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Best Apples for Apple Pie?

  • r

We want to make an apple pie but aren't sure what type of apples we should be using. We're from PA so have a pretty good selection right now. Thanks!

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  1. my rule of thumb is to use whatever i buy / pick that i don't want to eat straight -- i.e. because they're a little bruised, a little over- or under-ripe, etc... (last year i made fantastic pie out of the bird pecked little apples scavenged from riverside park in nyc each evening when i took my dog out for walks.) save the really, really good apples for eating straight!

    as for varietals, it depends on how tart you like your pie.

    i like mine tart, but many people prefer a mix sweet and tart. granny smiths and macons are the more common tart / semi-tart apples in season in NY/NJ right now, where i live. empire and rome apples are sweeter apples also in season. all of these hold their form decently well after baking (except maybe macouns) which is important if you don't want the filling to be applesauce.

    not sure if pink ladies, jonathans, and braeburns are in season at the moment, but they're also good sweeter pie apples.

    2 Replies
    1. re: cimui

      Cimui - you picked them in Riverside Park? Seriously? That's so cool; I would never have thought of that.

      To the OP - my favorite pie apple is Cortland, though I will sometimes use Winesap (both are in season and available now in the NY area). I like a tart pie and use very little sugar. Of course I always think the pies are better when I've actually picked the apples myself (though I know that this is a false belief). :)

      1. re: LNG212

        yep, and actually, it was a thread on chowhound that inspired the scavenging! all these other posters had great stories about picking shellfish off rocks by the ocean before being busted by national park police, picking fiddleheads, and all these other really interesting experiences. i figured someone should do something with these apples other than throwing them at each other or for the dogs!

        if you're familiar with riverside, they were from the crabapple orchard, though i don't think these were crabapples. i actually saw the same varietal being sold at barzini's the other day, but don't remember the name.

        sadly, this year, the trees didn't produce any fruit, i think because of the spring frost. but next year, i'll let you know if/when the apples come!

    2. Any of these will make a very good apple pie:

      If you want something sweet with a little tartness, try:

      Winesap
      Johathan
      Pippin
      Jonagold

      Sweeter (to my taste buds) would be:

      Braeburn
      Fuji
      Rome Beauty
      Golden Delicious

      My favorite apple for apple pie is, of course, Granny Smith

      The sweeter apples won't hold their crispness as well as those that are less sweet but as long as you carefully control the liquid (you don't want apple syrup running all over the plate when you serve it) you should end up with something quite delicious.

      8 Replies
      1. re: todao

        That sounds very good, but how do you control the liquid? That was a big problem when I tried a few gala apples with granny smith.

        1. re: mskittycat

          I usually use all granny smith, with a bit of added sugar (perhaps 1/3 cup). I cook the apples in a closed pot with a small amount of water to get the process rolling, to about half softnesst (nowhere near apple sauce making softness), then use a slotted spoon to put the apples in a pie shell. I never add any thickener, and I don't have a runny pie.

          1. re: mskittycat

            I see this is an older thread with newer responses, but in response to you, mskitty, I *never* precook my apples. I just slice them (always hard, tart apples like Granny Smith, Cortlands, Winesaps, Braeburns, etc.), toss them with a bit of lemon juice, and then with the sugar/cinnamon/nutmeg mixture that also has a few Tbsp. of flour mixed in, and pack them tightly into the pie shell, mounding them high so if they do collapse a bit, the pie won't look sunken. Top with a few dots of butter, put on the top crust, crimp and bake.

            The apple slices stay firm enough to not fall apart, but soft enough to eat as a pie apple. The flour in the sugar/cinnamon mix will help thicken any watery output from the apples. But keep in mind to use only hard, tart apples. Anything like Macintosh, which are very watery, are going to produce a LOT of liquid.

            1. re: mskittycat

              This may sound like heresy, but... I use dried Granny Smith apples for my apple pies. It's so terribly easy that I've never looked back. I often add a generous handful of dried cranberries, enough water just to cover the dried fruit, plus sugar, cinnamon, and a little flour. Bring up to a boil, stir for a minute or so, then turn it off, add a couple tbsp. butter, and let it stand while making the crust. Gorgeous mile-high pies without losing a drop, and couldn't be tastier.

              1. re: danceforjoy

                That's interesting. Does it taste like fresh apples when it's done or something else?

                1. re: TrishUntrapped

                  A bit more caramelized, but not by much; definitely a good solid apple flavor. I'm using the unsulfured dried fruit from the bulk bins in the market, so they've darkened during drying; I've never tried it with the lighter dried "brand name" apples that have been treated to preserve (or prevent) color. Forgot to mention above: juice and zest of a large lemon is a MUST. Trick is not to cook this much - just enough to reconstitute the fruit and thicken the syrup. It will bake up in the oven.

                  1. re: danceforjoy

                    Good tips. After apple season, I'm going to try this one. Thanks!

            2. re: todao

              Thanks, for the variety. I love my recipe for Swedish Apple Pie and am always trying to improve the taste. Have had great results with Granny Smiths.

              1. Each year I buy a variety of old types at the orchard and make a pies from them. I like my pies best with five or six different apples ! But if I had to pick I would chose Baldwin, Rhode Island Greening or Cox Orange Pippin. They I would add a mac or two. They cook mushy, but adds a sweetness and juiciness to offset the others.

                1. Perhaps the best apples for any baking recipe would be:

                  Cortland
                  Golden Delicious
                  Granny Smith
                  Jonagold
                  Pippin
                  Rome Beauty
                  Winesap

                  That's because you want the apples to hold their shape and maintain a nice texture in the finished product.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: todao

                    Cortland!!! Thanks for saying that. I've been racking my brain trying to remember the name of the apples I used to love making pies with. Cortlands rock for apple pie.

                    1. re: scuzzo

                      I live in Massachusetts and also prefer cortlands. I used to use the Rhode Island greening variety, but they have not been good to use for the last few years. The pies turn out a bit dry.

                      1. re: veggielover

                        Yep. I second (or, uh, fourth) the Cortland. Cook's Illustrated suggests using a combination of apples that tend to disintegrate into sauce (like MacIntosh) and tart, crisp apples that keep their shape (like Cortlands, Granny Smiths, etc.).