Red Delicious, the classic apple-for-the-teacher, has a yielding texture and balanced sweetness that makes it a perfect salad apple, says Rebecca Lyons, international marketing director for the Washington State Apple Commission. For something that will stay bright white longer, says Traverso, go for an Empire or a Courtland, with its thin skin and mild taste.
"Any apple with a decent sweet-tart balance will be good in a salad," Traverso says, "but they look beautiful when they don't brown."
Red Delicious and its yellow namesake, Golden Delicious, are the classic snacking apples with a mild flavor and thin skin. But when you want a great big apply apple, Traverso says, sink your teeth into Honey Crisp, one of the juiciest, crunchiest apples around. Tangy sweet Jonagolds — which mix the tartness of Jonathan and the gentle flavor of the Golden Delicious — offer layers of flavor.
Braeburns and Galas give good crunch with delicate aromas, Lyons says, and a nice balance of sweetness and acid. For nature's equivalent of a candy bar, grab a Fuji. "If you like sweets, the Fuji is the best," says Lyons.
The Golden Delicious may be the original all-purpose apple. With a firm texture that holds up to baking and a mild flavor and sweetness, it does well in pies and tarts, as well as alongside your peanut butter. Ashmead's Kernel, a great baking apple, also has a juiciness that earns its popularity with cider makers and a mild acidity that makes it wonderful to bite into.
"When it's ripe and fresh to me it tastes like Champagne with honey stirred in," Traverso says.
Honey Crisp, with its big, juicy bite, makes a great snack and a fabulous cider. Its firm texture also gives it integrity in a pie. Though they're great for cooking, they can also be expensive, making them best for enjoying raw.
With all pairings, acidity is the element to keep in mind. For richer desserts — pies, tarts, buttery cakes — Traverso says go with more acidic apples. For more delicate sweets, go with a sweeter apple.
With cheese — a classic apple pairing — join strong cheeses, such as Parmesan, cheddar and even Roquefort, with big acid and big sweetness, such as Jazz or Honey Crisp. For softer, milder cheeses, such as Camembert or brie, go with the more delicate Fuji or Gala.
"As long as you get the acidity right, you'll have a successful sweet or savory item," Traverso says.
If you like sugar and spice, try pairing a Granny Smith with chili powder, salt and a squeeze of lime. Ten years ago the Washington State Apple Commission began marketing this combination in Mexico — a take on a traditional preparation of jicama, Lyons says — and sales of Granny Smiths tripled.
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