Read this before your apple picking escapade.

By Betty Gold
September 10, 2020
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Baking apple pie and celebrating the start of the fall season go hand in hand. The scent of warm, cinnamon-scented apples baked into buttery pie crust alongside a mug of sweet spiced cider = sweater weather perfection.

As with most much-loved dessert recipes, nailing any homemade apple pie recipe comes down to two things: technique (find the best method according to Chef Thomas Keller here) and top-quality ingredients, meaning the apples you use.

Growing up, I was always under the impression that Golden Delicious was The One for pie. “They don’t taste great raw,” my mother would say, “but that soft, mealy texture is ideal for baking. Who wants to crunch into a crispy apple when eating pie?” Not to knock my mom (or the idea of “common knowledge”), but this doesn’t completely cover it. Golden Delicious apples are a solid apple pie option, but they aren’t worthy of being The One.

The Best Apples for Apple Pie

We asked the ultimate apple expert, Amy Traverso, author of The Apple Lover’s Cookbook. Her answer? It comes down to using a perfectly balanced blend of sweet-sour flavored apples that all have a firm (read: neither soft nor mealy) texture.

“A general rule of thumb for choosing apples for pie is that you want firm apples with varying degrees of sweetness and tartness,” explains Traverso. “For firm-sweet apples, I like Baldwin, Jonagold, Gravenstein, Pink Lady, Opal, and Jazz. For firm-tart apples, I like Arkansas Black, Esopus Spitzenburg, Goldrush, Granny Smith, Newtown Pippen, Northern Spy, Roxbury Russet, and Suncrisp, among others.”

If pressed to choose just one, Traverso says that she’d go with an old New England apple called Northern Spy. “It bakes to just the right texture and sweet-tart balance.” That being said, Traverso affirms that the best apple pies are made with a combination of varieties. “Some apples are sweeter, some are juicier, some are lemony, and others syrupy. Some stay very firm and some soften in cooking. Multi-variety pies give you that whole spectrum of flavors and textures.”

Don’t have to ask us twice. Warm some Molasses-Spiced Spiked Apple Cider on the stove as you try using a spectrum of sweet-tart apple varieties (including Northern Spy) in our favorite Old-Fashioned Apple Pie recipe here.