Apples are one of those marvellous foods which fulfil all requirements – at once delicious, nutritious, versatile, and practical in form. Boiled eggs, though slightly more fragile, are similar. It is unsurprising then that apples form and have formed a staple part of my diet since before I can remember. The lunchbox from my school days almost always included at least one apple, at university apples were one of the foods I would buy in bulk and still get through, at work an apple is my afternoon pick-me-up, and my children can be near certain that they’ll find an apple in their lunch box too.
But, for all this good will, the transition between apple eating in England and apple eating in Germany has not been a smooth one. Indeed, over six years ago, in the first months after our move to Berlin, during the peak of apple season, my relationship with apples floundered. The range in the standard supermarkets was very limited. I couldn’t find the sorts I liked from the UK. The apples I could find always disappointed – they didn’t taste good or they lacked an essential crispness. Not content simply to move onto another fruit, I sought expert advice.
First, I spoke to my parents-in-law – also keen apple eaters. Based on my description of the apples I liked best in the UK – a crisp, slightly sour cox – they suggested one or two local apples I might try, which they knew would be on sale at Rewe (the standard supermarket round the corner). This is how I discovered ‘Elstar’ apples – a touch too sweet to be perfect but wonderfully crunchy if the quality is high.
I wasn’t prepared to stop there. I wanted to find a whole range of apples to munch on, not just one sort. And what about if I wanted to make an apple crumble or pie (essential dishes for any British baker) – what was the German equivalent to cooking apples? So over the years, I have experimented with many different sorts of local apples from many different suppliers and am confident now that I can always find the perfect apples for the occasion. To save you the same hassle, here is a quick guide.
The best places to shop for apples
In my experience, the organic supermarkets have the widest range and best tasting apples on offer. They stock mostly apples grown locally – so you are very unlikely to have to resort to a Pink Lady from New Zealand! Local farm shops and weekly markets with a good organic range are also great places to try. My absolute sure-fire place to go is the Bio Company (with outlets in Berlin, Dresden, Hamburg, and Potsdam).
Sorts to buy
Elstar is a safe bet in a standard supermarket, if you’re looking for a crisp apple, but the flavor is unlikely to be overwhelmingly good.
Jonagold has less crunch, but more flavor. My children like them – I mostly find them too soft.
Marnica is a wonderfully sweet yet crunchy red apple. It pleases everyone and is so huge in size that it is perfect to share.
Ambassy has the advantage that is available from late summer – and is sharper in flavor.
Holsteiner Cox is closely related to the Orange Cox you find the UK. I love both texture and flavor, though only the best have the sharpness the UK equivalent almost always has.
Boskopf is the go to apple for baking. With its tough, mottled red skin, it is not much of a looker but has the strength of flavor and the right consistency to work in any baked dish.