Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Some of my best childhood memories involve making homemade pies with some quality live fiddle music in the background. Dancing around while slicing apples and arguing with siblings and cousins on the correct technique of rolling out dough.

Pie making is part of my mom's family's identity. It fits right in with the fiddle music, contra dancing and Marx Brothers quotes. All of those are crucial ingredients when we get together with our cousins. It doesn't really matter what is cooked for supper, as long as there are a sufficient number of pies to devour afterwards. Like when we cooked fourteen pies for eighteen people (or was it eighteen pies for fourteen people?), or the Thanksgiving in Florida when we had all of the beach apartment ovens jammed full of juicy, heavenly pies.

I am a poor amateur of a pie maker when I am in the company of my cousins. However, despite my sad lack of skills, I still love making pies. Especially apple pies. They are one of the few things that can actually get me excited to work in the kitchen. Though I still have to have some sort of motivation to get started. Poor Clay usually only gets fresh pie when we have company coming over. He keeps hoping that will change. I think that's why he planted apple trees this spring.

My cousins, the real pie makers of the family, insist on not using recipes. But since I am the amateur I still like to have my security blanket. And since my cousins don't use recipes I had my eye open for other people's recipes that resulted in pies of comparable quality. This recipe is actually from a friend in Portland who wowed me with her pie making abilities when she brought supper over for us after William was born. Granted, I use the recipe more as a guideline and will liberally improvise as I see fit. I have to have some pie making pride. It usually works out for me.

Last week I had the excuse to make three apple pies and Margaret was my important helper. We twirled around the kitchen while listening to recordings of Pierre Schryer and Old New England (not as good as listening to them in person, but better than nothing). She worked the apple corer/slicer apparatus and made sure everything tasted okay.


6 C. apples (I usually use Granny Smith, I like the tartness)
1 C. sugar
1/3 C. flour
1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/4 tsp cinnamon
2 T. butter

Peel and slice the apples and mix together with the sugar, flour and spices. After you pour it into the crust dot the butter on top so it melts down into it. Don't be stingy with the butter. Clay recently read an article about how some of the healthiest foods to eat are fats. Okay, so the list also included red meats, green veggies, yogurt, fresh fruits and probably some other stuff. I don't really remember, I just remember him saying it was healthy to consume cream and butter.


1/3 C. shortening
1/3 C. butter
2 C. flour
1/2 tsp baking powder

Mix the above ingredients together, then add 1/3 C. boiling water. As I'm rolling out the dough on the counter I often add more water or flour as I go to get the right consistency. Usually more flour. I always figure it's better to have the crust a little on the flaky and hard to handle side than smooth and leathery. There's an art to rolling out the crust and transferring it to the pie plate. My cousins say it's all in the wrist.

It's so good Margaret has to do another taste test.

My pies don't look very smooth and professional but I'm aiming more for flaky goodness. That makes people forget how it looked.


  1. I'm all into rustic looking food. It usually tastes better! I had the opportunity this weekend to *double* the number of pies that I have made in my life! I made two for Thanksgiving last year and just made two more for the 4th of July. Apple is a safe one, though I'd love to try strawberry rhubarb sometime. I use America's Test Kitchen's recipe and it was wonderful for breakfast this morning!