Fall means a lot of things: hayrides, apple-picking, tailgating, and, of course, baking. When temperatures start to drop, we’re finally excited to turn on the oven. One of the season's greatest pleasures is, of course, apple pie. Over the years, we’ve shared many different versions of the all-American classic. From an easy skillet apple pie to fried apple hand pies, we’ve covered a lot of apple pie ground. So, which apples really are best for baking pies?
A staple food in the South for a long time, there are many varieties of apples that go way beyond the Red Delicious or the Granny Smith you see at the stores or farmer's market—and many of these beauties are better for one use or another. For example, Abermarle Pippin are best for cider. While Arkansas Black actually improve in flavor while they are in storage, so are good for keeping to eat fresh. My mother always used grocery-store Granny Smiths in her pies, but with a new interest in heirloom vegetables and fruits, start looking for alternatives to pop up at your local farmer’s market or grocery. Whether you grow them yourself (and you should!), or buy them, the apple harvest can last from June until early November, so that’s how we’ve decided to break up our picks for the best apples for pie. Here are just a few of the more unconventional picks that we recommend.
‘Carolina Red June’: This pale yellow selection originated in North Carolina. Sometimes you’ll see this early, aromatic fruit blushed with red. This apple isn’t a good storing apple, so if you get your hands on some of these beauties, either eat them fresh or bake them into a pie.
‘Ginger Gold’: This early season selection is one of the better early yellow apples. It originates from the orchard of Ginger Harvey in Virginia (hence the name). Sweet and tart, these apples are great for pie or apple sauce.
‘Freedom’: This mid-season apple is a large, round red fruit. We like to eat these pretty apples fresh, but their sweet-tart flavor expresses itself well when paired with spices and a flaky, buttery crust.
‘Grimes Golden’: A midseason golden apple, this fruit was discovered in West Virginia by Thomas Grimes around the turn of the 20th century. This medium-sized apple will store relatively well and is great for fresh eating, but we like its spicy-sweet flavor in desserts, including, of course, pie.
'Granny Smith’: No list would be complete without this mid-to-late season fruit. A favorite in Australia before it was introduced to the US, this large, bright green apple is known for its tart flesh. A good go-to for any baking project.
‘Mutsu’ or ‘Crispin’: This selection is available from mid to late season. A very large apple, you’ll recognize it by its blushed-red yellow skin and cream-colored crisp flesh. Another sweet-tart selection, this is a great apple for sauce or pie.
‘York Imperial’: This is a late-season apple that improves in flavor as it is kept. Consider saving several of these for Thanksgiving or Christmas pies. Discovered in 1830 near York, Pennsylvania, this apple will appear yellow or green, but blushes a bit pink. Its firm, juicy flesh bakes up beautifully.
For more information about apples and how to grow them, check out our New Southern Living Garden Book, which you can order here.