COLUMBIA, Mo. – Not to upset the apple cart, but not all apples are created equal for pie-making. It’s as American as apple pie to ponder which of the 7,500 varieties is the right pick for your fall dessert.
Tammy Roberts, University of Missouri Extension nutrition specialist, says you’ll love your pie a bushel and a peck more if you choose the right combination of sweetness, tartness, taste and texture.
Consider the texture and taste of the apple. Does it hold its shape? Does its flavor blend well with pungent spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice and cardamom? Nothing says “comfort food” like sugar-sweetened apples wrapped in a delicate crust.
“Some are sweeter than others, and some are more tart,” Roberts says. Their flavors are as different as apples and oranges, some would say. “Some apples fall apart more when cooked. There are different degrees of firmness, crispness, acidity and juiciness.”
Roberts says many bakers prefer a mix of sweet and tart varieties. “Generally speaking, the best pie apples are a drier, slightly acidic apple,” she says.
Two of Missouri’s top apples, Jonathan and Golden Delicious, are good choices for pies, Roberts said. Other good choices in Missouri include Cortland, Granny Smith and Honey Crisp.
Stay away from Red Delicious, Gala and McIntosh varieties when choosing apples for pies. But put them in your grocery cart for delicious, healthy snacks, Roberts says.
Buy locally grown apples or pick your own at a Missouri orchard where there is an abundant crop this year, Roberts says. Choose an apple that is heavy for its size as an indicator of moistness and freshness. Also, check for a smooth skin and good color.
Apples sold year-round may have been stored in an atmospherically controlled room before shipping. “The longer they are away from the tree, the more likely they are to lose some of their nutritional value and flavor,” Roberts says.
Consider the costs of pie-making also. The cost of ready-made crusts is about $2.68 while the cost to make two crusts from scratch is $1.26 cents, Roberts says. And count on using six apples at a cost of about $3.18. If you are lucky enough to have a tree, or a friend with a tree, and you make your own crust, it’s less than $1.50.
“The bottom line is that it really is a matter of personal preference,” Roberts says. “I think a pie made with any type of apple would not go to waste in my house.”
Roberts recommends the following choices for fall favorites:
• Apple salad. Choose any favorite apple. Leave the skin on for appearance and best nutritional value. Mix different-colored varieties to make the salad more attractive.
• Applesauce. Golden Delicious, Idared and McIntosh are good choices.
• Apple cake. Use Rome Beauty or Cortland varieties because they are less watery.