American As Apple Pie – Fresh Tastes by Bev

By Bev Laumann, Author of A Taste of The Good Life: A Cookbook for IC & OAB


With the tragedies of September 11th still fresh in our hearts and minds, this month will no doubt prove to be a somber one. I for one, feel the need for some comfort food. Apple pie– that humble dessert and probably the quintessential American comfort food– is something I miss dearly. Pears, especially Red Bartletts, do make a wonderful substitute for apples in many desserts. But I associate apples with fall weather, with Halloween parties, and with good ol’American cooking. I guess I’d just like to have the real thing sometimes, without having miserable bladder flare-ups that follow.

So every so often I sneak in an apple treat. I have to be careful mind you, because apples are more acid than pears. But I’ve gathered together a few tricks to help my body deal with slightly acid fruit. They’ve helped me and maybe these ideas can help you enjoy apples once again too.

First it’s important to realize that for people with IC, the main problem with apples seems to be their acidity. Apples aren’t something that people are commonly allergic to. They don’t contain significant amounts of monoamines or naturally occurring monosodium glutamate. And on the plus side they have lots of fiber and vitamins a chronically ill body needs. But unfortunately, they also have too much acid for many of us.

So how acid are they? Well, that depends on a lot of things, but primarily the variety of apple you choose. The predominant acid in all apples is malic acid. Some varieties have more of it than others. In terms of the percentage of acid, Delicious apples have about 0.27% acid. The percentage of acid in Winesaps is about twice that. Jonathan and McIntosh apples have about three times the acid as Delicious apples. And of course the well-known cooking apple varieties (such as Granny Smith) have much more acid than any of these and are generally too acid for IC patients to even consider.

One of the least acid eating apples available in supermarkets today is the Gala. Some IC patients have reported being able to eat Galas when they still couldn’t tolerate other varieties of apple. Two other apple varieties worth mentioning are Fuji and Delicious. While more acid than Galas, they may be worth a try for those whose bladders are slightly more acid-tolerant. Of course many of us use baking soda, Prelief, or Tums to neutralize acid foods and we can always take a dose before eating our apple. When you go to the supermarket and are confronted with several unfamiliar varieties of apples, pay attention to any signs– look at which varieties are described on signs as “sweet” versus “tart”, “eating” versus “cooking”. You also may be able to get good information from the produce manager.

Although Delicious and Gala apples are not considered good cooking apples as far as the rest of the population is concerned, for IC patients, they may be the best we can do. One reason these apples are not considered good for cooking is that they tend to get soft quickly and if overcooked can easily turn to applesauce. Today people don’t usually make their own applesauce, but they do cook things like baked apples, where you definitely don’t want the apple to get mushy and fall apart. We IC people, on the other hand, may be interested in making our own applesauce from less acidic apples. Commercial applesauce is made from varieties like Gravenstein– fairly acid apples. (Companies may also add citric or ascorbic acid to the recipe to help prevent food-borne illness and keep the product from turning brown.) Then too, most chefs prefer a slightly tart taste to their cooking apples. The tartness balances the sweetness of sugar, syrup, or whatever they use as a sweetener in the recipe. Unfortunately, we may not get to be so choosy.

Even the less-acid Gala apples are a “borderline” food when it comes to acidity, getting a “thumbs up” from some IC people and a “thumbs down” from others. If you can’t quite tolerate them raw, there are some other strategies (beside taking a Tums or Prelief) that perhaps will enable you to at least eat them cooked.

Baking soda and baking powder in recipes will react with the acid ingredients and give the food an airy lightness– what is often referred to as “rising”. It may also remove just enough of the acid from something “borderline” to enable you to eat the food. That means you may be able to have Gala apples cooked in say a coffee cake, quick bread, or biscuit, whereas the same apples may bother your bladder if eaten raw.

And here’s another apple trick brough to my attention by IC patient Kathleen Fisher– the alkalinizing properties of egg white. A few months ago she wrote to ask me why she could have her sister-in-law’s apple pie with no bladder flare-up, but when she tried her own apple pies– using the same kind of apples– her bladder would hurt for days. I was curious too, so I asked her to send me the recipes for both and also write down the exact brands of products used. It turns out the recipe she was using was a traditional one: a flour-shortening-water crust with apples, sugar, and cinnamon for filling. All natural and very simple, but nothing to counteract the apples’ acidity.

Then I looked at her sister-in-law’s recipe. It had one obvious ingredient and another hidden one, both of which could neutralize some acid. The recipe is below (and it’s delicious!)

First, Kathleen’s sister-in-law used a very unusual apple pie topping: meringue. The alkaline egg white of the meringue may have acted to neutralize a lot of the apples’ acidity. Then too, when she made the crust, the sister-in-law used homemade graham cracker crumbs rather than a purchased pie shell. She made graham cracker crumbs by grinding up Nabisco’s HoneyMaid Reduced Fat Graham Crackers in a food processor. It so happens that this brand of graham crackers is made with calcium carbonate. Although the company no doubt added the calcium carbonate to make the product attractive to women who wish to prevent bone loss, calcium carbonate is also an acid neutralizer (it’s the active ingredient of Tums). Between the egg white and the calcium carbonate, the apples’ acidity could have been neutralized just enough to allow Kathleen to sample the apple pie without a major bladder symptom flare-up. (By the way, there’s no advantage to buying “fresh laid” eggs. Egg whites actually get slightly more alkaline as they age during transport to, and storage at, the grocery store.)

Here is the recipe for the meringue topped apple pie…. and it’s absolutely scrumptious made with Gala apples! I can’t guarantee that everyone will be able to tolerate Gala apples, but it may be worth a try some time when you are feeling brave, or feeling better thanks to an appropriate IC treatment. After all, this is the land of the brave, right?

Apple Meringue Pie

– serves 8


  • 1-1/3 cups crumbs from HoneyMaid Reduced Fat Graham Crackers
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 7 Tbsp. stick margarine, melted
  • 1/8 tsp. ground allspice


  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbsp. light brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 6-1/2 cups Gala apples, peeled, cored and sliced about 1/4-inch thick

Meringue Topping:

  • 3 egg whites (from large eggs)
  • 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/8 tsp. cream of tartar (optional)
  • 5 Tbsp. sugar
  1. Roll graham crackers between sheets of wax paper or use a food processor to grind into crumbs. Combine the crumbs, sugar, margarine and allspice. Press firmly into a 9-inch pie plate.
  2. For filling, mix flour and sugar thoroughly in a large saucepan. Stir in the brown sugar, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Add the sliced apples, stirring to coat evenly. Place saucepan over low to medium heat and cover. Cook, stirring intermittently until apples are soft and juice is thickened, about 20 to 25 minutes. Pour filling into crust and spread evenly.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a clean bowl, beat egg whites with vanilla and cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in the sugar until stiff and glossy peaks form and the sugar crystals are all dissolved. Heap meringue into center of pie and spread to the edges of crust, sealing to the crust. Bake in oven at 350 degrees F. until the meringue is golden, about 11 to 14 minutes. Remove and allow to cool before serving. (Per serving: calories, 351 – total fat, 12 g. – cholesterol, 0 mg. – protein, 3 g.)

(By the way, if the Gala apples still irritate your bladder, this pie is also delicious made with firm red Bartlett pears!)

Here is another apple recipe that I make with Gala apples and an acid-neutralizer (baking soda and baking powder). This apple cake is truly delightful when served slightly warm. Top servings with vanilla ice cream, warm home-made caramel sauce or both. (If Gala apples bother your bladder or you’re not feeling brave, this recipe also works very well with ripe Bartlett or Bosc pears).

Fennel Scented Apple Cake

– serves 6

  • 2 Gala apples
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1/2 cup margarine, divided (stick kind)
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1-1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  1. Peel, then dice the apples into quarter-inch bits. Heat the water to boiling or almost boiling in the microwave or a small pan. Stir the fennel seeds into the water and set aside to cool. In a small, covered saucepan, cook the diced apples with 1/4 cup of the margarine over low to medium heat, stirring occasionally. Continue to cook about 10 minutes until apples are thoroughly soft. Set apple mixture aside to cool also, for about 15 minutes.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. then grease and flour a 8-inch by 8-inch square cake pan. In a medium bowl, cream together the brown sugar and the other 1/4 cup of margarine. Beat in the egg, vanilla, and the apple mixture.
  3. Strain fennel seeds from the water, reserving the water. Sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and cinnamon together. Add the dry ingredients and the water alternately to the apple batter, mixing thoroughly. Pour into the cake pan and bake at 350 degrees F. for 30 to 35 minutes, until a toothpick in the center comes out clean.

(Per serving: calories, 344 – total fat, 16 g. – cholesterol, 31 mg. – protein, 4 g.)