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Which apple, please?

  • k

In a rare fit of feeling almost American (am not), I'm going to try and make apple pie next weekend. Have a recipe that a friend swears by, but there seems to be some uncertainty as to which apples are the best for such a pie. They should be commonly available; I can go to the Union Sq. farmers' market, but am not going to trek all over town to get some rare variety. Thanks in advance for your recommendations.

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  1. People do sometimes use other apples, or more than one variety in the same pie, but by and large, the classic American apple pie uses tart green apples - aka Granny Smith.

    7 Replies
    1. re: foodpimp

      Yes, that is the main reason for Granny Smith apples, to be used for baking. But, since I grew up with a couple of granny smith apple trees in our backyard I developed a taste for them and their tart/sour distinctive flavor.

      -WRay

      1. re: wray
        c
        Caitlin McGrath

        I love tart Granny Smiths for eating out of hand. They're also freat sliced thin and smeared with a flavorful honey--great sweet-tart combination.

        1. re: Caitlin McGrath

          Try your Granny Smiths with a smear of Colmans English Mustard. And be really adventerous by topping it all with a dab of Branston Pickle.

          1. re: Deven Black
            l
            Lynne Hodgman

            I like Granny Smith or Pippin. My 8-year-old likes them sliced and "dipped" into cinnamon sugar or hot caramel sauce (just a puddle on the plate as I peel and hand him slices!) The combination of sweet and tart is wonderful...

            1. re: Lynne Hodgman

              Slices of granny smith topped w a good cheddar cheese and some hot sauce. yummmm.

              1. re: susan

                How about slices of ANY fresh picked apple dipped in "dulce de leche" or cinnamon/jalapeno jelly.

            2. re: Deven Black

              As long as other folks are talking about how to eat Granny Smiths, rather than about pie...
              I love them with a smear of peanut butter (fresh-ground, of course). Also with a sharp cheddar.

      2. Early in the fall,I like to use golden delicious apples;they have a lot of juice,and a distinct flavor.Then on to Mutsus,which are a local sour green apple.Both are available from farmers at the greenmarket

        2 Replies
        1. re: M.K.

          I agree about Golden Delicious. Just the right flavor for pie, and the apple slices hold their shape after cooking.

          1. re: Pat Hammond

            French bakers often favor golden delicious apples.I never cared for them,having only tasted the generic supermarket variety.But the farm grown ones are smaller and crisper.Unfortunately,grannysmiths have also become less tasty with mass production.I use them in the winter,when everything else is gone.

        2. Having grown up in the midwest with Jonathans (crisp, with a complex apple perfume and a good balance of sweetness and tartness), I prefer a more flavorful apple to the one-dimensional granny. Jonathans (or their earlier relative Akane) are excellent in pies. As the season gets later, NOrthern Spies (a "frost apple" not reaching full flavor until late fall) reign supreme, the best cooking apple of all IMO. Spies are easily marred, dont be put off by superficial brown spots and bruises; as long as the apple is still hard, it will be fine underneath. Other good apples are the spy or jonathan hybrids, spigold, jonagold, etc., pippin and mutsu (both with a bit of spice). Golden russet, Cox Orange Pippin and Elstar are also flavorful, crisp eating apples that would bake well too, if you can find them. Enjoy!

          12 Replies
          1. re: jen kalb
            p
            Pamela Yaeger

            My vote is for Macintosh. . . not the most tasty eating apples, but they're heavenly in a pie. Tart, sweet, buttery-textured, Macs sort of melt on the tongue. There's simply no other pie apple in our house.

            1. re: Pamela Yaeger

              Don't the Macs just turn into mush when baked? I thought that was the big negative about them.

              1. re: rjka

                It's probably just my Vermont upbringing talking, but I have always sworn by Macs, and I haven't had a problem with mushiness...probably because I tend to cut them thick. I peel each apple, use a corer/slicer, and then cut the quarters again so the apple is in eighths.

                1. re: Sue
                  p
                  Pamela Yaeger

                  My Macs have never gone mushy. I too cut them think--as chunks rather than slices. I keep my pies simple and don't add any other junk--just Macs, cinnamon, sugar, a little tapioca, and butter. And a squirt of fresh lime, usually. That brings out the flavor; they tend to caramelize a bit.

                  Heavenly, flavorful, and far better than any commercial pie I've tasted.

                2. re: rjka

                  That and the flavor. I like Fujis, myself, but I usually cook with Yellow Delicious.

                  My mother used to cook with Red Delicious, back when they were good. A pie piled high with quarters would come out of the oven as high as it went in.

                  My ex-mother-in-law always cooked with Macs, and her pies were always a soggy mess.

                  1. re: ironmom

                    Well, I am overwhelmed by all the responses. Looking forward to my trip to the market on Saturday! It's gonna be tough choosing...

                    Anyway, since a few of you have started waxing poetic about your favorite apple varieties, let me do likewise. My favorite apple of all is the James Grieve. We had several in our garden near Prague (Czech Rep.) when I was growing up, of which only one has tree survived, and these days I'm never there in time to taste the fruit. It's an early yellow apple with red speckles, incredibly juicy and aromatic, with a somewhat greasy, smooth skin. I think it's an English variety. Anyone here who can share my nostalgia?

              2. re: jen kalb

                I too like the Northern Spy for baking (I'm more of a crisp baker than a pie baker). The NS runs large, too, which makes them easier to peel. For eating, I love McCouns and Empires. All of these varieties are available at the Union Square market.

                1. re: shoshana

                  Your mention of the empire apple draws me into saying that in this day and age, nearly any apple that was actually on the tree within the last couple of weeks of when you purchase it is going to be superior to the "production apples" as some one apply put it.

                  So Jen Kalb, you mention several types of apples, what part of the country and where are you able to find them "in season"?

                  wrayb

                  1. re: wrayb

                    the apples I referred to are all now available in NYC farmers markets. they would be in season in the NE quadrant of the country generally at this time, I am unfamiliar with westcoast patterns. The apples I prefer tend to be hard and crisp and many store very well for farmers with proper storage facilities so some may be available into the winter once again at the farmer's markets. Empire, Ida Reds and Winesaps are also tasty apples which store well. As I mentioned before, for some reason, some of the later apples like the Spies and the Winesaps really seem to improve after frost - so I dont look for them until October.

                    Macs and Macouns are examples of apples which are very good right after they are picked but are softer in texture and deteriorate more rapidly. Cortlands are also soft but they have more flavor IMO so are more worth cooking with.

                    Akane is an early Jonathan - Akane come in here in NY in early september, several weeks before the Jonathan which is another late apple and rather uncommon here (more common farther west)

                    Elstar and Cox Orange Pippin are both european varieties, somewhat russeted with cream colored crisp and spicy flesh. Treelicious (one of the Farmers Market vendors) was selling these, but may not have any more...just keep an eye out for these and other unusual varieties and ask for a taste.

                    1. re: jen kalb

                      Thanks for the reply.

                2. re: jen kalb

                  I recently bought some apples at a Farmers' Market (in San Francisco) that were the best apples I've ever eaten.

                  Then I didn't get back to the market for a few weeks and they were gone. The vendor thought they might have been Burgundy apples -- they were crisp, moderately tart and spicy.

                  Is anyone familiar with this variety?

                  1. re: jen kalb

                    Jonathons or any variwty like them work real well. If they seem a bit sweet, add a tablespoon full of lemon juice to the water in which you soak the slices before you put them in the pie shell. Drain off the lemon water and add sugar and a bit of cinamon before you put the slices in an unbaked pie shell. I thicken it with minute tapioca rather than flour as it leaves a clearer filling and no starchy tast from the flour. Also dot the filled pie with about a tablespoon full of butter (in pieces) before you put on the top crust. And make sure to slit the crust to permit the steam to escape.

                  2. p
                    Peter B. Wolf

                    My favorite is 'BOSKOOP", but where can you get them? Peter.

                    1. I just purchased, from an Asian grocery store, a Fuyu Persimmon. I've never had one before, but it looks intriguing. Its little sticker says, "Eat hard like an apple." Sold for $1.29 apiece, it doesn't look like any persimmon I've seen (more like an orange/green tomato). Is anyone here familiar with the Fuyu Persimmon? Would love to know more about it.

                      1. I'm coming in to this thread a bit late, but I just noticed it on the Hot Threads list.

                        The apple pie recipe that I have specifically calls for Stayman Winesap apples. Other versions of Winesaps can be used if necessary, or Golden Delicious if you're in desperate straits. Apparently there are right ways and wrong ways to go about these things... (but seriously, the Winesaps do seem to give the best results).

                        For the sake of varying the texture of the pie, I sometimes throw in a couple of Arkansas Black apples. Their flavor is nothing to write home about, but they're hard as a freakin' rock and stay quite firm when cooked.

                        I recently made a pie using Gravensteins for the first time. I wasn't real impressed--they ended up very mushy.

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: Karl B

                          OK, I made the apple pie with Golden Delicious, fresh from the farmers' market... and I tossed in one Gala apple, just because. Apologies to all who are offended by this choice. Will try other varieties, perhaps winesaps, next time.

                          The pie was great, if I say so myself. I made the filling quite chunky as I hate mushy pies, and it stayed firm but juicy and was very tasty, not too sweet. I used the recipe from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything (the "enriched" version). Maybe we could start another thread on "the best recipe for apple pie"...

                          1. re: Katerina

                            That's the beauty of baking with the Golden Delicous; they really hold up. It's my baking apple of choice. pat

                            1. re: pat hammond

                              My hands down favorite are the Golden Delicious for pies. Tried others in the beginning, and never tried anything else after using the Golden Delicious - perfect results every time.

                          2. re: Karl B
                            c
                            Caitlin McGrath

                            "I recently made a pie using Gravensteins for the first time. I wasn't real impressed--they ended up very mushy."

                            Which demonstrates why Gravensteins are not great baking apples, but are one of the best for sauce; their flavor is also exceptionally good for applesauce. We've had many discussions about Gravensteins, applesauce, etc., on the SF Bay Area board.

                            1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                              Hmm...I'd been told by a number of people IRL that Gravensteins were great for pies. Apparently I was lied to.

                              Based on my experience, they *would* be good for applesauce, though.

                          3. My favorite pie apple is Rhode Island Greenings. They are usually available early in the season, and getting harder to find. They are small and lumpy, which makes them a pain to peel. But they have a good tart flavor and stand up well to baking. When I can't get them I use Granny Smiths, but I find the flavor less complex.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: ruth arcone
                              p
                              Phyllis Wolfe

                              I have found that the "Arkansas black" apple is by far the best apple for pies. It holds its shape and has a wonderful flavor. These apples also have a longer shelf life than some of the other apples.

                            2. In the Midwest, the Haralson is king...the equal to what I used to love in the Pennsylvania mountains...the Northern Spy.