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 / Updated  / Source: TODAY
By Lauren Salkeld

The ease and nutritional value of eating an apple out of hand should never be underestimated, but this versatile fall fruit can also be baked, broiled or poached, as well as turned into apple juice, apple cider or applesauce.

Since National Apple Day is Sunday, Oct. 21, there's no better time to break out some amazing apples than right now.

At grocery stores and farmers markets, it's not unusual to encounter several different apple varieties, so make sure to pick fruit that works with how you plan to enjoy it. Plus, check out TODAY Food's fall produce guide to see what else is in season right now and how to cook it.

Apples
Judy Kim

How to shop for apples

  • Apples should be firm and feel heavy for their size. Make sure the skin is smooth and free of nicks, wrinkles, dark bruises or soft spots.
  • There are hundreds of varieties of apple and what’s available can vary by region. For regular snacking, seek out apples that are sweet, juicy and crisp, such as Fuji, Gala, McIntosh and Jonagold.
  • When baking, it's important to choose apples that are firm enough to hold their shape. Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, Honeycrisp and Pink Lady all fit the bill. For making a pie, tart, crumble or crisp, consider using a mix of apples to achieve a more interesting flavor.

How to store apples

  • Store apples in an unsealed plastic bag in the refrigerator. They should last a few weeks.
  • Apples release ethylene gas, which speeds up the ripening of other fruit around it, so it's best to store them in their own bag, separate from other fruits.

How to prepare apples

  • Apples are easy to peel with a vegetable peeler. However, apple skins contain fiber and vitamins so if you don’t mind the taste or texture, leave it on for a more nutritious snack.
  • Use a melon baller to quickly remove the cores and stems from apples.

Great apple recipes to try

No one will want to go back to the jarred stuff after trying this super-easy life-changing homemade applesauce.

Substitute flavored granola for the homemade crumble in this recipe if you're running short on time.

Warm apples are a delicious side for pork chops and other big cuts of meat.

Kale, Apple, Walnut and Sumac Onion Tabbouleh

Enjoy this crunchy salad as a delicious side dish or vegetarian main course.

Apple Galette

Apple Galette

Lauren Salkeld

This fantastic French dessert is surprisingly easy to make.

Spiced Apple Walnut Cake with Cream Cheese Icing

A slice of apple cake may be a great idea for the perfect fall dessert, but it's also a brilliant (and decadent) breakfast.

Haven't tried apples with pasta yet? Believe it or not, it's pretty delicious.

Sparkling Green Apple Sangria

Combine apple cider, bourbon and sparkling wine to create this easy party cocktail.

Sausage, Spinach, and Apple Strata

Food Network chef Giada De Laurentiis adds apples to this hearty strata that's loaded with sausage, spinach and tons of gooey mozzarella cheese.

Herbed Pork Tenderloins with Apple Chutney

Ina Garten didn't grow up eating pork, but she sure knows how to cook it now. Here, she pairs pork tenderloin with a homemade apple chutney, fresh ginger and raisins, a dish she says is "easy to make and delicious!"

Al Roker's Apple Crisp

Nothing says fall like the smell of cinnamon and apples baking away in the oven. TODAY's Al Roker incorporates Chinese five-spice powder in this recipe to give his apple crisp an extra kick.

Apple Pie-Rogies

Apple Pie-Rogies

Casey Barber

Drizzle these mini apple pies with caramel sauce, top them with whipped cream or simply toss them in melted butter.

Caramel Apple Pie

Caramel Apple Pie

Gesine Bullock-Prado

By adding just one additional ingredient — heavy cream — to a traditional apple pie filling, the classic dessert becomes a gloriously gooey caramel apple pie.

Lauren Salkeld is a New York-based writer, editor and recipe developer. She's the cookbook columnist for Tasting Table and has written for Food & Wine, Rodale's Organic Life, Epicurious and Gourmet.