When apple season returns, I begin to crave a good old homemade, warm apple pie.
When my husband, Stuart, and I were just engaged, he talked me into making five apple pies for the annual hog butchering held at his dad’s house, who was a widower. Hog butchering—and a big feast to go with it—is still a tradition among the Old Order Mennonites and many other families in the rural areas of the Shenandoah Valley. If driving through the area from November through January, you can often see a curl of smoke rising from an old fashioned butchering day.
Stuart’s dad was a huge fan of apple pie and he also had some backyard apple trees. What a test for a future bride! Strains of “can she bake an apple pie, Billy Boy, Billy Boy …” hummed through my head as I baked in a strange kitchen. I was also using somewhat rancid lard from my future father-in-law’s cellar pantry. The crust was a little uncooperative. I came close to tears, if I remember correctly.
The key to making apple pie for the Davises was using plenty of cinnamon. Some apple pie recipes don’t even call for any cinnamon—a severe deficiency according to my husband. He doesn’t want a bunch of other spices added—no nutmeg or allspice, but up to 1 ½ teaspoons of cinnamon is fine in his book.
The pies won rave reviews. The crust—rich enough to be quite crumbly and made more so by the lard—was the best kind, according to his dad. My reputation was cemented. I was in.
This recipe is included in the Whatever Happened to Dinner? book along with many more recipes and family stories celebrating the importance and value of keeping family mealtime—even amid crazy busy schedules. The last Monday in September, this year on the 28th, is Family Day in the U.S., a good day to plan to eat together as a family! There’s also a special day in Canada, an actual holiday, the third Monday in February (for most of Canada except British Columbia, which observes it the second Monday in Feb.).
Davis Apple Pie
Crust (for a 2-crust 9” pie):
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup Crisco shortening plus 2 tablespoons
¼ cup water
Mix flour and salt, then cut in shortening with knives or pastry cutter. When shortening and flour are mixed to make clumps the size of peas, add water. Mix by hand until clump of dough is formed. Divide into two balls. Roll out bottom crust for pie pan on a well-floured board with a floured rolling pin. Carefully lift with a turner and put in pan. Roll out second pie crust for top, slicing a few decorative holes with knife to allow steam to escape. Leave crust to rest on board until you fill the pie with apple mixture.
5 cups peeled and sliced tart apples
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon flour
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Mix apples and all ingredients in bowl. Put in pie crust. Pat edge of crust with water to help bottom and top crust to seal. Put on top crust, and pinch together, pressing with fork or your own pattern of twists. Protect crust from getting overly brown by using foil around edge of pie pan or pie crust shield. Bake in a 425° oven for 10 minutes, then lower heat to 350° to 375° for another 50 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.
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Melodie M. Davis is the author of nine books, most recently, Whatever Happened to Dinner: Recipes and Reflections for Family Mealtime (Herald Press, 2010). She writes the syndicated column, Another Way, serves as a managing editor for Herald Press, and is also editor of a local family publication, Valley Living. She keeps a blog where she features frequent recipes from her home, family and church life. She is married and the mother of three adult daughters and two grandsons.
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