Apples available in southern CA most like Empire or Cox's Orange Pippin
August 5, 2017 3:04 PM   Subscribe

I like apples like Empire and Cox's Orange Pippins: small, tart eating apples. What varieties are available in southern California that are most like this? I find Fuji, Gala and anything with "pink" in the name too bland, but they are all I seem to be able to find in sizes smaller than a softball/child's head. The more easily available the better, but I have access to good farmer's markets. What should I be looking for?
posted by caek to Food & Drink (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I like the same kinds of apples. You might like Pink Lady a.k.a. Cripps apples. Look for the ones that have green and yellow on them still. And the harder and smaller they are, the tarter they tend to be.

Another good choice is the Envy apple. I'm in Northern California, but those two varietals are usually in good supple here. I find that the ones from New Zealand are the most consistent in flavor and quality. Regular grocery stores can be hit and miss; it really depends on their supply chain and how good the produce people are... some don't stock fresh apples, but instead use ones that have been in storage for months and you can really taste the difference; they're just mushy and awful and not worth eating.

Costco is my go to when they have these apples in stock; excellent quality and they label the ones that are fresh crop. Expensive (because you have to buy a whole flat), but oh so worth it.
posted by LuckySeven~ at 5:15 PM on August 5, 2017

Granny Smiths come in both large and small-regular (although to your point, I too find them more frequently in child-head-size.) But keep an eye out for the smallish ones. I'm not familiar with the apples you mention but GS are always very crisp and very tart.
posted by fingersandtoes at 6:10 AM on August 6, 2017

I don't know what gets shipped to Southern California, but if you can find them Macoun apples are the best.
posted by lalex at 10:26 AM on August 6, 2017

It's a bit early for locally grown southern California apples- I think you'll have much better choices and better fruit in late September to October. Apples that have been shipped or in cold storage for months aren't always very good, in spite of the fact that storage improves the flavors of certain varieties. I agree that a good Pink Lady is a very good apple indeed, and they are grown hear you and should be coming into season in a couple months. You might also like Arkansas Black but the window of their availability is short and they are not widely grown. At any rate, the best time to shop will begin about a month from now.
posted by oneirodynia at 2:53 PM on August 6, 2017

Small and tart? Macintosh. I find almost every other variety to be either too sweet or too bland or too mealy in the flesh. (My real preferred apple is the crabapple, but good luck finding those for sale.)
posted by Nyx at 3:46 PM on August 6, 2017

As I said in the question (perhaps not clearly enough, sorry!) I don't like Pink Lady. I'll definitely give them a shot again when the local ones are in season (thanks for the tip about the season!), but they are bland, mealy and watery imho.

McIntosh is in the ball park of what I'm looking for (it's related to Empire and Orange Pippin), but I haven't seen it on sale anywhere in southern California in the past couple of months.
posted by caek at 10:22 AM on August 7, 2017

Not to argue with you, but I hope you'll give the Pink Lady/Cripps apple another shot. When you taste a good one it is heaven. Tart and sweet at the same time. But, like most fruits in general and apples in particular, it really depends on the quality control of your grocer. Some simply don't care and as long as the apple looks good on display, they'll sell them. I can buy one type of apple from a dozen different stores in the same city and the quality can vary from horrible to excellent. That's why when I find a store that really cares about the quality of their produce, I stick with it because I know I'm unlikely to get burned buying gross, mealy, or old stock items.

If you have a Save Mart near you, ask the produce person to cut you a few samples of whatever you're interested in. They'll happily do so! Very friendly staff and the produce people seem to really take pride in their sections and rotate out old products. I don't do the majority of my shopping there, but I've found Save Marts to be consistently great for apples and in season produce. Trader Joes are the exact opposite and I rarely buy produce there unless I'm desperate. (Today I was desperate and bought an Envy from Trader Joe's and it was super blah. Never again TJ, curse you!)

Braeburn and Winesap are two others you might enjoy. And don't be afraid to squeeze your apples before deciding whether to purchase or not. If you squeeze it and it doesn't feel firm and have tight skin, just pass. There's nothing worse than a mealy, watered down flavored apple.
posted by LuckySeven~ at 3:55 PM on August 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

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