Choosing plant varieties for canning and preserving food
Is there a resource somewhere that summarizes what different varieties of plants, tomatoes for example, are best for different uses? I would like to plant or purchase varieties that are specific for what I want to use them for. For example, it would be nice to know which kind of apple is best for apple pie, applesauce, apple cider, canned apple pie filling, apple chips, etc. I would prefer a book with thorough information, but I am open to other sources as well.
I do not know of a book that summarizes varieties for growing and preserving fruits and vegetables via various preservation methods. However, the Michigan Fresh website does list varieties suitable for baking, canning, etc.
This is a very good start to answering this question. Is there any sort of chart or summary of varieties of produce and their individual characteristics? I noticed on the apple PDF that sweet apples are recommended for applesauce, but you can also add tart apples if you want tart flavor.
They handed this question to me as a horticulturist to answer. Most of the fruit varieties you see in the store are bred to be eaten fresh. Generally there are processing varieties that are developed for processing in the vegetable industry, and you may see some seed for gardens or seed catalogs and they will talk about uses. For instance, there are pumpkin varieties for pies and different varieties for jack-o'-lanterns.
To answer your questions about fruit. Most fruit breeders are looking for high value fresh market types. It takes so long to develop a fruit variety that there is little incentive to breed processing varieties. So processing varieties are often called dual purpose or can be specific varieties grown in certain regions for processing.
Generally all apricots are consumed fresh or dried.
There are two species of cherries, sweet cherries which we eat fresh and tart cherries we process and use for baking. There are dozens of wild species which people use for preserves and canning.
Plums are more complicated and again there are two species. Most of the summer plums (originating in Asia) are used for fresh market. These are generally heart or pumpkin shaped. In August you will begin to see European plums (these are generally round or elongated) and can be canned or dried. Prunes are European plums that can be dried with the pit in them without fermenting and are often the preferred plums for baking.
Peaches are generally divided into free stone or cling stone. Fresh varieties generally have melting flesh. Cling varieties have firm flesh and are generally grown for canning. Now the breeders are mixing the two for firmer ripe peaches undoing the work of generations of breeders who worked for exquisite ripe peaches that melted in your mouth. The 'Baby Gold' series are cling peaches for processing. I am sure there are others.
Not sure about pears. Most processors in the United States use Bartlett.
In apples, varieties are termed 'Dessert' or 'Dual Purpose.' Most varieties in the stores are dessert apples and will turn to mush when they are cooked. If you read a variety description and it does not mention cooking, then that variety is probably not worth cooking unless you like to experiment.
Here is a link to the Michigan apple variety page and you can see what I mean: Michigan Apple Varieties
Hard apples are often used for pies and varieties we grow here in Michigan include Jonathon, Ida Red, and Northern Spy, all good pie apples. The variety Cortland is prized for cooking and cutting up for salads because it browns slowly when exposed to the air. Golden Delicious is an excellent dual-purpose apple and is often used for pies and applesauce. Granny Smith is a good cooking apple and is tart and often used in pies. Apple sauces and ciders are often made with blends of apples to develop a unique taste, and cider makers guard their recipes even though these change throughout the season as different varieties ripen. Rome was prized as a baking apple because it retained its shape after baking. Many times apples that are cooked or sauces are processed before they are softening as they ripen.