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Best type of apples to use for pie?

Last night I made an apple pie using Granny Smith apples. They were huge, I peeled, cored them and cut them in eighths. Tossed them with sugar, cinnamon and a little flour adding some pats of butter. Put on the top crust and cut a few slits. The pie turned out beautiful in appearance, crisp and golden brown, the pastry was delicious. The filling was disappointing. What looked like a nice, high apple pie prior to baking shrunk. The pastry was still high, but there was a large gap to where the filling reached the pie crust, the apples had cooked down to not much at all. The apple filling didn't taste right, very flat. I had tasted the raw apples and they seemed fine.

What type of apples make the best pie? I have access to a farm fruit stand and was thinking of buying a big box of Cortlands, are these good pie apples? They carry other types as well. What kind of apples should I buy for pies, crisps, baking? Thanks!

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  1. There are tons of threads on this subject, and everyone will have a different opinion, but I find that the best way to ensure a great pie is to use a blend of apples. I like a couple of Granny Smiths for tartness and firm texture, a couple of Goldens for sweetness, a Macintosh for lots of juiciness, Northern Spies for all around good texture and flavor, etc. Also, the trick to making sure you don't have a high pastry dome over a pile of mush is to slightly pre-cook the apples for your filling - a few minutes in the microwave will help set their texture and get their juices flowing so that you can pack more into the pie and get way less shrinkage.

    1. The only way to avoid the shrinkage you describe, is to partially pre cook the apples. I agree with biondanonima that a mix of apples is best. Grannies tend to be crisp and dry, and don't always make the kind of saucy filling we associate with great apple pies. I find that it's MacIntosh apples that add that quality to the filling. If you pre cook (and cool) the apple pie filling, you will naturally see that the the packed pie is much less so, and there will be very little further shrinkage of the filling as it bakes.

      1. We make pie with Granny Smith, Bramley Seedling or, for a slightly sweeter version, Howgate Wonder.

        1. You don't have to precook the apples to collapse their cells, you can toss them with the sugar that's going to go into the pie filling and let them drain in a colander over a bowl for a couple of hours (at least one hour). Then take this drained liquid and reduce it to a syrup and add it back to the pie filling then bake as normal.

          1 Reply
          1. re: 1POINT21GW

            This is totally what I do. Works great every time.

          2. This may not be helpful at all.

            I'm allergic to apples.

            I make a great 'apple' pie with zucchini - I peel and slice it, saute with butter & lemon juice, and then add sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Since I cook it before hand, I have little problem with filling shrinkage.

            1. I don't like to use just one particular apple, but a combination of three: Fuji, Gala, and Granny Smith. This is a nice combination of flavor, sweetness and tartness. I also suggest cutting your apples into smaller pieces to pack more apples in at the beginning cutting down on potential shrinkage. Good luck and happy eating.

              1. I like Spartan and Wolf River Apples for my pies.

                1. I think the best pie apples (or dessert apples in general) are those you wouldn't choose to eat out of hand: firm, substantial, flavorful, not too sweet, not too juicy.

                  My very favorite, by far, is the Northern Spy. Native to upstate NY; I don't know if they're hard to find elsewhere. They also make terrific applesauce: very flavorful, and you can stand a spoon up in it.

                  They also store very well - my mother kept a bushel or two in the cellar all winter & spring for making pies.

                  There a late fruit, so this year's crop probably isn't out yet.

                  1. In general, I believe it is preferable to use a mix of at least 2 varieties per pie. One that holds its shape well, and another than has a lot of juice and flavor, but collapses during baking.
                    For flavor, an all Macintosh pie is wonderful, but you might as well have filled it with applesauce as slices, because that's what they turn into. Mix Macintoshes with Granny Smith or Newtown Pippin or Rome or Cortland,among others, and you have both texture and flavor.

                    Cortlands are a good pie apple, even on their own.

                    1. I guess if you really like great big pieces of apple in your pie, this is useless advice, but what my grandma taught me was to chop the apples pretty small, toss with flour, sugar, cinnamon and lemon, and let set for a while. This will bring out the juices to get nice and saucy, and fills the shell nicely.