How complicated is learning how to use and store apples? Not very, but a few tips from the experts can't hurt.
- Always refrigerate apples, says Catoctin Mountain Orchard co-owner Bob Black. "It really gets to me when I see a bowl of apples on someone's table," he says. "We store apples in cold, humidity-controlled storage areas to preserve their quality. You should do the same at home, unless you're planning to eat the apples right away." The fruit bin of your refrigerator is perfect for this, especially when it is set for high humidity. Black also advises refrigerating the apples in an open plastic bag to preserve their moisture.
- To make the best apple pies, mix varieties. "In pie making, you need a mix of sugar, acid, tannin and flavors," says Tom Burford, an orchard consultant, historian and author of several books on growing fruit. "Very few apples have it all." Two combinations he recommends are Golden Delicious-Jonathan and Golden Delicious-Granny Smith.
- For the best applesauce, use Stayman apples. Renowned Southern cooking expert Edna Lewis swore by them, according to Burford. Another great choice is Braeburn, which makes a sweet applesauce.
- For the best-tasting apples, buy locally or grow your own. Commercially distributed apples are grown for durability and appearance, so Chuck Shelton of Vintage Virginia Apples in North Garden, Va., recommends buying from nearby orchards that sell only locally; they didn't select their crop on the basis of durability, he says. And he's a big fan of the homegrown variety: "It won't look pretty, but the best-tasting fruit will come off your own trees."
-- Stephanie Witt Sedgwick