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Grandma Emma’s Apple Pie

October 8, 2010
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My dad’s mother was – to me – an archetypal farm wife. She could cook, she could bake, she could sew, she could can, she could milk, she could garden, and she did all of that while raising four children.

There are a few foods that define Grandma Emma in my mind – her homemade bread (which I talked about in my own attempt at making bread), her homemade strawberry jam and her apple pie.

It’s an open-face German-style apple cream pie and it was the only kind of apple pie I knew growing up. In fact, I thought it was strange when I saw pies that were double crust (though I have since come to love them, especially strawberry-rhubarb). But no other apple pie comes close to this for me.

Start with a single pie crust, rolled and placed in a pie pan (9-10″ work best).

I prefer the standard pie crust recipe from Betty Crocker, and I always use lard. I know it’s horrible for you, but it makes the lightest, flakiest crusts for me.

Once you have your crust ready, crush up approximately 1c. crackers. You can use saltines, but butter crackers make a richer pie. It’s about 1/2 to 3/4 of a sleeve of crackers, depending on the size of pie you’re making.

When that’s done, peel and cut approximately 7-8 baking apples. I used Jonathan apples for this pie, which is what my grandma usually used. At least I think that’s what they used – they had some apple trees on the farm and the scent of the Jonathan apples is exactly how I remember from when I was younger.

You don’t actually slice the apples in this recipe. You halve them and fill the crust with the halves first. Once those are placed you cut and slice the rest of the apples to fill in the gaps, like this:

It’s kind of like a puzzle, getting all the spaces filled. When I was younger, I would sneak out some of the smaller pieces after the pies were baked. I tried to be sneaky and take only one or two (which usually ended up being 3 or 4), but I don’t think I fooled anyone.

After the apple puzzle is together, pour 3/4 to 1c sugar on top.

mmmmm….. sugar………

On top of the sugar, pour 1/2c. milk or cream. Obviously, the richer the milk, the richer the pie, but I’ve made it using anything from skim to cream and they’ve all been good.

Then sprinkle cinnamon on top of the apples.

Bake at 350 for 45-60 minutes or until apples are soft.

It’s great just out of the oven, but still tasty a day or two later. I would have a picture of a slice, but I, um, ate it all. Mostly by myself.

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