An apple's core is a segmented chamber deep inside the fruit that houses the seeds. Made of tough inedible fibers, the core protects the seeds until the apple decays and releases them into the environment. Cutting an apple in half reveals the core, and cutting it into quarters provides an efficient way to remove it before using the apple in a recipe.
The Core Issue
You can core an apple without quartering it by using a small tool known as an apple corer. It's essentially a short-handled knife with a round tubular blade that is inserted into the top, or stem end, of the apple and pushed firmly down through and around the outer edges of the core. Turning the corer inside the apple dislodges the core completely, and you can then pull it out in one piece. The corer is most useful when preparing apples to be baked whole or for when you are preparing sliced apple rings. Another type of corer not only cuts down through the core but also cuts the apple into eight sections at the same time.
Skill With a Blade
The other way to core an apple is by slicing through it lengthwise with a long sharp knife and then cutting each half again into quarters. You then lie each quarter on its side and slice the core off from end to end. You can also hold the apple quarter skin-side down in one hand and cut the core out using a smaller paring knife. Be sure to work on a solid surface when quartering and coring apples, as the knife can slip on a wobbly cutting board and cause serious injury.
Cooking With Apples
For most cooking purposes, cutting the core out of the apples eliminates the likelihood of biting into a brittle piece of membrane. Core and quarter apples for applesauce, apple butter, or to use as an accompaniment for roast pork or pan-fried pork chops or cutlets. For jelly-making purposes, the entire apple is used, including the core and the skin, as they both contain the pectin necessary to the jelling process. If you own a food mill, you can cook apples for sauce and butter without having to core or peel them. Simply cook the quartered apples until they are soft, and the food mill does the work of separating the cooked pulp from the cores and skins.
Baking With Apples
Apples must be cored and peeled for most baking purposes, but some recipes call for them to be cut smaller than quarters. In that case, start by quartering them, and cutting them into smaller sections from that point on. Pies generally call for sliced apples, while breads, cakes, and bars usually call for diced or roughly chopped apples. Most recipes are also very specific about whether to peel the apples or use them with the skins on.
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