Apple Pie: Its History and Variations
Even though the apple pie had been eaten a long time before it was brought to the colonies by the British, Dutch, and Swedes during the 17th and 18th centuries, this tasty fruit pie has become representative of American culture, which is apparent by the existence of sayings such as “as American as apple pie”.
Because there were no native apples in North America, with the exception of crabapples, also known as wild apples, the early settlers had to wait a while before European apple seeds matured and became fruit-bearing apple trees. But just because there were no apples for a while didn’t stop the colonists from making pies in general. Instead of apples, they used meat, calling their creation a meat coffin. In the 18th century, the New Sweden historian Dr. Israel Acrelius noted in a letter, “Apple pie is used throughout the whole year, and when fresh Apples are no longer to be had, dried ones are used. It is the evening meal of children”. Clearly, apple pie had quickly become a staple of American cuisine. It didn’t take a long time for several variations to appear and spread across the country. These days, apple pies are made with all sorts of different apples, and there are as many apple pie recipes as there are people who love to make a homemade apple pie for just about any occasion.
Apple Pie Recipes
Apple pie filling is arguably the most important part of every apple pie. There are several popular apple cultivars that are widely considered to be best apples for apple pie, and they include:
Braeburn: Discovered by chance in 1952 by the farmer O. Moran from Waiwhero in New Zealand, this popular cultivar of apple is firm and characterized by a red/orange vertical streaky appearance on a yellow background. Because Braeburn apples don’t change their shape and don’t release too much liquid during cooking, they are great for making tarts.
Gala: Ranked number two on the US Apple Association’s list of most popular apple cultivars, Gala apples are sweet, aromatic, vertically striped, and great for cooking as well as eating raw. This apple cultivar traces its origin to New Zealand, but it has also spread to the United States and the United Kingdom. Gala apples should be stored in a very humid environment.
Cortland: This native New York apple was named after Cortland County, New York. It took apple breeders quite a long time to bring out the characteristic features of this apple cultivar, which include its sweet flavor, dark red stripes, and white flesh.
Bramley: This apple cultivar is seldom eaten raw because of its very sour taste. While the sour taste makes Bramley apples quite an unappetizing snack, it also makes them a fantastic fruit for tarts, pies, and dumplings. Cooked Bramley apples don’t have such a strong taste as uncooked Bramley apples, yet they still surprise with the distinct flavor that has won them many awards.
Empire: There’s nothing like a bowl of red, juicy, sweet Empire apples. You may feel bad for using Empire apples to make an apple pie since they are an ideal lunch-box apple cultivar, but once you first eat an apple pie made with Empire apples, we guarantee that you won’t think twice about using them for cooking again.
Northern Spy: Popular in upstate New York, Northern Spy apples originated in East Bloomfield, New York in about 1800. They have green color with red stripes, and they are used for pies and cider. Due to their late maturation, Northern Spy apples tend to last longer, making them ideal for storage.
Granny Smith: Named after Maria Ann Smith, a British-Australian orchardist who propagated the cultivar from a chance seedling, Granny Smith apples are hard, green, juicy, and great for cooking. Granny Smith apples are very high in antioxidants, boasting the highest concentration of phenols of all apple cultivars. What’s more, Granny Smith apples are low in calories, so you can use them to make a diet-friendly apple pie.
McIntosh: This Canadian apple cultivar has inspired Apple Inc. employee Jef Raskin to name the iconic line of personal computers after the fruit. McIntosh apples are extremely versatile, being suitable for both cooking as well as eating raw. Now that we know which apples are suitable for making apple pies, it’s time to look at several popular apple pie recipes, starting with a recipe for the classic apple pie everyone’s grandma used to make.
Classic Apple Pie
To make a classic Apple pie:
combine ½ cup of sugar and ½ cup of brown sugar in a small bowl
add 3 tablespoons of all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon of ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon of ground ginger
¼ teaspoon of ground nutmeg
Mix everything as well as you can and set the bowl aside.
Get a large bowl and fill it with 6 to 7 cups of thinly sliced peeled tart apples.
Add 1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice and the content of the small bowl.
In another bowl, combine 2 cups of all-purpose flour and ¾ teaspoon of salt. Slowly add water and toss the dough with a fork until it forms a ball. Divide the ball in two, with one ball being slightly larger than the other. Roll out the larger ball and transfer it to pie plate. Trim the edges so they are even with the edge of your plate. Fill the plate with your apple mixture and roll out the smaller ball. Position it over the filling and cut several slits in pastry. Beat one large egg white until it’s foamy and brush it over pastry. You may sprinkle it with sugar. Bake at 375° for 25 minutes.
Apple Pie Varieties
The above-described easy apple pie recipe is everything you need to make a delicious homemade apple pie, and many even consider it to be the best apple pie recipe there is. But if you would like to try something different, you should try to make a traditional Dutch apple pie. Dutch apple pies differ from classic apple pies in several important ways. They often include ingredients such as full-cream butter, raisins, and almond paste, in addition to all the ingredients one needs to make a classic apple pie. Traditionally, Dutch apple pies were baked in a typical Dutch oven, which is a thick-walled cooking pot with a tight-fitting lid used as a cooking vessel for hundreds of years.
You can also make an English-style apple pie, which dates to the 14th century and includes apples, spices, figs, raisins, and pears. A French-style apple pie is upside down, with the fruit being caramelized. Also worth mentioning is the Swedish-style apple pie, which calls for breadcrumbs instead of flour. This apple pie is often served with vanilla custard or ice cream, and there are even variations with others fruits and vegetables. And once you get sick of baking, you can try preparing some apple pie moonshine. Just combine apple juice with apple cider, white sugar, brown sugar, and cinnamon sticks in a large pot, and bring it to a boil. Cover the pot with a lid, lower the heat, and simmer for an hour. Add your favorite grain alcohol and a bottle of vodka, take out the cinnamon sticks, and serve. Just be careful not to consume this tasty drink too quickly because it packs quite a punch for something that tastes like an apple pie in a jar.
Apple Pie Baking Tips
The best part of any apple pie are the apples, right? If you agree, then you should definitely use a deep dish to maximize the amount of filling you can fit inside your apple pie. The more apples you use, the healthier your apple pie will be. Speaking of healthy, do you know that you can make apples sweeter without adding sugar? All you need to do is pre-cook them in a Dutch oven over medium heat until they become tender and start to break down, which usually happens in 10 minutes. There’s a good reason why we started this article by listing popular kinds of apples for making a delicious apple pie. Use a wrong kind, and you can bet that your apple pie won’t taste even half as good as it would with the right kind of apple. When you find two or three kinds of apples that you like, try mixing them together to achieve surprising results. Finally, don’t forget to have some fun with your apple pie. The world won’t end if you don’t manage to get a deep golden-brown upper crust. You can carve into it, sprinkle it with cinnamon, or come up with something that nobody has ever tried before.