It’s the middle of September, the air is crisp and getting cooler outside. Must mean one thing…..IT’S APPLE PIE SEASON!!!!!!
Neither my mom or grandmother ever made apple pie. It became an acquired taste for me later on in years. When I moved up to Rockland County I got closer to apple country. My first taste of a Cortland apple was when I moved up here. And they are picking them now, along with Red Delicious and McIntosh. Pretty soon the farms will be pressing those wonderful fruits and the cider will be flowing once again. I just love the fact that you can’t get this stuff all year long, because it makes it just that much more special when they come into season. Oh, I know you can get some form of apple cider from the supermarket any time of year, if you like the taste of preservatives. Heck, you can leave the gallon on your counter for three weeks and it doesn’t change. That worries me. The cider that is pressed up here is preservative free and just lightly pasteurized. So it is just like biting into a crisp sweet apple when you take a slug of the nectar.
I could remember when we had three farms within a two mile radius. Van Riper Farms, Tice Farm and DePiero Farms, all in Montvale, and Woodcliff Lake New Jersey. Today, Van Riper sold out and they built an A&P on the site, along with corporate parks and Tice Farm is now Tice Mall with another much needed shopping center with stores you can find in just about any other shopping center. I hate progress! DePiero’s is the only farm left nearby. I’ll be getting my apple cider fix real soon!!!! But DePiero’s has sold off much of his land to developers and is getting smaller by the year. At some point I’m sure they will give in to the financial pressure and one day DePiero’s Farm will be gone as well. Looks like I’ll have to invest in a cider press and just do it myself. I know my cousins Concetta and Larry who live in beautiful California have a fruit press juicer and bottle sweet grape juice from the vines they have on their property. I’ll have to confer with them to see what I need to make apple cider if the last of the local farms disappear.
But for now I think I’m safe and to kick off the fall season I’m going to make one of my apple pies. I’ve been making apple pies for over 30 years now and have it down pat. Through trial and error I have perfected my pie and, if I should say so myself, it is a good one. There are a dozen versions of apple pie out there. Do I add butter to the crust or shortening? What type of apples do I use? How much sugar? Pre cook the apples? Flour or starch? There are a dozen different ways you can make apple pie. I have gone all the different routes and in the end I found it best to stick to the basics. This recipe is the one I have been using for years, and for my enjoyment, I believe makes the best apple pie.
I know if my son Michael is reading this I have planted the seed for him as well. (no pun intended) Michael, and my brother Richard, would scoff up my apple pies whenever I made them. Michael has made his own apple pies and does just as .good. He learned well.
Making an apple pie is as much about technique as it is about ingredients. Technique comes with time and experience. Make enough of anything and you will perfect it.
Let’s begin with ingredients. What are the best apples to use if you are making an apple pie? In my opinion, Granny Smith apples are the ultimate apple pie apple. But I have found over the years that a combination of a few different apples makes for a much better pie. Not all apples are in season at the same time, but here are a few that I have used with much success. Granny Smith, Golden Delicious, Cortland, Empire, Jonathan’s. If you are using a sweeter apple like the Golden Delicious it’s good to pair it up with something that is more tart, like Granny Smith. Overall, you want an apple that holds up to cooking, so any cooking apple will do you well. If you are using only Golden Delicious you should hold back on some of the sugar as the apple has a good amount of sweetness. If you are using only Granny Smith apples you should use all of the sugar in the recipe, depending how tart you like your pie. Again, it’s trial and error.
The crust is an important part of your apple pie. Store bought? Never! If you are a true apple pie aficionado only home made crust will do. The one most important component of your crust is the shortening you use. If you use only shortening you will get a very flaky crust. If you use only butter your crust will taste better but will not be as flaky. I know people that use a combination of both, so you have the flavor and the flakiness. In my pie I use only Crisco Shortening. I feel there is enough butter in the pie filling to add that buttery taste to the apple pie. I want flake!
Corn starch or flour? They both thicken the filling. I personally use flour. The choice is yours. The other important factor in making an apple pie is to cut the apple slices very thin. That way they stack well in the pie and don’t leave as much of a void when the pie is cooked and the apples settle down. They all cook uniform that way as well.
Let’s get making an apple pie! On my way home from visiting my father I past Doc Davies Farm Stand on Route 304 in New City, just before you get up to the 9W junction. I picked up 6 Cortland apples to make my pie today. Doc Davies is a great place to go if you want to pick your own apples and don’t want to get trapped in the traffic on Route 17 heading towards some of the more popular upstate apple orchards.
For the crust:
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup Crisco shortening
- ice water
For the filling:
- 1/2 cup all purpose flour
- 5-6 medium to large apples, peeled, cored and cut into thin slices
- 1 cup white sugar
- 1 cup dark brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 2 tablespoons salted butter
In a medium bowl combine the apples, brown and white sugar. Add flour, cinnamon and mix until all the apples are well coated.
In a medium mixing bowl cut the shortening and salt into the flour by hand or with a pastry blender until it’s the texture of cornmeal. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of ice water over the mixture and mix just until the dough is moist. Add another 8 tablespoons of the ice water, one at a time until all the dough is just moist. Do not over mix.
Gather up the dough and form into a ball. Divide the dough in half and roll one half into a circle, on a floured surface, to fit a 9 to 10 inch pie plate.
To transfer the pastry to the pie plate, wrap it around a rolling pin and ease it into the pie plate.
Add the apple filling into the pastry lined pie plate. Make sure all the apples are laying flat. Cut the butter into small pieces and put on top of the filling.
Roll the remaining pastry into a 12 inch circle. Place on top of the filling. Trim off 1 inch beyond the edge of the pie plate and crimp the edges together, folding the top crust under the bottom crust. Cut slits to allow steam to escape when baking. Brush the top of the pie with milk to help the pie turn a golden brown.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Cover the edges of the pie with foil to prevent over browning. Bake for 25 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 25-35 minutes or until you see the filling bubble up from the center of one of the slits you made.
Allow the pie to cool slightly and serve warm with plenty of vanilla ice cream on top.