple & Bacon Stuffed Pork Chops
Apple Pie Cupcakes
Apple Cinnamon Mini Crumbcakes
Apple Pie Balls (Nut-Free Larabar Wannabes)
Want even more recipes? These posts from others are worth checking out!
Baked Apple Chips by Paleo Grubs (would be great in the Apple Pie Balls above)
Raw Caramel Dip for Apples by Nourishing Meals (we tried this and LOVED it)
Caramel Apples the Easy Way by Life Made Full (how smart is this?)
Green Apple and Coconut Treats by PaleOMG (love this not-too-sweet treat idea)
Sun Butter and Apple Jack O’ Lanterns by Fork and Beans (er, mah, squee – kids will love these)
Apple Cider Donuts by Paleo Spirit (yes, please!)
Caramel Apple Spice Waffles by Against All Grain (yowza, that’s a tower of delish!)
Waldorf Salad by Virginia is for Hunter Gatherers (tried this meatless version this weekend, it’s yum!)
Apple Pie Cheesecake by Let’s Beat the Wheat (this guest post of ours looks unbelievable)
Caramel Apple Pancakes by PaleOMG (um, yum, all of my favorite things!)
Salted Caramel Apple Pie by Cook it Allergy-Free (is awesome with our Lard Pie Crust recipe from Beyond Bacon)
Cinnamon Apple Cake by Elana’s Pantry (this sounds fresh and awesome)
Apple Kugel from Predominantly Paleo (love this take on traditional Jewish treat)
Apple Coconut Pudding from Stupid Easy Paleo (something I never thought to try but can’t wait!)
Caramel Apple Streusel Cake by Simple Roots on Primal Palate (reminds me of those Pizza Hut dessert pizzas I used to love!)
The Best Paleo Apple Crisp!
This recipe is inspired by a recent trip to two farms (first and second from Instagram), which yielded a LOT of apples. After making a LOT of homemade applesauce (see I even posted an IG video), I wanted to make our apple pie cupcakes for a friend’s birthday (who had requested something fruity). Alas, attempting to modify the recipe made for something inedible and I was in a last minute scramble to pull something together for the birthday girl (who was already on her way over at that point). Looking at the tray of prepped apples that were destined to be even more applesauce, knowing how buttery, gooey, and caramelized they naturally become when they bake, I decided to simply add a topping to make a crisp. There were only a couple of us celebrating that evening, but the entire dish was gone before the party was over – and they weren’t even paleo people!
- 6 medium apples (mix of varieties preferred), peeled, cored and sectioned
- 3/4 C butter, ghee, or palm shortening (softened to room temperature)
- 1 1/2 C blanched almond flour
- 1 1/2 C sliced almonds
- 3/4 C palm, date, maple or other unrefined granulated sugar
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground allspice
- 1/4 tsp salt
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Lay apple slices in layers in the bottom of a greased 11" by 7" baking dish.
- In a small mixing bowl, mix remaining ingredients with hands until well combined.
- Crumble mixture over top of the apple slices.
- Bake for 35 minutes at 350 degrees, then increase to 400 degrees for 5 minutes.
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Stacy is the matriarch of the Paleo Parents family. After beginning a paleo diet and founding PaleoParents.com in 2010, she lost 135 pounds and found health and happiness for the whole family. The following six years have been a progressive journey with a mission to educate people about nourishing their bodies by eating real foods. Stacy can be found on all forms of social media as @PaleoParents as well as the top-rated The Paleo View Podcast and her two cookbooks, Eat Like a Dinosaur and Beyond Bacon.