Sure you can grab a can of apple pie filling, but homemade is SO much better!
What makes it better? A variety of apples. Variety is the spice of life and also the trick for the best homemade apple pies. But not just pies- spoon it over ice cream, make it into a pastry, use in dumplings and more!
Best Apples for Apple Pie
There are three elements to be aware of for apple pie filling.
Taste– Some like tart and others prefer sweet, while some in the middle. This is a matter of preference. I like a tart apple with sweet sauce.
Texture– Something that is form and holds its shape will do best to give your baked item body. I try to avoid mealy varieties for baking.
Availability- This one might be super obvious, but if you just visited your apple orchard and you picked buckets of some sort of apple, then those are the best for your pie filling on that particular day.
Quick Guide to Apples
- Fuji- Dense and crispy with a honey, citrus and pear flavor
- Crispin– big, juicy, crisp with sweet, slightly tart flavor and a lovely hue of green-ish-yellow
- Braeburn- Bi-colored, these are the most popular for cooking because they have strong flavor with hints of cinnamon and nutmeg and hold up well
- Honeycrisp– Sweet and tangy, great for sweet and savory applications because the flavor stays strong
- Granny Smith– Amazingly juicy and puckering- tart, they are firm and great for baking
- Golden Delicious– Sweet and crunchy, not so much tart
Apples that aren’t great for baking: McIntosh (break down too easy), Red Delicious (too mealy), Gala (too mild in flavor), Empire (break down easy)
How To Make Apple Pie Filling
Making your own filling is pretty easy with the most challenging part merely being peeling and chopping apples. Sigh. Gather your ingredients for apple pie filling recipe:
- Fresh apples- all one kind of apple or a variety
- Lemon juice– prevents browning and gives acid
- Sugar– for sweetness
- Brown sugar- adds a rich molasses touch
- Cornstarch– for thickening
- Ground cinnamon– best freshly ground
- Ground nutmeg– best freshly ground
- Coarse sea salt– to brighten the other flavors and provide balance
- If you make a lot of apple pies, invest in a hand crank peeler. Yes, it seems old school, but it is worth it to peel all the apples. Otherwise, use a Y peeler or if you are really good with knives, a simple paring knife.
- Decide what size you want. They can be cubes or slices, just make sure they are all a similar, uniform size so they cook evenly.
- Toss apples with lemon juice. This prevents browning.
- Stir together sugars, cornstarch, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt along with water and bring to a simmer.
- Add apples and return to a low simmer, cover and cook. Apples should easily pierce with a fork and sauce will have reduced and thickened.
- Remove from heat and allow to cool before using or freezing.
Storage & Freezing
Apple pie filling is freezing friendly, but make sure you wait until it is fully cooled and then transfer to air tight containers or plastic bags. Freeze for 4-6 months. Thaw before using.
It will also stay good covered in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
I do not can items, but it is ideal for canning following these instructions.
Recipes that Use Apple Pie Filling
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Homemade Apple Pie Filling
- In a large bowl, toss the apples with the lemon juice. This prevents browning. Set aside.
- In a large dutch oven or saucepan, stir together both the sugars, cornstarch cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Add 4 cups of water and bring to a low simmer.
- Add the apples and return to a low simmer. Cover and cook for 6-10 minutes. If you cut your apples into bite-sized pieces, it will be closer to 6 minutes, but larger slices will be 10 minutes. Apples should easily pierce with a fork and sauce will have reduced and thickened.
- Remove from heat and allow to cool.
- Use after cooling, can or freeze.
- If you’ve tried this recipe, come back and let us know how it was in the comments or ratings!