Meet our favorite Michigan apples!

ApplesApple orchards across Michigan opened in September, making fall the prime time for apple picking! We all know and love Red Delicious from brownbag school lunches, and Honeycrisps have become a popular, sweet snack across the state.  But how familiar are you with the varieties you can pick?  Before you venture to the orchard this fall, learn about lesser-known varieties that you’re sure to enjoy. We rounded up healthy recipes to put your harvest to good use!

  • Empire (ripens early to mid October): A cross between McIntosh and Red Delicious, this apple tastes wonderful plain as well as sliced into salads. They also don’t bruise easily – an added perk when you pack lunch! If you want to get creative, we recommend using Empire apples in sauces or pies.  You can also freeze them to enjoy later.
  • Jonathan (ripens mid October): Our personal favorite! This medium-sized apple tastes tart and holds its shape well when baked. If you find Jonathan apples at the orchard, use them to make pies (they won’t mush!), jellies or your favorite sauce. They also make for great apple sauce.
  • Ida Red (ripens mid to late October): This apple is related to the Jonathan and boasts a similarly tart taste. They’re also known to be juicy, which makes them well-suited for apple sauces, pies and cakes. Ida Reds remain crisp and hold their flavor months after picking – they can even last until June if you store them properly! Check out this article on to learn how to store apples properly to last through the winter.
  • Northern Spy (ripens mid to late October): Don’t you just love the name? The Northern Spy is commonly used in desserts and pies, as well as juices and ciders. It’s hard to find Northern Spies for sale outside of their growing regions, but lucky us, Michigan is a prime location!

Now, let’s put those apples to use with these simple, but delicious apple recipes:

Healthified Apple CrispTry with Empire applesapplecrisp

  • Heat oven to 375 degrees. Spray 8-inch square glass baking dish with cooking spray.
  • In a medium bowl, mix 6 cups sliced unpeeled apples, ¼ cup apple juice concentrate, and ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon. Spread in baking dish.
  • In same medium bowl, mix ¾ cup oats, ¼ cup whole wheat flour, 1/3 cup brown sugar, ¼ cup butter, ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon, and ¼ teaspoon ground ginger. Continue to mix until crumbly and then sprinkle over apples.
  • Bake uncovered 25 to 35 minutes, or until apples are tender and the top is golden brown.

Delicious Apple SauceTry with Jonathan or Ida Red applesapplesauce

  • Place 2 apples – peeled, cored and shredded – in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat.
  • Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, then add ¼ cup water and cook until the apple bits become soft and mushy.
  • Stir in 3 tablespoons brown sugar and mix well. Voila!

Don’t miss out on visiting a local apple orchard this fall! We found great options in West, Northern and Mid-Michigan – and Southeastern Michigan, too! If you need ingredients to whip up delicious apple-inspired recipes, don’t forget Michigan Blues members can get discounts on groceries using Healthy Blue Xtras deals.

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