Ready... set... bake!
Thanksgiving is upon us, and like Fred the Baker on those old Dunkin' Donuts ads, "It's time to make the doughnuts." Pumpkin doughnuts, naturally. And cranberry bread. And dinner rolls.
And apple pie, of course, because what's Thanksgiving without a glorious apple pie on the sideboard?
Sure, you want a nice, fresh, preferably oven-warm pie. But who has time for peeling, coring, and slicing the apples, juicing a lemon, mixing the spices... on Thanksgiving morning? Or even the day before?
There's absolutely no need to stress over apple pie less than 24 hours before sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner. You can prepare the pie entirely (save for baking it) and freeze the whole thing, then pop it into the oven once the turkey comes out.
Or you can make the crust dough ahead, wrap, and chill or freeze. Or roll it out, stick it in its pie pan, and freeze or chill.
And you can definitely make the filling up to 4 or 5 days ahead, and stash it in the fridge; or even farther ahead, and freeze it. When the time comes to assemble the pie, your filling's ready to spoon into the crust: just like Comstock in a can, only tastier. (My fellow test baker Susan Reid likes to pre-bake her filling.)
Me, I prefer to simply sauté it. Ten minutes on the stovetop, and you're done – the filling finished and in the fridge, letting you move on to other delicious tasks.
Making an apple pie for Thanksgiving? Make the filling today. Here's how.
Sauté the apples in butter
My favorite apple pie filling includes 2 tablespoons butter. So I start by melting the butter in a large frying pan. I add the apples and cook for a few minutes, stirring occasionally, while I mix my sugar and spices.
Add sugar and spice
I stir the sugar and spices into the pan, and cook for a few minutes more.
Cook until apples soften
How long? Maybe 5 minutes, however long it takes for your apples to start noticeably softening. They should be fork-tender, yet still hold their shape.
This will happen almost immediately with McIntosh and Cortland; in a few minutes with Granny Smith, and longer for many orchard-fresh heirloom varieties, like Northern Spy.
Meanwhile, I mix together my two thickeners – flour and cornstarch.
I add the flour and cornstarch to the pan.
Stir to combine
Stir, then cook over low heat for about a minute – basically just to make sure everything is well combined.
The final touch
I remove the pan from the heat, stir in my lemon juice and boiled cider ...
... and transfer the filling to a lidded container.
Into the fridge (or freezer) it goes.
Easy as pie!
Come Thanksgiving Day, the filling will be spooned into pie crust. My Easy No-Roll Pie Crust – pat-into-the-pan crust being another way to save time on your pie-baking.
Another plus: pre-cooking the filling means it's already "settled," and you won't experience that annoying gap that sometimes develops between filling and top crust.
Now how hard was that? Get yourself into the kitchen and make your apple pie filling now – so you can relax later.
Happy Thanksgiving! May your time with family and friends be sweet as honey – and easy as pie!
Psst ... if you want some extra guidance on the pie-baking front, we've got you covered with our complete Pie Baking Guide.
I haven't provided specific amounts for the ingredients in this post because I want you to try this method with your own favorite pie filling. Just remember, sauté the apple slices in butter; then add the sugar and spice; then the thickener; and finally any liquids, like lemon juice or boiled cider. Let me know how it works out for you, OK?