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Best Apples for Apple Pie?

Rick Oct 1, 2008 02:50 PM

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. c
    cimui RE: Rick Oct 1, 2008 03:53 PM

    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
      LNG212 RE: cimui Oct 21, 2008 01:27 PM

      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
        cimui RE: LNG212 Oct 21, 2008 03:09 PM

        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. todao RE: Rick Oct 1, 2008 04:15 PM

      Any of these will make a very good apple pie:

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


      Sweeter (to my taste buds) would be:

      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
        mskittycat RE: todao Nov 6, 2010 07:43 PM

        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
          DGresh RE: mskittycat Nov 7, 2010 02:40 AM

          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
            LindaWhit RE: mskittycat Nov 7, 2010 01:22 PM

            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
              danceforjoy RE: mskittycat Nov 9, 2012 05:47 PM

              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
                TrishUntrapped RE: danceforjoy Nov 11, 2012 05:02 AM

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

                1. re: TrishUntrapped
                  danceforjoy RE: TrishUntrapped Nov 11, 2012 08:22 AM

                  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
                    TrishUntrapped RE: danceforjoy Nov 11, 2012 08:35 AM

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

            2. re: todao
              amsantare RE: todao Nov 16, 2012 09:45 AM

              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.

            3. greygarious RE: Rick Oct 1, 2008 04:41 PM


              1. c
                chowmel RE: Rick Oct 1, 2008 05:46 PM

                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. todao RE: Rick Oct 2, 2008 03:56 PM

                  Perhaps the best apples for any baking recipe would be:

                  Golden Delicious
                  Granny Smith
                  Rome Beauty

                  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
                    scuzzo RE: todao Oct 2, 2008 04:27 PM

                    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
                      veggielover RE: scuzzo Oct 2, 2008 07:19 PM

                      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
                        maxim0512 RE: veggielover Oct 3, 2008 06:57 AM

                        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.).

                  2. b
                    bnemes3343 RE: Rick Oct 2, 2008 04:04 PM

                    I have won my local apple pie contest the last two years using Galas. I had never used them before, but munched on one after work one day and thought they tasted great. I pre-cook them though to preserve their integrity in the pie.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: bnemes3343
                      raidar RE: bnemes3343 Oct 2, 2008 08:12 PM

                      I eat at least one apple a day for my morning break, and it's always a Gala (ok occasionally when none of them look good, I swing over to Golden Delicious or Jonas) and I've never thought about using them in a pie. I always figured they wouldn't be a solid option. I guess it just goes to show that it's worth it to try all options in life. I will also definitely try mixing 3, 4 or even 5 types. What a treat that would be!

                    2. sammyw RE: Rick Oct 2, 2008 08:38 PM

                      I like Granny Smith the best. I find the tartness of that apple pairs perfect with sweet sugar and cinnamon!

                      1. j
                        jpc8015 RE: Rick Oct 2, 2008 10:47 PM

                        Granny Smith, hands down the best baking apple out there. I come from Washington State and I know a thing or two about apples.

                        1. nofunlatte RE: Rick Oct 3, 2008 05:06 AM

                          I use a mixture of Northern Spy and Jonagolds. The Northern Spy is very flavorful and tart, whereas the Jonagold adds some sweetness with a bit of tang.

                          1. TrishUntrapped RE: Rick Oct 3, 2008 06:18 AM

                            Cortlands make a very nice pie. As another poster mentioned, I also slightly pre-cook. I put them in the microwave for a few seconds till they get steamy, but aren't thoroughly cooked. That way I can pack the pie high and not worry about undercooked apples. Also, I use minute tapioca for thickening. Read the back of the tapioca box for details. Works beautifully.

                            A thread from last year, including a slideshow of step-by-step making of an apple pie:


                            1 Reply
                            1. re: TrishUntrapped
                              breakfastfan RE: TrishUntrapped Nov 7, 2010 01:39 PM

                              +corts, mixed with MacIntosh. Some parts are firm(ish) and the rest is a smooth blend. I usually use 1/2 and 1/2.

                            2. danna RE: Rick Oct 3, 2008 06:59 AM

                              I made one last night w/ red winesaps, yorks and mystery apples off my own tree (very tart). The winesaps were best, and held that BEAUTIFUL color on the skins (don't peel)

                              1. h
                                heypielady RE: Rick Oct 21, 2008 09:19 AM

                                I hope all home bakers are still in full swing in their apple pie making. I just wanted to report back on my experiences this season. Two weeks ago I made a double crust pie with Opalescent apples that I picked up at the Apple Barn in Easton CT. They were not as tart as my usual cortlands or northern spies so I added a little extra lemon juice. The pie turned out great and the opalescents had the perfect texture. It held its shape well but still melted a little in your mouth. Very good balanced "apple-y" flavor.

                                On Columbus day I picked up several different apples at the farmers market in Cambridge MA. I made another double crust with Northern Spies, Roxbury Russets, and Rhode Island Greenings. Once again very good results. The spies and greening together required a little more sugar than I usually use.

                                Earlier in the season I made a pie with some cortlands, some fortunes, jonagold, and spencers. Now I know I like the cortlands but either the fortune or the spencer had a sort of floral or perfumey taste to it that only shows us when baking. I did not like this taste. Has anyone else had that experience?

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: heypielady
                                  danna RE: heypielady Oct 21, 2008 01:19 PM

                                  still pie baking, but with different varieties. When i went back to the farm to get more red winesaps, they told me they had changed and become much sweeter toward the end of the growing season. Indeed, they were were delicious eating apples. The pie I made, while still beautiful, was not as good as before. I guess that's why cooking apples are different from eating apples.

                                2. Karl S RE: Rick Oct 21, 2008 04:11 PM

                                  Of American apple varieties:

                                  Northern Spy ("Spys for pies!" was long the American pie baker's cry)
                                  Rhode Island Greening
                                  Pippins (of many types)

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: Karl S
                                    momskitchen RE: Karl S Nov 7, 2010 02:56 AM

                                    @karl, Northern Spy is still my choice....best for a pie! They are a late season apple here in Michigan. Get them while you can! I just got some last weekend and they still make a wonderful pie

                                    1. re: Karl S
                                      beachmouse RE: Karl S Nov 7, 2010 04:50 PM

                                      I also grew up in Michigan, and was taught the "Spys for pies" rhyme.

                                      1. re: Karl S
                                        jcontario RE: Karl S Aug 8, 2013 06:49 PM

                                        We are in Ontario, and for us, it is only Spys. Most other apples that we have tried are either too mushy or too sweet. We will buy about 20 lbs in late fall when the Spys are available (it is a very short window) and then keep them in the cold room. When the Spys are gone, it is the end of pie season.

                                        On a tangent, for cherry pies, it is only the Montmorency sour cherries which are available right now. Nothing compares to a warm cherry pie (except maybe a warm apple pie or a warm blue raspberry pie).


                                      2. j
                                        jerzzy RE: Rick Oct 21, 2008 05:20 PM

                                        Never tried Cortlands, have to give them a shot.
                                        Usually I use 2 types of apples with great results.
                                        Granny smith
                                        Golden Delicious

                                        Be tough to beat those 2 but we'll see lol

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: jerzzy
                                          heypielady RE: jerzzy Oct 22, 2008 06:15 AM

                                          Yeah, do give Cortlands a try. The flavor will be similar to your combo of tart Granny and mild sweet golden delicious but I find the texture of a baked cortland more pleasant. It holds it shape but still is nice and soft.

                                        2. c
                                          cwyllie RE: Rick Nov 11, 2008 03:00 PM


                                          I have made a lot of pies and I would recommend a stayman apple or golden delicious. Stay away from Fugi and red delicious as they tend to cook down and get mushy and watery. You want a firm sweet apple that holds it shape and tasts good! Good luck!!!


                                          1. Adrienne RE: Rick Nov 6, 2010 08:33 PM

                                            I know i'm an outlier but I love making pies and sauces with all macintosh. Macs seem to be able to tolerate my taste for a good dose of ginger and allspice, without losing the appley flavor.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: Adrienne
                                              grammachristine RE: Adrienne Dec 23, 2011 04:34 PM

                                              I'm with you! In our family it's McIntosh all the way. The flavor is unbeatable and we like that they get so soft when cooked. I don't want any crunch in my apple pies. My other favorite pie apple is the Jonathan but they are hard to come by here. Their season is very short and the quality has been poor the last several years.

                                            2. Cheese Boy RE: Rick Nov 7, 2010 12:02 AM

                                              Not sure which varieties you have available to you, but my rec is the Ginger Gold.

                                              1. gmm RE: Rick Nov 7, 2010 12:11 AM

                                                I like a tart/sweet apple and usually use Jonagolds. This year we were at a store in a local farm area and the gal there told me they use Honeycrisps for the pies they serve in their in-house restaurant. Honeycrisps are my favorite eating apple, but I wouldn't have thought to use them for pie. I tried it and the pie came out perfectly. I used Rose Levy Berenbaum's recipe that calls for macerating the apples and reducing the juices.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: gmm
                                                  Chowrin RE: gmm Nov 7, 2010 04:26 PM

                                                  ugg, water cores for pies? seems a waste if you ask me. Love Jonagolds though.

                                                2. ZenSojourner RE: Rick Nov 7, 2010 12:16 AM

                                                  Doesn't anybody cook with McIntosh anymore? That might explain why I can never find it in the grocery.

                                                  31 Replies
                                                  1. re: ZenSojourner
                                                    Karl S RE: ZenSojourner Nov 7, 2010 02:20 AM

                                                    For sauce yes, but it's mushy for most other purposes. Firmer varieties with a similar bouqet (Macoun, a derivative, for example) do better.

                                                    1. re: Karl S
                                                      ZenSojourner RE: Karl S Nov 7, 2010 02:43 AM

                                                      We used McIntosh all the time, I never found it mushy. It used to be THE pie apple, but I guess not anymore. I can't find them for love nor money around here.

                                                      Cortland is a cross between McIntosh and something else. Maybe if I can find those, they'll do.

                                                      1. re: ZenSojourner
                                                        Karl S RE: ZenSojourner Nov 7, 2010 03:26 AM

                                                        Northern Spy and Baldwin were the pie apples for about a century; I can still get those in local orchards. Then Macs had a 2-generation run, but were long ago eclipsed by other varieties (for pies, that is; Macs are still the champ for applesauce, and they are a good eating apple if eaten within a week of being picked, but they can get mushy fast compared to other varieties).

                                                        1. re: Karl S
                                                          ZenSojourner RE: Karl S Nov 7, 2010 03:47 AM

                                                          GIven that I've not made a pie in 30 years, I guess that could have changed while I wasn't looking. Also given that my grandmother was born in 1907, we probably fell into that 2 generation run you're talking about. It's probably regional also; in some places McIntosh is still one of the top apples for pie.


                                                          But since I can't get them here I'll have to try something else.

                                                          I think we used Winesaps too, but that's another apple I've not seen in years.

                                                          1. re: ZenSojourner
                                                            Karl S RE: ZenSojourner Nov 7, 2010 11:23 AM

                                                            We get Winesaps at the local orchards, too. Massachusetts is the home of Johnny Appleseed, so we have lots of older varieties in our orchards (though, his day, apples were primarily for making cider (which always went hard in the days before artificial refrigeration), which was the nearly universal American drink before the advent of large scale breweries in the mid 19th century).

                                                            1. re: ZenSojourner
                                                              LindaWhit RE: ZenSojourner Nov 7, 2010 01:26 PM

                                                              Zen, perhaps this site can help you find various apple orchards that carry what you're looking for (looked for "northern Michigan based on the King Orchards site):


                                                              1. re: LindaWhit
                                                                ZenSojourner RE: LindaWhit Nov 7, 2010 04:04 PM

                                                                Thanks, I'd been to that site, but the apple season is over here. It's been over for a month or two. Too far south I think for much in the way of apples.

                                                                1. re: ZenSojourner
                                                                  LindaWhit RE: ZenSojourner Nov 7, 2010 04:23 PM

                                                                  However, apples keep in cold storage for a long time. They should still have some available. Can't hurt to ask them.

                                                          2. re: ZenSojourner
                                                            Adrienne RE: ZenSojourner Nov 7, 2010 11:42 AM

                                                            I am also a Mac user and I agree they're softer; I don't pre-cook them at all, I just toss with a little sugar and spices and let it sit for a while, then I pour into the pie crust and bake. They turn out soft enough but not mushy this way.

                                                            1. re: Adrienne
                                                              ZenSojourner RE: Adrienne Nov 7, 2010 11:47 AM

                                                              I wondered why so many of the recipes I've seen recently for apple pie even called for pre-cooking. I'd never had apples come out in a pie underdone - maybe using McIntosh's made that step unnecessary. I don't remember doing it for WInesap's either, but we mostly used McIntosh for pretty nearly everything anyway.

                                                              1. re: Adrienne
                                                                LindaWhit RE: Adrienne Nov 7, 2010 01:27 PM

                                                                I don't get the pre-cooking step either.

                                                                1. re: LindaWhit
                                                                  biondanonima RE: LindaWhit Nov 7, 2010 04:13 PM

                                                                  I started pre-cooking because I made a very thick, "mile-high" style apple pie, and I was finding that my apples weren't getting evenly/thoroughly cooked. However, according to Cooks Illustrated, there is a scientific basis for it that applies even to non-deep dish pies:

                                                                  "This seems counterintuitive, but here's what happens: When the apples are gently heated, their pectin is converted to a heat-stable form that prevents the apples from becoming mushy when cooked further in the oven. The key is to keep the temperature of the apples below 140 degrees during this precooking stage. Rather than cooking the apples in a skillet (where they are likely to become too hot), it's best to gently heat the apples and seasonings in a large covered Dutch oven."

                                                                  1. re: biondanonima
                                                                    greygarious RE: biondanonima Nov 8, 2010 07:27 AM

                                                                    I'll have to try the precooking - but to keep them below 140 I think it would be better to spread them on a sheet pan and set the oven on as low a temp as possible. Did CI mention anything about doing it that way? I just assumed the precooking was to evaporate some of the water so I've learned something and thank you for posting this explanation.

                                                                    That said, precooking at a higher heat wouldn't do any harm if you don't mind mushy apples. The flavor will still be there, perhaps more concentrated in view of the reduction in water content. I have an apple cookbook with recipes for pies using applesauce as filling. My mother piled her pan with a tall mound of Macintoshes, which cooked down to under an inch in the finished pie. Essentially, they were applesauce pies - but delicious nonetheless!

                                                                    1. re: greygarious
                                                                      DGresh RE: greygarious Nov 8, 2010 08:17 AM

                                                                      yes I think it really is a matter of preference. I like a relatively soft filling, with chunks, but still soft. Others may prefer more crunch. I've found that precooking gives me the result *I* like.

                                                                      1. re: greygarious
                                                                        TrishUntrapped RE: greygarious Nov 8, 2010 09:33 AM

                                                                        I just microwave them and when they start steaming I stop. Makes great juicy pies.

                                                                        1. re: greygarious
                                                                          biondanonima RE: greygarious Nov 8, 2010 10:55 AM

                                                                          CI doesn't say anything about a sheet pan, although I think it's a terrific idea. One of their other recipes, for a cranberry apple pie, calls for the apples to be microwaved:

                                                                          "Meanwhile, mix 1/2 cup sugar, remaining 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, and cornstarch in large microwave-safe bowl; add apples and toss to combine. Microwave on high power, stirring with rubber spatula every 3 minutes, until apples are just starting to turn translucent around edges and liquid is thick and glossy, 10 to 14 minutes. Cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes."

                                                                          I nuke mine as well, but I never go as long as they call for here - usually about 5 mins, just to get their juices flowing, as Trish mentioned below. I would guess that they stay somewhere in the 140 range overall, although they no doubt get hotter on the edges.

                                                                          1. re: biondanonima
                                                                            greygarious RE: biondanonima Nov 8, 2010 12:20 PM

                                                                            Hmm...it seems like 10-14 minutes at high power would heat the apples a lot higher than 140. In fact, after that treatment I'd expect to have applesauce. IMO, the oven sounds easier. I put my pie pan on a preheated parchment-lined sheet pan, to jumpstart the baking of the bottom crust. So in the future I will line the sheet with 2 sheets of parchment, spread the apples, and use very low heat; then lift out the top parchment with apples, and turn up the heat to 375 while assembling the pie.

                                                                            1. re: greygarious
                                                                              biondanonima RE: greygarious Nov 8, 2010 01:03 PM

                                                                              I agree that 10-14 mins in the microwave will get the apples way above 140 - and they don't address that in that particular recipe. Your idea sounds good, but I would warn you to wait until the apples have cooled to room temperature before putting them in your pie crust - otherwise, they will soften/melt it and you could have issues with texture.

                                                                              1. re: biondanonima
                                                                                greygarious RE: biondanonima Nov 8, 2010 03:21 PM

                                                                                For sure - but spread out, it shouldn't take too long for them to cool down, especially if I put the parchment sheet on a cooling rack or in a different, cool sheet pan. Once the crust is rolled and transferred into the pan, the apples should be room temp.

                                                              2. re: ZenSojourner
                                                                biondanonima RE: ZenSojourner Nov 7, 2010 12:12 PM

                                                                I use them, but not exclusively - I mix them with Grannys and Goldens for a variance in flavor and texture. I love the way they just melt into sweet juice and sweeten up the Grannys. A friend of mine makes a terrific pie with straight Macs though.

                                                                1. re: ZenSojourner
                                                                  amokscience RE: ZenSojourner Nov 7, 2010 01:07 PM

                                                                  Across several threads and searches I've seen the same apples recommended or dismissed. So personal experience, preference, or tradition seem to hold strong. Also there are a ridiculous number of varieties.

                                                                  From what I sampled at my local grocer, this fall I'm going with Honeycrisp, Empire, and Pink Lady. The Cortland, Macoun and Southern Rose weren't that good and the Jonagold was downright awful.

                                                                  1. re: ZenSojourner
                                                                    Chowrin RE: ZenSojourner Nov 7, 2010 04:28 PM

                                                                    My dear, MacIntosh doesn't exist. It's a whole family of apples -- if you're lucky, you'll get them labeled. I believe the same thing goes for Granny Smith. for a longtime, anything green got labeled "granny smith"

                                                                    1. re: Chowrin
                                                                      Adrienne RE: Chowrin Nov 7, 2010 04:37 PM

                                                                      I'm sorry, I don't even know if I think that's true, but even if MacIntosh refers to more than one precise apple type, that does NOT mean it "doesn't exist."

                                                                      1. re: Chowrin
                                                                        Jen76 RE: Chowrin Nov 7, 2010 04:45 PM

                                                                        Not true. My grandmother and I used to go pick them at an orchard. McIntosh was her go-to pie apple.


                                                                        1. re: Chowrin
                                                                          visciole RE: Chowrin Nov 7, 2010 05:05 PM

                                                                          There are a few different kinds of McIntosh but they are substantially the same. I think the main difference is when they ripen.

                                                                          1. re: Chowrin
                                                                            LindaWhit RE: Chowrin Nov 7, 2010 05:06 PM

                                                                            Ummm....could you please cite your source? Don't you think with the information available, someone else would have heard of these two issues and it would be well known? Both of these links seem to differentiate both apples as specific apple varieties:


                                                                            McIntosh is the best-selling apple in the northeastern United States and in Canada. Unlike Red Delicious, the number one North American variety, it isn't the subject of snide remarks by apple aficionados.

                                                                            John McIntosh, a farmer in Dundela, Dundas County, Ontario, Canada, gave his name to a talented cross between Fameuse and Detroit Red. The variety was introduced in 1870 and went on to much fame and much crossbreeding. McIntosh has lent its good genes to several well-known varieties, including Cortland, Empire, Macoun, and Spartan.

                                                                            The original tree was badly scorched when a fire burned down the McIntosh farmhouse in 1894. But the old Mac limped on, yielding its last crop in 1908. It fell over two years later, and a stone memorial now marks the site.

                                                                            The apple, in case you haven't visited your supermarket's produce section lately, has white, tender, crisp flesh that's spice, highly aromatic, and full of juice. The characteristic flavor carries over into sauce, but in the slices lose their shape. Macs are the principal cider apple in the Northeast.

                                                                            Harvest is in September. Beware of McIntosh as winter wears on; the apples turn mealy if stored too long.


                                                                            Granny Smith introduced American supermarket shoppers to the green apple. For a culture that had become unfamiliar with apples of that color, it came as a surprise that green does not necessarily mean unripe. Tart, Granny tends to be, but not sour and starchy.

                                                                            The story goes that the first Granny Smith sprouted from a pile of apples tossed out by a southeast Australian named Mrs. Smith, back in 1868. This variety has succeeded commercially where other greens have not, for a few reasons. It is large. It is mild-flavored and has a good balance of tart and sweet. It is nearly as resilient as a tennis ball and holds up well in shipping. And Granny Smith will tolerate a half year of cold storage.

                                                                            Brands of Granny applesauce and Granny apple juice are widely marketed. The apple can be baked as well. But eaten fresh, Granny is not an apple people tend to take to their hearts and name as their lifelong favorite. It's two-dimensional, lacking the hard-to-name qualities that make a fruit memorable.

                                                                            The apples are harvested in October. As you sort through the piles of green fruits, keep in mind that paler Grannys, with a warmish cast, tend to be sweetest.

                                                                            1. re: Chowrin
                                                                              ZenSojourner RE: Chowrin Nov 7, 2010 05:19 PM

                                                                              Odd, that a non-existent apple could be a descendant of Enterprise and the parent of a whole range of apples including Cortland and Spartan.

                                                                              There IS a McIntosh apple. There is ALSO the McIntosh family of apples, which includes McIntosh, it's (presumed) parents, and all it's descendants. Since I can't even find it in groceries, issues of mislabeling really don't apply at this point.

                                                                              History of the McIntosh from http://www.botany.org/bsa/misc/mcinto... :

                                                                              "How did the McIntosh apple first come into cultivation? John McIntosh, whose parents had immigrated from Inverness, Scotland, lived in the Mohawk Valley of upstate New York in the 1770's. When the Revolutionary War spread to his area, John, who sympathized with the British, moved north to Dundas County, Ontario, Canada. He was clearing some land on his new farm when he discovered some apple seedlings which he transplanted. Only one survived and it produced delicious red apples, McInstosh Reds. John and his son Allen and, later, his grandson Harvey propagated many new trees from cuttings of the one original tree which bore fruit until 1908 and died in 1910. By the middle of the 20th Century, the McIntosh apple was a favorite apple of North America, accounting for 40% of the Canadian apple crop in the 1960's. "

                                                                              This site also has some advice for making sure you're getting McIntosh and not something that looks similar if you CAN find them at a grocery:


                                                                              1. re: ZenSojourner
                                                                                Chowrin RE: ZenSojourner Nov 7, 2010 06:51 PM

                                                                                where are you, that macintoshes are so hard to find? just curious...

                                                                                1. re: Chowrin
                                                                                  ZenSojourner RE: Chowrin Nov 7, 2010 08:23 PM

                                                                                  I'm in the SE US. Apple season (such as it was) was over here in August. It may be the economic makeup of the area more than the physical region - lots of upscale yuppy expensiveness in this area, it's sort of an island of prosperity in the middle of the rural poverty that is more typical of the area. Everything I saw in the grocery was a "desert" apple, more for fresh eating than cooking.

                                                                              2. re: Chowrin
                                                                                applgrl RE: Chowrin Mar 24, 2012 04:07 PM

                                                                                I picked 19,200 pounds of McIntosh last September. I'm pretty sure they were real. ;-)

                                                                              3. re: ZenSojourner
                                                                                grammachristine RE: ZenSojourner Dec 23, 2011 04:39 PM

                                                                                I do, I do! They are the favorite in our family and everyone expects a McIntosh pie at our family parties. Use any other and you will get polite questions like this, "What kind of apples did you use? Didn't they have any McIntosh?"

                                                                              4. c
                                                                                Chowrin RE: Rick Nov 7, 2010 04:21 PM

                                                                                Gold Rush. Sand Hill Berries has 'em if you're out west. Not sure about back east. Great little disease-resistant apple ;-) Keeps forever too.

                                                                                3 Replies
                                                                                1. re: Chowrin
                                                                                  visciole RE: Chowrin Nov 7, 2010 05:08 PM

                                                                                  I love GoldRush for eating, though when I baked with it I found it a bit too sweet overall. However, I like my pie apples nice and tart, so I imagine for others this would be a terrific baking apple. It holds its shape very well and has a nice complex flavor. They're a bit dry -- I found I had to add liquid to get the pie to be somewhat juicy.

                                                                                  We do have them in the east but they aren't very common, and I believe since they ripen so late, in the more northern orchards they might not have sufficient time to ripen before it gets too cold.

                                                                                  1. re: visciole
                                                                                    Chowrin RE: visciole Nov 7, 2010 06:52 PM

                                                                                    i like 'em tart too, I just reduce the sugar. ;-) My pies are never "juicy" since they're made with tapioca. gets the applejack flavor thou.

                                                                                    1. re: Chowrin
                                                                                      visciole RE: Chowrin Nov 8, 2010 02:19 PM

                                                                                      I use tapioca too. But with other apple varieties, I still get a juicier pie. I also used very little sugar in my GoldRush pie, but I guess the tart flavor GoldRush apples have when raw somehow did not come through as much for me in the pie. But I do think this is a terrific overall apple variety and I hope it becomes more common.

                                                                                2. p
                                                                                  PamelaG RE: Rick Sep 3, 2012 12:58 PM

                                                                                  Ever since I discovered a recipe for Grandma Ople's Apple Pie online, I haven't made my apple pie any other way. It uses Granny Smith. I do have a bag of Paula Reds and have hankering for a pie but I suspect that these would be too sweet for the Grandma Ople recipe.

                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                  1. re: PamelaG
                                                                                    Karl S RE: PamelaG Sep 3, 2012 01:25 PM

                                                                                    I don't think of Paula Reds as a great baking apple. A saucing apple, maybe, but too mushy for pie, and not a great flavor. Then again, it's not a good variety in my opinion (its only merit is that it appears with early Macs early in the apple season - and early season apples are not very good unless very freshly picked and used right away.

                                                                                  2. r
                                                                                    rasputina RE: Rick Sep 3, 2012 02:27 PM

                                                                                    The best I've had came from the neighbors trees when I was a kid, they were yellow skinned and my mom always made pies with them and we took one to the family with the trees. Wish I knew what kind of apple they were.

                                                                                    4 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: rasputina
                                                                                      Karl S RE: rasputina Sep 3, 2012 02:41 PM

                                                                                      Where did you live and what month did they typically get picked?

                                                                                      1. re: Karl S
                                                                                        rasputina RE: Karl S Sep 4, 2012 06:28 AM

                                                                                        I lived in So CA, but as for month picked, this was 35 years ago I can't remember anymore lol

                                                                                      2. re: rasputina
                                                                                        Thebohemiancook RE: rasputina Aug 8, 2013 05:53 PM

                                                                                        I bet they were Yellow Transparent. I am a senior citizen, and my parents had one also. They are still my favorite apple, for eating and for pie, but are very hard to find. I am told Lodi is the next best thing, but it doesn't really compare.

                                                                                        1. re: Thebohemiancook
                                                                                          greygarious RE: Thebohemiancook Aug 8, 2013 06:09 PM

                                                                                          Since all naturally-pollenated apple trees are hybrids, there are literally countless possibilities for the genotype of a given tree whose fruit is not the result of grafting. My best friend used to live across the street from a large commercial apple orchard. On her own property was a sport tree that produced small, narrow apples with distinctly pink flesh. They were tasty, but small, soft, and did not keep well. She asked the orchard's arborist what they were, but he had never seen anything similar. At first they were interested in taking cuttings but over the course of a few seasons decided against developing it as a new variety.

                                                                                      3. Ruthie789 RE: Rick Sep 3, 2012 04:08 PM

                                                                                        Wolf River or Empire apples make the grade for me. The Wolf river is a baking apple, it cannot be eaten until cooked. Empire apples maintain their shape and have a slightly tart taste.

                                                                                        I like the Wolf River it is a large apple and you can make many pies with about 6-10 apples.

                                                                                        1. j
                                                                                          joseph212 RE: Rick Sep 26, 2012 11:40 AM

                                                                                          I find the best selection for apples is at Farmers' Markets and I always ask the vendor for a recommendation. Tell them what you're making and when you are making it. Ask what apples are good that week because if the apples are coming out of storage they will reflect when they were picked and how they were stored. Jonagold from a market 2 weeks ago may not be as good as this week's. I always get 3 or 4 varieties and cut them up into different sizes depending on how they cook. If you are lucky enough to find a quince grate it and add to your pie.

                                                                                          1. p
                                                                                            pat99mi RE: Rick Nov 22, 2012 01:26 AM

                                                                                            I live in SE Michigan and the apple selection is abundant right now. Most of the selections are from MI and WA state. I like to use golden delicious in my pies because they need very little sugar, hold their shape yet cook to a soft consistency, plus, they are available all year long. I toss them with lemon juice while I am paring and slicing them which keeps them from browning and adds just the right amount of tartness needed for a good pie. I drain the lemon juice before assembling the pie and only add 1/4 cup each brown and regular sugar (OR 1/4 cup Splenda brown sugar blend), 1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, 1/4 tsp. nutmeg, 1/8 tsp. cardamom and 2 Tbls. melted salted butter. I also add 3 Tbls. cornstarch to thicken. If I have crystalized ginger on hand I chop up a couple tablespoons and toss it in. Just mix everything together in a bowl. I use 8 very large apples for a 8" or 9" double crust pie. Bake at 450 for 15 minutes then reduce to 375 for 45 minutes. Cover outside rim of crust with foil to prevent over browning but remove it for the last 15 minutes of baking. Best pie I ever ate!!!

                                                                                            1. animatrixie RE: Rick Sep 25, 2013 03:05 PM

                                                                                              I see Jonagolds around here from time to time, but we've mostly got Sansa apples around here. Would anyone find Sansa apples to be appropriate for baking in a pie?

                                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                                              1. re: animatrixie
                                                                                                LindaWhit RE: animatrixie Sep 25, 2013 03:31 PM

                                                                                                I'd not heard of Sansas, trixie, but Google to the rescue for "tasting notes":


                                                                                                "Sansa appears to have good disease resistance, although it was not developed specifically for this purpose. The disease resistance is likely to come from the Akane parentage, since Akane is itself naturally disease resistant whereas Gala is susceptible to several common apple diseases.

                                                                                                In terms of flavor, Sansa is essentially an early-ripening Gala. It inherits Gala's inherent sweetness, but with more acidity - as might be expected given its earlier ripening season."

                                                                                                I'd say yes, they'd be good with the sweet/acidity flavoring.

                                                                                                1. re: LindaWhit
                                                                                                  animatrixie RE: LindaWhit Sep 25, 2013 04:20 PM

                                                                                                  Thanks, Linda! It's funny, I went to that same page while trying to check it out in English, and it looks good, but I wondered if anyone had any experience with it first hand who'd have some input, too! Just for back up. :)

                                                                                              2. iL Divo RE: Rick Oct 14, 2013 08:36 AM

                                                                                                my favorite pie on earth by far is apple. topped with a nice slice of cheddar cheese melted and I'm done.
                                                                                                my choice for the perfect apple is subjective because my preference isn't a tart apple or a soft apple. Gala/Fuji are favorites but admit to using every available apple in California. least favorite Stamen Winesap-unless cardboard is your desired outcome.
                                                                                                about the cooking of apples vs raw-a favorite recipe I started using years ago is Betty Crocker Applescotch Pie on pg 89. it's a wonderful pie and we enjoy the different texture plus deep flavor.

                                                                                                wonder if anyone has semi thoroughly melted red hots and added them to your raw apple mixture. the result is pink apple filling that's laced with a titch of hot spiciness. very good and a lovely surprise if given as a gift.

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