13 Heirloom Apples Your Grandma Used for the Perfect Pie
The next time you’re craving apple pie, skip the grocery store and head to the farmers market! You’ll be much more likely to find amazing heritage apples that are ideal for baking. Here are 13 to seek out.
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The Northern Spy is a mostly sweet but slightly tart apple that grows best in cooler climates like Michigan and upstate New York. They aren’t classic beauties—they have an irregular, lumpy shape and dull greenish-red color—but they’re firmer and crunchier than most apples and bake up splendidly!
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Carolina Red June
One of the more popular apples in the South is the Carolina Red June, and it’s been used in pies since the mid-1800s. This early apple is small, and its flesh is white with red staining, tender, and juicy. The Carolina Red June has a crisp, complex flavor that will give your pie some character!
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The Gravenstein apple originated in Denmark, but you can find it in many West Coast states these days. It’s a gorgeous apple with juicy flesh and a great flavor accentuated with notes of honey. It also makes a wonderful batch of applesauce
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You’ve probably heard of the Braeburn apple, a natural cross between the Granny Smith and Lady Hamilton varieties that has its origins in New Zealand. This bi-colored beauty is the epitome of a sweet-tart apple, and its yellow flesh is extremely juicy and crisp.
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Rhode Island Greening
The state apple of Rhode Island, the Rhode Island Greening, is a very tart, firm, and juicy apple that’s proven ideal for pies. It’s similar to the well-known Granny Smith variety in size, color, and texture, but many folks prefer the flavor.
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This small, vibrantly pink apple (sometimes referred to as Pink Lady) has a crunchy texture and a tart taste with a sweet finish. The white flesh is so juicy and crisp that some say it has a fizzy burst of flavor. Interestingly, the flesh is slow to oxidize when cut, making it well-suited for cheese boards.
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Originating in New York in the early 1800s, the Twenty Ounce apple is named as such because of its large size. It has thick, tough green and red skin, but the flesh beneath is delicate and juicy.
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Have you ever heard of the Yellow Bellflower? This rare, lemon-colored apple hails from New Jersey and its pale, creamy flesh has a complex sweetness and is firm, crisp, aromatic and juicy. These apples improve after some storage (read our storage tips here), and in addition to pies, they make wonderful cider.
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Winesap apples are a more common heirloom variety, and they’re perfect for pies—juicy, sweet yet tart, and strongly flavored. Because they’re so succulent, they add moisture and a sweet flavor to bread, muffins and cakes, and their firm texture makes them a good apple for pies. They’d be great in any of our top 10 apple desserts!
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The Arkansas Black apple, thought to be an heir of the Winesap, originated in Arkansas around 1870. With its deep purple hue, this apple is stunning, and its yellow flesh has a coarse texture and tart flavor that make it perfect for pies. It requires an extended period of storage to soften both the texture and the tartness, but it’s worth the wait!
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The Cameo apple was discovered in the state of Washington in an orchard of Red Delicious apple trees, and it’s thought to be a cross of Red and Golden Delicious since it exhibits the best qualities of both. It holds its shape well in a pie and delivers a satisfyingly sweet and tart flavor.
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Idareds are the quintessential apple; they’re the ones you give to your favorite teacher as a kid. Their firm, juicy flesh is sometimes tinted pink, and if you keep the skins on while making pie or applesauce, your end result will have a lovely pink hue!
Don’t know how to make applesauce? Follow our Test Kitchen tips.
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If you like a McIntosh, give the Cortland apple a try! It’s just a little bit tart, and it has a wonderfully crisp, finely grained flesh that will help your pie keeps its shape. You can often identify these apples by their bright red color and rather flat shape. Don’t judge an apple by its shape!