Red Delicious - The ubiquitous apple of the media, think Snow White and the Wicked Witch. Characterized by its deep red color, it’s a reliable, crisp apple, perfect for eating raw.
Fuji - Developed in Japan and introduced to the US in the 80’s. Intensely sweet and slightly acidic with a crisp juicy flesh. Great eaten raw alone or in salads. Loses consistency when cooked.
Gala - Similar in shape to the Red Delicious but features a mottled red and bright yellow skin. Firm, juicy, and fine-textured with yellow white flesh. Its sweet slightly tart flavor makes it good for both cooking or eating raw.
Golden Delicious - A nice all-purpose apple with mild sweet distinctive flavor. Careful not to store them too long because they shrivel and can bruise easily. Very nice for pies and salads.
Jonagold - a hybrid of Golden Delicious and Jonathan apples, Jonagolds are a nice balance of sweet and tart. Firm and juicy, they will store in the refrigerator for up to 3 months. They can be used in almost any apple recipe.
McIntosh - Very juicy with soft skin and crisp flesh, they can become mealy if stored too long. Nice for eating or making apple sauce but they will get mushy when baked.
Granny Smith - Gorgeous bright green skin with a rosy blush when very ripe. Firm, crisp and tart, these apples are best paired with salty cheeses and savory foods when eaten raw. They sweeten when cooked and make wonderful pie apples. Granny Smith are my favorite choice for caramel apples because their tartness balances the sweetness of the caramel.
If you’ve never tried to make your own caramel, you’ll be surprised at how easy it is. I love being able to control the ingredients I am using, substituting organics and better quality cane sugar versus the chemicals and food coloring found in some processed brands. I suggest purchasing a candy thermometer to take the guess-work out of cooking.
4 cups sugar
1 1/3 cup light corn syrup
1 cup water
1 quart whipping cream
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into pieces
1 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons vanilla extract
10 to 12 Granny Smith Apples
10 to 12 wooden skewers
In deep, heavy-bottomed 8-quart pot, combine sugar, corn syrup and water. (Be sure to choose a very deep pot so the sugar mixture doesn’t boil over.) Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Swirl the pot once or twice to combine ingredients, but do not stir or the mixture might crystallize. Boil until mixture turns a medium amber color. Be sure to watch the boiling sugar closely because the color can deepen quickly.
As the caramel continues to boil, it will turn a dark brown, the bubbles will turn tan in color. This is your cue to remove it from the heat and add the cream, butter and salt. The mixture will bubble up; just let it sit a moment to subside. Place back over medium-high to high heat and swirl pot around a few times to combine ingredients. Clip on a candy thermometer* and boil until mixture reaches 250 degrees, swirling mixture several times during boiling to make sure the temperature is consistent throughout.
Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla.
Insert a skewer into each apple, pressing it downward through the center of the stem. Dip apples, one at a time, into hot caramel. Angle and rotate the apples within the caramel to get complete coverage. Pull the apples out slowly to allow excess caramel to drip off.
Place apples on greased wax paper or foil. Let cool to set.
*If you don’t have a candy thermometer you can test the doneness spooning a drop of the caramel into cold water. You will be cooking to "firm ball" temperature which means the caramel should form a firm ball that doesn’t flatten when you remove it from the water, but should still easily change shape when you touch it.