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; check out her Turkey Day Countdown for information on that.

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.

Apple pie filling via @kingarthurflour

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.

Apple pie filling via @kingarthurflour

Add sugar and spice

I stir the sugar and spices into the pan, and cook for a few minutes more.

Apple pie filling via @kingarthurflour

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.

Apple pie filling via @kingarthurflour

Add thickener

I add the flour and cornstarch to the pan.

Apple pie filling via @kingarthurflour

Stir to combine

Stir, then cook over low heat for about a minute – basically just to make sure everything is well combined.Apple pie filling via @kingarthurflour

The final touch

I remove the pan from the heat, stir in my lemon juice and boiled cider ...

Apple pie filling via @kingarthurflour

... and transfer the filling to a lidded container.

Into the fridge (or freezer) it goes.

DSC_6580

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!

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?

PJ Hamel
The Author

About PJ Hamel

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, two dogs, and really good food!