Caramel apples have always been a fall classic, combining the crisp and juicy texture of apples with sticky, sweet caramel for a wonderful treat. As a kid, I could always count on a neighbor or two to have some caramel apples available at Halloween (usually to give to the families they knew, reserving wrapped candies for other trick-or-treaters). These days, I either have to make my own or buy them if I want to get a fix.
With some caramel apples, it seems like the apple is an afterthought. I think that the apple is just as important – if not moreso – than the topping. I often use melted store-bought caramels for topping my apples, adding maybe a pinch or two of salt to curb the sweetness, simply out of convenience. The best apples are those that help balance the sweetness of the caramel and are easy to bite into. A tart Granny Smith apple is a good choice and is the standard for many caramel apple makers. It definitely counters the sweetness of the topping, but it can be a little too sour. I find that the best apple for making caramel apples are the same ones that make great apple pie, sweet-tart and firm. Jongold apples are great, as are Pippins, Pink Ladys, Jonathans and Cameos. Avoid overly sweet apples or those that tend towards softness or mealiness. Red delicious apples, for instance, look good but don’t always add very much to the overall flavor.