Monday, September 18, 2017

Question for the Community: Which Apple Varieties for Pies?


A Reader Question for the Community:
It is getting to be Apple Pie season. Which combinations of apples do folks recommend for pie? Pointers to suitable heirloom varieties would be especially appreciated.
Backyard Tree; Variety Unknown





21 comments:

  1. For a brief time I lived in a little town called Biglerville, next to Gettysburg, which is considered the apple capitol of PA and also, the original home of Musselman's cannery. In fact, the National Apple Museum is located there. My landlord, a prominent women in town at the time, taught me how to make my first apple pie. She said to get the best results, you need to use a variety of apples, up to 3 types. Does anyone else agree with that advice?

    My grandmother always used the Summer Rambo apple for applesauce, an early variety that I seldom see anymore, but I don't know if they're heirloom. I'm a McIntosh user because they're tart. A friend's son, who worked in the local orchard, told his mother they're the "old people's" apple! The younger, cooler people prefer Honeycrisps. There are so many newer types of apples on the market and I miss seeing many of the old names such as: Jonathan, Rome Beauties, Macoun, Cortland, Winesap, and Northern Spy. By the way, when did Granny Smith get to be an American staple? I know I didn't grow up with them, but I did learn that they're the lowest in sugar content.

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    1. I see, Muffy, where you already answered my question in "Apple Pie for Breakfast" about combining a variety of apples for texture and flavor. It seems to make a pie more exciting, doesn't it!

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    2. JVK: We are going to upstate NY next month and always come back with a variety of apples. All those you mention above are still available at least in the Hudson River Valley. Winesap, good for pie and eating. My favorite apple of all time is Stamen red a Winesap variety. Have not found it in the eastern US. PA

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    3. PA, I know what you mean by NY state apples - the growing conditions are great in the Hudson River Valley. When my daughter was in college, every fall break around Columbus Day we would spend some time at the Mohonk Mt. House in New Platz. On the way home we would look forward to stopping at the multiple apple stands outside of town to splurge on anything containing apples including the biggest apple pie I ever saw. Enjoy your trip. (I love that area and need to go back again soon!)

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  2. I like my apple pies a little on the tart side - Granny Smiths.

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  3. JVK, I agree about using a variety. I like to use a little of something bright and tart, like a Granny Smith (which has a great texture for pie but is too tart to use on its own) and something a bit more on the middle on the tartness and firmness scale, like a Braeburn or a Honeycrisp. (Jonagolds are also amazing, but they get mealy if they're not fresh.) Finally I like something with a sweeter, more "apple-y" flavor, but that may end up softer when baked, like a Golden Delicious or Mutsu.

    Alternately, if you don't like the tartness of including Granny Smith, or if you don't want to bother with two or three kinds of apples, you can use something like a Golden Delicious or Braeburn but gently pre-cook your apples to stabilize them a bit. You can either pour simmering water (or cider!) over them and let them steep for about 10 minutes or you can microwave a little at a time until they come up to about 150 F and then hold them for 10 minutes. You can find a more detailed description of how to do this at the site Serious Eats.

    For heirloom varieties, if you can get them, I'd recommend the Rhode Island Greening in the role of Granny Smith, and a combination of Baldwins, Northern Spy, and/or Roxbury Russet in the sweet but a bit tart role.

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    1. I appreciate your tips, Anon@1:38. It seems you have some experience with various varieties of apples. I will check out Serious Eats to understand more about the stabilizing process as I've never heard of it. Also, the Greening is new to me, maybe because it's a New England apple. Good to know it' similar to a Granny Smith. I've never used Golden Delicious in pies, only stewed with butter as my great aunt always made.

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  4. Many years ago in Northern California, our family had several Red Gravenstein trees. The apples had a mild, tart flavor. My mother preferred them for applesauce, but our Norwegian neighbors made some wonderful pies. Despite my father's best efforts, the pies seemed to work better with Vanilla ice cream more than cheddar! Good memories.

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  5. It may sound boring, but simply Cortlands.

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  6. One fall we picked apples from an orchard in east Tennessee. I used them for the best pie I've ever made. They were called Arkansas Black. Have not seen them since then. If you ever get the chance, try them.

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  7. Oh, the best kind of apples to use are the apples you have on hand when the craving hits and you decide to bake your own pie! I have had fabulous pies made from apples of all sorts. Just don't overthink it and bake!

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    1. Excellent advice. There are SO many varieties of apples, even apple growers can't identify many and distinguish between them. Just bake, eat, and enjoy!

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  8. Bramley apples (aka "cooking apples"), which are common in the UK and Ireland but difficult to find in the US. (We did find some in Pennsylvania two years ago). They're significantly tarter than Granny Smiths and very well suited to pies and other apple-based desserts.

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  9. Of course there are many quality varieties of apples with their own special characteristics but they can vary from season to season and even from tree to tree but there is an apple(?)pie made from an ingredient that does not vary, never, and that is the Mock Apple Pie, made from Ritz Crackers. Ever tried it? Not bad.

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    1. Had it one time many years ago. You are right, not bad....PA

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  10. I have to agree with the person who chose golden delicious and braeburn. braeburn tends to be a little less mushy than golden delicious, but golden delicious tastes particularly good baked. if you like a little bit of tart flavor, pink lady is an offshoot of granny smith that has some tartness, but not as 'in-your-face' as the granny smith.

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  11. I have to agree with James B----hands down Red Gravenstein for pies. Their season is short here in Northern California (July and August) but they are cherished because so many orchards are being ripped out to plant grapes.

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  12. Last weekend, we baked pies using a mixture of local apples: Ginger Gold, McIntosh, Granny Smith, and Stayman. This combination turned out well. The McIntosh falls apart when baked, but it helps fill the gaps between thick slices of the other apples; it also adds good flavour.

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  13. For an heirloom, see if you can find a Shockley Apple (south). Also in the south, Arkansas Blacks are excellent. Whatever the apple, try a nice slice of cheddar cheese with your apple pie. Outstanding.

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