The Magic of Heirloom Apples

The Magic of Heirloom Apples

Explore Old and New Culinary Traditions with Heirloom Apples

Every heirloom apple is a one-of-a-kind experience. Chosen for flavor and different uses, from baking to eating out-of-hand, heirloom apple varieties have been beloved and sought out for generations. Heirlooms are older varieties that have been saved and grafted over many generations, sometimes for centuries. Unlike modern apple varieties you might find in the grocery store that exhibit predictable traits, like size, color, and storage life, heirloom apples are known for their complex flavors and funny (some might say unattractive) shapes and colors. Some heirloom apples can take several months of storage to get sweet enough to eat out of hand, making late fall the perfect time of year to start experimenting with eating and cooking new varieties!

Special edition "pie mix" heirloom apple discovery pack
A special edition Heirloom Pie Mix, available through the Heirloom Discovery Pack. Photo by Scott Farm.

You can look for late-season heirloom apples at your favorite orchard and grocery store. This month, the Heirloom Apple Discovery Pack from Scott Farm will feature a special Pie Mix, with time-tested varieties to make your pies, crisps, and baked apples the talk of the table. The Heirloom Apple Discovery Pack is available at Whole Foods Markets throughout the region.

There are lots of reasons we think heirloom apples are magical, but one of the main reasons is the wide variety of flavor profiles. Each heirloom apple has a distinct taste and texture, allowing budding and veteran chefs to experiment with different uses for different apples. Some flavors, either the depth of the apple’s sweetness or the bite of its tartness, can even become more pronounced and complex with storage, while others are best enjoyed straight off the tree. Some apples offer a satisfactorily crisp crunch, while others are soft and compliant and begging to be made into sauce.

We’ve rounded up the best uses for heirloom apple varieties that can be found right here on Northeast farms, plus recipes to go along with each use, from fresh eating to baked into a pie! Continue reading to learn how to best use your heirloom apples. Below, you’ll find ideas for the best heirlooms to use in recipes for eating fresh apples; applesauce; baking apples; cider apples; and a savory, spicy twist on a traditional apple pie, all using heirloom apple varieties. Enjoy!

Jump to the recipes:

Discovering New Traditions with Old Varieties of Heirloom Apples 

In 2020, Red Tomato invited Celeste Croxton-Tate to a virtual discussion joined by Simon Renault of Scott Farm, to inspire more fun and surprising ways to cook with heirloom apples. Celeste is a celebrated cookbook author and owner of Lyndigo Spice. Celeste grew up in Roxbury, a neighborhood in Boston, and lived in a building where “everyone that lived there was from somewhere else.” Places like Jamaica, Trinidad, and Montserrat, are just a few of the culinary influences she credits for inspiring her cooking. Celeste said that growing up, “it was a melting pot and everybody’s door was always open. I was always sitting in somebody’s kitchen. I just learned how to use different spices.” This led her to develop her own line of spices, chutneys, and relishes

When asked what inspires her cooking, Celeste said that “Most of these recipes that are in the book come out of me not wanting to waste anything. This [apple] pie evolved because I had some apples, I had some leftover pancetta, chives, and cheese. Being from Boston, we like our cheddar! So I tried something.”

Celeste mixed everything together and loved the savory result! Her savory apple pie has since evolved and she recommends a Gruyère cheese and adding in chives and nutmeg. More details are below on replicating her savory apple pie. 

Savory Apple Pie

savory apple pie
Celeste’s Savory Apple Pie


  • Apples (recommends a firm, crisp apple variety sliced very thin) 
  • Chives
  • Gruyère cheese 
  • Pancetta
  • Brown sugar 
  • Nutmeg 
  • Enough pie shell dough for a double pie crust

“I sliced up the apples and put everything together. In place of the butter that you put in the apple mixture [in a typical pie recipe], I used the rendered pancetta oil. Ohmygoodness, it is so good.” Put everything in a pie shell and bake it in the oven, following a similar process to a traditional apple pie recipe! 

When it comes to spicing up heirloom apples, Celeste also recommends using a spice blend on fresh apples. “Another thing I do with apples is to use a spice rub. Sometimes I make little snacks for my son. I sprinkle the spice rub on sliced apples. The spice rub adds a smoky flavor and people love it.” 

You can experience more of Celeste’s inspired cooking firsthand by shopping the products on her website, purchasing her cookbook, and watching her full conversation with Red Tomato

Best Uses of Heirloom Apples By Variety 

Fresh Apples

Fresh apples make for a delightfully crunchy snack. Early season apples, between mid-July to mid-September, are meant to be picked and enjoyed right away. There are many heirloom apple varieties that fall into this category. We recommend storing fresh apples in your refrigerator to preserve and enrich their flavor, as apples love being chilled to stay crisp.  

Newtown Pippin Apples
Newtown Pippin Heirloom Apples

Heirloom Apple Varieties to Eat Fresh: Ananas Reinette, Baldwin, Black Oxford, Blue Pearmain, Claygate Pearmain, Cox’s Orange Pippin, Franc Rambour, Gravenstein, Hubbardston Nonesuch, Hudson’s Golden Gem, Karmijn du Sonneville, Lady, Maiden’s Blush, Newtown Pippin, Opalescent, Orleans Reinette, Reine de Reinette, Roxbury Russet, Snow, Winter Banana

Apple Salad Recipe

This simple, light dish can be served cold or at room temperature and can be made up to a day ahead and refrigerated, where the flavors will continue to meld and deepen.  


  • 6-8 apples, one variety or mix; choose apples that are crisp and good when eaten fresh
  • 2-3 T orange juice
  • 1 T lemon juice to prevent browning
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 3/4 C raisins
  • 3/4 C chopped raw pecans or walnuts (optional)
  • a sprig or two of fresh mint (optional)
  • Cut apples into bite-size pieces. Sprinkle with lemon juice as you cut, to prevent browning. Add raisins, cinnamon, and chopped nuts. Stir.  
  • Garnish with mint leaves, whole or chopped, if using. 

Makes 6-8 servings.

Variations: Try any other juice in place of orange (think cranberry, pomegranate, or mango) Add other fresh fruits in season: berries, peaches, grapes and plums are especially nice.  

For a savory version: add 1 C of chopped celery, cabbage, kale or romaine lettuce; substitute cardamom, ginger, cumin or curry spices for the cinnamon, and use fresh basil, celery leaves or marjoram instead of mint.

Sauce Apples

Softer apple varieties cook down easily and provide a great foundation for applesauce. Put your own spin on applesauce by mixing varieties or adding in a unique blend of herbs and spices! 

Heirloom Apple Varieties to Make Applesauce: Baldwin, Calville Blanc d’Hiver, Dolgo Crabapples, Duchess of Oldenburg, Franc Rambour, Gravenstein, Northern Spy

Applesauce Recipe 

Applesauce is the easiest way to eat an apple-a-day!

The easiest way to cook apples, and a favorite for all ages. Use any variety or a mix of several—the more flavorful the apples, the better the sauce! Serve as a side dish with any meal, and as garnish, snack or dessert. Serve warm or chilled.


  • 6-8 apples, any variety-a mix of tart and sweet is best
  • 1/2 C water
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1-2 T honey or sugar—optional; depending on the apples, taste and add if needed as the apples cook.


  • Peel and core apples and cut into 1/2 to 3/4 “ slices or cubes. Mix in lemon juice. 
  • Place in saucepan with 1/2 cup water; apples will release more liquid as they cook. Add cinnamon and optional sweetener. Simmer on medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 10-15 min, or until apples are soft.  Add lemon, spice and sweetener as needed, to taste. 
  • For chunky applesauce, stir and let cool.
  • For a smoother sauce, cook 5-10 minutes more, stirring to blend. 
  • For an extra smooth texture, pulse in blender or press the sauce through a mesh strainer. If you plan to strain or blend the sauce, cook with the peels on for added flavor and color. 

Makes 6 servings. Double or triple the ingredient amounts for a larger batch; keeps well in the refrigerator for up to a week. 

Variations: Instead of cinnamon, try cardamom, nutmeg your favorite savory spice blend. Or add a sprig or two of lemon verbena or thyme with mild-flavored apples, or for more intensely-flavored fruit, try rosemary or basil. 

Baking Apples

Apple crisps, pies, crumbles, galettes … the list goes on! Perhaps the most-loved, nostalgic, and comforting way to eat apples, baking apples makes for delicious desserts! Which varieties are right for your recipe? “You definitely want good tart flavor to offset the sugar that’s used in so many desserts,” says John Lyman, eco-certified apple grower and an eighth-generation co-owner of Lyman Orchards in Middlefield, Connecticut. 

Heirloom Apple Varieties to Bake: Baldwin, Belle de Boskoop, Black Oxford, Blue Pearmain, Bramley’s Seedling, Cox’s Orange Pippin, Darcy Spice, Duchess of Oldenburg, Esopus Spitzenberg, Franc Rambour, Holsteinm, Lady, Lamb Abbey Pearmain, Northern Spy, Orleans Reinette, Pitmaston Pine Apple, Rhode Island Greening, Scott’s Winter Apple, Sops of Wine, Wolf River

Apple Crisp Recipe

Apple pies ready for the oven
Sunrise Orchards’ Apple Pies Getting Ready for the Oven

A satisfying dessert, simple enough for everyday, and delicious enough to serve to guests.  


  • 2 C. sliced, peeled or skin-on (3-4 apples cut into ½” slices)
  • 3/4 C rolled oats
  • ½ C all-purpose or whole wheat flour
  • ¼-1/2 C. brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • ½ C (one stick) butter, salted or unsalted, softened but not melted
  • ¼ tsp salt (if using unsalted butter)
  • ½ C chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)


  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  • Use one tablespoon of the butter to grease the bottom and sides of a 9-inch square baking pan, and sprinkle one tablespoon flour onto pan, shake to coat. Spread sliced apples evenly in pan. 
  • In a bowl, mix the oats, flour, sugar and cinnamon, and nuts and salt if using. Stir so ingredients are mixed evenly. 
  • Add the butter mix into dry ingredients—use clean hands and fingers or a spoon or spatula. Mix gently until oats are coated—it will be clumpy and stiff.  
  • Spoon or drop the oat mixture across the top of the apples so they are loosely but evenly covered.
  • Bake for 30 min., or until the topping is browned and the apples are soft—test with a fork, and bake 10-15 min. longer if the apples are still firm. 
  • Serve warm, with a spoonful of ice cream or whipped cream for an extra treat! 

Variations: Experiment with other sweet spices like cardamom and allspice. Try pistachios instead of pecans. Add ½ cup raisins or dried cranberries. Add ½ cup whole cranberries, or mix in sliced pears in place of some of the apples; they will soften more quickly and the flavors and textures blend perfectly for a fall delight. 

Another variation, Irresistible Apple Crisp, from New England Apple Association 

Cider Apples

Nothing beats warm cider on a cold fall or winter night. Depending on your palette, you can create a sweet or tart cider blend. Many New England apple orchards, like Scott Farm, also provide their heirloom apples to brewers to create a hard cider that is perfectly crisp and dry. Look for those hard cider cans at local retailers!  

Heirloom Apple Varieties to try in Cider: Ashmead’s Kernel, Baldwin, Black Oxford, Calville Blanc d’Hiver, Golden Russett, Hewes Virginia Crab, Karmijn du Sonneville, Maiden’s Blush, Newton Pippin, Ribston Pippin, Roxbury Russet, Snow, Sops of Wine, Winesap, Zabergau Reinette

Homemade Spiced Cider

Hot apple cider
Image by Champlain Orchards


  • 8-10 New England apples, quartered
  • 1/2 – 3/4 c sugar
  • 4 T cinnamon or 4 cinnamon sticks
  • 4 T allspice


  1. Place apples in large stockpot. Fill with enough water to cover apples. Add sugar.
  2. Tie up spices in cheesecloth, and add this to apples and water. Boil one hour, uncovered.
  3. Simmer two hours, covered. Let cool.
  4. Remove spices and mash apples with potato masher. Strain over a large bowl.
  5. Store in refrigerator for up to one week or freeze for later use.

For a full description of each heirloom apple variety, be sure to check out our Heirloom Apple page. You can also watch the full conversation about baking with heirloom Eco-Certified apples between Scott Farm and Celeste Smith of Lyndigo Spice.


November 18, 2021