This Northern Spy apple pie recipe is made with a single variety that goes into an easy filling made from scratch. The only complaint we’ve heard? That you simply must make two seeing as the first will disappear within seconds. Here’s how to make it.
This Northern Spy apple pie recipe is an idyllic way to use up the glut of apples that finds its way into your kitchen come autumn. Brimming with a mountain of sweet apples and redolent of sugar and spice and everything nice, this homemade pie is likely to convince you to leave behind the motley mix of pie apples from your past.–Angie Zoobkoff
*Why Northern Spy Apples In This Apple Pie?
Just to state the obvious, this Northern Spy apple pie was created with Northern Spy apples in mind. For those unfamiliar with it, the Northern Spy apple is a relatively sweet thing with some tartness. It bears a crisp, juicy fruit hidden by a thin skin in shades of pale red and green and sometimes yellowish streaks. It’s lovely when pressed into cider but it’s also perfect for pie. Indeed, rumor has it that the original name was Northern Pie apple, not Northern Spy apple. Our testers made this pie with all Gala apples (which turned out intensely sweet and wonderful) as well as the author’s suggested substitution of “a willy-nilly mix of Macoun, Empire, McIntosh, Golden Delicious, and a Granny Smith apple or two for good measure” (which was simply lovely).
A bit of background on this particular Northern Spy apple pie recipe. The creator explains that she used to make her apple pie “a little differently each year. My father had long insisted that Rhode Island Greenings were the best pie apple, but I never seemed to be able to find any when Thanksgiving rolled around, thereby inducing a tinge of guilt for never having personally decided upon a favorite pie apple. This all changed one autumn day when I came across a sumptuous display of Northern Spy apples at Crow Farm in Sandwich, Massachusetts. Because I had never seen these apples in New England supermarkets, I did some research and learned Northern Spy apples are nicknamed the ‘Pie Apple’ and are native to the American Northeast. How fortuitous—what more could I ask for? For the first time ever, I put together a pie with a single variety of apples and nary a complaint was heard. Some even crowned it the best apple pie they had ever tasted. Should you not be able to find Northern Spy apples, you can go back to my old method of mixing different apple varieties together for the filling. However, if you can find Northern Spys, you’ll be in for a treat.” That’s how this Northern Spy apple pie came to be. And we’re incredibly grateful for that.
Northern Spy Apple Pie
- 10-inch (25-cm) deep-dish pie plate
- 9 or 10 4 to 4 1/2 lbs Northern Spy apples*
- 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for the work surface
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- Pinch fine sea salt
- 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy (whipping) cream
- Cream Cheese Pie Crust or your favorite pie crust recipe
- Homemade vanilla ice cream for serving (optional)
- Aged Vermont Cheddar cheese for serving (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 375˚F (190°C). Adjust the oven rack to the center position. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil.
- Peel and core the apples and then cut them into a combination of slices and chunks that are 1/2 inch (1 cm) wide. You should have 11 to 12 cups of apples. Place the apples in a large bowl, add 3/4 cup (150 grams) sugar, the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt, and toss to coat evenly. Add 1/2 cup (118 ml) cream and toss again.
- Lightly flour a work surface. Roll 1 portion of pastry into a 12-inch (30-cm) circle. Ease the pastry into a 10-inch (25-cm) deep-dish pie plate, letting the extra pastry hang over the edge. Mound the apple filling into the pie crust. (It may look like a lot but the apples will cook down. Trust us.)
- Roll out the remaining pastry into a 12-inch (30-cm) circle. Gently drape it on top of the pie. Trim any excess from the edge of the pastry and crimp the top and bottom crusts together to seal. Any excess pastry can be used to make decorations on the top of the pie if you wish to get fancy.
- Lightly brush the top of the pie with the remaining 2 tablespoons (30 ml) cream and then sprinkle it evenly with the remaining 2 tablespoons (25 grams) sugar. Using a small sharp knife, cut several slits in the top of the pie crust to serve as vents for steam while the pie bakes. Place the pie on the prepared baking sheet to catch any drips during baking.
- Bake the pie until the crust is golden and the apples are tender and surrounded by bubbling juices, 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours. Be certain to check the pie after 1 hour and if the crust is golden brown, loosely cover the top with aluminum foil to prevent it from burning before continuing to bake until the filling is done.
- Let the pie cool for at least several hours and preferably overnight. This pie is much easier to serve and is even tastier when allowed to stand for at least 12 hours. If you must have the pie warm, simply reheat it in a 325°F (163°C) oven for about 10 minutes. Serve the pie cut into wedges topped with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream, if desired. The pie may also be served in true New England fashion with a wedge of crumbly aged Vermont Cheddar cheese.
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Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
I love to make pies and this Northern Spy apple pie definitely lived up to my expectations of a good homemade pie. The crust with the cream cheese was fantastic and added just enough tang to the sweet filling. They complemented each other very well! It does take a little time to make because you need to chill the pie crust so plan ahead. The crust is slightly better the next day, too, so don’t be afraid to make it the day before you want to have it (which actually helps cut down on what you need at the last minute for a more elaborate meal which is nice). I wasn’t able to find Northern Spy apples (too bad because I would have loved to try them) so I used Gala and they turned out well. A tarter apple would probably be preferred, but if you like sweet, then Gala will work. I felt like I was overfilling the pie, but it does come down as it cools. The only part I felt was lacking was in the flavor in the filling. When I make it again, I will probably double the cinnamon and nutmeg as it seemed a tad bland. I did like the heavy cream in it! And make sure to have the baking sheet beneath. It will save a lot of cleaning. Also, I covered the outside of the crust with aluminum foil before baking to avoid my thin edges getting burned and it’s a good thing. I took it off 15 minutes before it was done and they were perfectly brown, but not overdone. Overall a very good pie and well worth the effort!
In the name of all things food, I confess that even as an avid baker, I have not mustered the courage to ever bake an apple pie! After multiple requests, primarily from my daughter, it seemed like a celestial intervention that this Northern Spy apple pie recipe appeared in my inbox aptly timed at Thanksgiving. There were no Northern Spy apples in Florida so I used a combination of Empire, McIntosh, Golden Delicious, and Granny Smith apples.
Made 6 generous slices served with a dose of smile and love!
1. The pie was unbelievably light and delicate.
2. The crust has perky tang from cream cheese and cider vinegar.
3. The house smells likes Christmas.
4. It’s delightfully delicious.
5. Did I mention it got devoured within one minute after 12 hours of resting?
6. It is FOOL-proof.
1. Waiting patiently for 12 hrs.
2. Plan on making two pies because one will disappear within seconds.
Originally published October 16, 2016
Does this pie freeze well? If so any tips on baking after freezing?
Rhonda, we haven’t tried freezing this particular pie, but I’ve had great success with freezing pies in general. I think you could freeze before baking, and then bake directly from frozen.
Thank you! I have partially baked fresh peach pies and then froze. I baked from frozen and they were fine. I didn’t know if it I should partially bake the apple pie. Any thoughts on that?
If you’ve had success with partially baking the peach ones, David, then sure, I’d give it a try. I’ve never used the partial bake method, but it’s good to know that it works.
To avoid a gap between the apples and the piecrust Would it be wise to slightly cook the spy apples before you add the mixture to the apples.
Marlele, you can do that. Just make sure not to overcook them. You can also slice them thinly, which avoids all gaps.