The first pies to grace American plates were savory concoctions with inedible crusts. It wasn't until the late 1800s that seasonal sweet pies made it into recipe books and all these years later, apple still ranks high as America's favorite pie. The ingredient list is short, and it usually includes lemon juice. There are two good reasons to include lemon juice in your list of ingredients when baking apple pie: color and flavor. If you're fresh out of lemon juice, you might have a few alternatives in your pantry.
Lemon juice prevents freshly cut apple slices from turning brown, which is the main reason why some apple pie recipes call for it. When apple flesh is exposed to oxygen, a chemical reaction takes place that causes the change in color. Because lemon juice is an antioxidant, it slows the discoloration process.
Lemon juice adds tartness to apple pie filling. If you're baking with tart apples, such as the Granny Smith variety, you won't miss the lemon juice. But, if your apples lack tartness, add the same amount of lime, pineapple or orange juice to add a tart kick to your apple pie.
Syrups and Spices
Toss the freshly sliced apples in syrup -- for example, maple or agave -- honey, or in a mixture of cinnamon and sugar to slow the discoloration process. Coating the apple slices minimizes their exposure to the air and hinders oxidation. If you coat your apple slices in syrup, honey or sugar, reduce the amount of sweetener when measuring ingredients for the pie filling.
Experiment with your apple pie recipe; sometimes, creative substitutions become a new, favorite recipe. For example, consider replacing one half of the apples with a tart fruit, such as cherries, cranberries or rhubarb for a delightful, sweet-tart combination.
- Joy of Baking: Ingredient Substitution Table
- Scientific American: Why do apple slices turn brown after being cut?
- Time: Pie
- The Times-Tribune.com: Perfect pairing: Mill City Woman's Ingenuity Results in Flavorful Apple Rhubarb Pie
- Baking Bites: Do you need to add lemon juice when baking with apples?
Aline Lindemann is a health, food and travel writer. She has also worked as a social worker, preschool teacher and art educator. Lindemann holds a Master of Liberal Studies in culture, health and creative nonfiction writing from Arizona State University.