The Best Pie Apples for Your Pie

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Will Rogers “never met a man he didn’t like.” I never met an apple I didn’t like.

And it seems I’m not alone.

With the countless varieties of apples in Nino’s produce department, and more on the way as the harvest season for many apple varieties is just beginning, there’s an apple out there for nearly every person’s tastes.

Apples may have been the forbidden fruit, but nowadays, there’s nothing forbidding people from enjoying this delicious tree fruit in their favorite condiments, desserts, salads and entrees.

And while there may be an apple for everyone, not every apple was meant for every dish, especially pies.
The perfect pie apple MUST have a great taste, but it also needs a couple of other important characteristics. It must have a good balance of sweetness to tartness, and even more important, a flesh that has the ability to yield some of its firmness to tender chunks while also contributing some to the pie’s sauce.

Generally speaking, the best eating-out-of-hand apples don’t make good pies. The perfect example is the Red Delicious, which turns mushy, mealy and nothing like it tastes raw. Ironically, the Golden Delicious is somewhat the opposite and is considered a rather good pie apple. So much for a name, huh?

My solution is a combination of the better-cooking apples, which give you a medley of tastes, all of which, in the end, have similar cooking characteristics.

Typically, a 9” pie uses about 6 to 8 apples, depending on the depth of your pie shell and how high you want to pile your apples. My apple blends use an equal amount of each apple.

Here are my personal choices:

My 3-Choice Blend includes:

Golden Delicious, Pink Lady,

and Braeburn

My 4-Choice Blend includes:

Golden Delicious, Pink Lady, Braeburn, and Honey Crisp

My 5-Choice Blend includes:

Golden Delicious, Pink Lady, Braeburn, Honey Crisp, and Granny Smith

My thoughts on the above selections:

  • Golden Delicious is a good base apple and is included in all my blends. It has a good apple flavor when cooked and a great body to bind any other apple you add to the mix. (Let’s just say it knows how to play well with others.)
  • Pink Ladies have a perfect sweetness for pies and just a bit more acidity than Golden Delicious does. It’s another apple with just the right texture for a pie (when cooked).
  • Braeburn adds a superior apple flavor and acidity, and of the three, it holds its shape better.
  • Honey Crisp adds its spicy sweetness and mild tartness to stand out in the crowd, but for an exceptional eating apple, it breaks down nicely. It’s the exception to the rule. If your pie slice contains a few chunks, you’ll smile.
  • Granny Smith is the tart of the bunch here, which is why it’s in my 5-Blend Choice list and not in the others. If I use this apple in a more limited blend, I just add a bit more sugar. Otherwise, this great pie apple takes the leading role (and that’s fine too if you like that flavor profile–some do).

Other Great Choices for blends include Mutsu, Ida Red, Jonathan, Cameo and Northern Spy. Good Choices include McIntosh, Gala, Fuji, Cortland, Jonagold and Gingergold.

If you’re really in the mood for a GREAT homemade apple pie, check out some of my blogs and recipes below. They’ll help you get started!

Pies, Crisps and Cobblers

Nino’s Apple Guide

Making the Perfect Pie Crust