Entering Apple Pie Zone

REV UP YOUR KITCHENS, ladies and gentlemen We have now officially entered the year’s biggest apple pie-making zone: Thanksgiving week. These next few days are your last chance to experiment with a new apple pie or practice your favorite recipe one final time before you make your pièce de résistance this Thursday.

Make sure you make enough to have some left over for breakfast Friday morning, but remember a pie’s greatest strength and weakness: it must be eaten straight away. For tips about how to take your pie from crust to oven, view the accompanying video featuring Andrea Darrow, Green Mountain Orchards, Putney, Vermont.

McIntosh apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)
McIntosh apple (Bar Lois Weeks)

“If you bake one apple pie a week, or two a month, that’s 25 or 50 pies you will make in the coming year. At the end of the year, I guarantee you’ll be the best apple pie maker on your block — and you’ll have more friends than you’ll know what to do with.”

— Ken Haedrich, author of Apple Pie Perfect (Harvard Common Press, 2002)

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AT THE EASTERN STATES EXPOSITION (“The Big E”) this September, we staffed our New England Apples booth for the entire 17-day fair, succeeding in selling bushels of five-inch apple pies, sometimes at the rate of 135 a day! As you may guess, we fielded a myriad of apple pie making-questions, especially on the apple varieties that produce the best results.

Imagine my excitement, then, when a self-proclaimed expert pie maker stopped by to “talk shop.” I was dough in his hands as he related his secret tips for a flaky pastry crust, a perfect mix of sweet and tart apples to use, and, most exciting of all, an answer to an all-consuming question of mine: What is your favorite apple pie?

He answered without hesitation and with the enthusiastic support of his entire extended family: “Blackberry-Apple Pie.” So, here goes, as best as I can remember it.

Blackberry-Apple Pie

1 2-crust pastry shell

2 c blackberries

1/4 c sugar

2 T fresh-squeezed lemon juice

*6 c New England apples, peeled, cored, and sliced

2-3 T cornstarch

2 T sugar

1 t cinnamon

pinch of nutmeg

In large bowl, mash together blackberries, sugar, and lemon juice. Add apples and toss. In small bowl, combine cornstarch, 2 T sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Stir this into fruit mixture. Assemble pie as usual and bake at 400ºF for 30 minutes; reduce temperature to 375ºF and continue baking for 40 more minutes or until pie juice bubbles thickly out the steam vents.

*His apple choices:  2 McIntosh, 2 Northern Spy, and 1 Baldwin. In addition to his, my favorites include: Jonathan, Macoun, Cortland, Rome, Gravenstein, Winesap, and, if you can find them, Rhode Island Greening.

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Empire apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)
Empire apple (Bar Lois Weeks)

“The best pie apple is a matter of personal preference and a reflection of the quality of a given apple at a given time of year. And it’s a moving target. The Northern Spy apples in your neck of the woods might be super one year, the Jonathan apples a little better the following year. The Golden Delicious apples you find in your supermarket could be great one week, not so great a month from now.”

— Ken Haedrich, Apple Pie Perfect

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The mad peeler at work

NEARLY 20 YEARS AGO now, Cindy Keating of Southampton, Massachusetts, and three of her friends got together in Cindy’s kitchen for an afternoon of apple pie-making. They had a great time, the conversation and flour were flying. But the big hit was the corer and peeler Cindy had clamped onto her counter. It was so much fun to use that one of her friends refused to relinquish it, and just kept peeling apple after apple.

No matter. They ended up with four delicious apple pies by the end of the day, and an enduring memory.

Here’s Cindy’s recipe. She can’t recall where she found it, but has made it many times since. The sour cream, she says, coats the apples and suspends them in a delicious, custard-like filling.

Sour Cream Apple Pie

1 9” pie crust


2 c New England apples, peeled, cored, and sliced

2 T flour

½ c sugar

¼ t salt

1 c sour cream

1 egg, slightly beaten

1½ t vanilla


1/3 c flour

1/3 c sugar

½ t cinnamon

¼ c butter

Blend together with pastry knife or fork.

Place apples in pie shell. Combine flour, sugar, and salt in a bowl. Add sour cream, egg, and vanilla. Beat until smooth, and pour over apples. Bake at 425ºF for 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 350ºF and bake for 20 minutes more.

Increase temperature to 400ºF. Add topping to pie and bake for 10 minutes more.

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Cortland apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)
Cortland apple (Bar Lois Weeks)

“Making a gorgeous, delicious apple pie is one of the easiest tricks in the home cook’s bag of kitchen skills. Loan me any 10-year-old for a couple of hours, and I’ll teach him to make an apple pie — not because I’m such a great teacher, but because there’s nothing to it: you mix a pastry, roll the pastry, prepare the filling, put it in the pie shell, and bake it. In one session, you can master 90 percent of what you need to know.”

— Ken Haedrich, Apple Pie Perfect

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WE’VE TOPPED THE CENTURY MARK! There are now photographs and descriptions of more than 100 apple varieties on the New England Apples website, newenglandapples.lndo.site. You’ll find a wealth of other information about apples and New England orchards, as well.