Monday, March 15

Apple Pie

"Good apple pies are a considerable part of our domestic happiness." 
-- Jane Austen

There are perhaps more recipes for apple pie then there are varieties of apples to put in them.  By this time of year I find myself craving those fresh delights of fall that are the fruit of the harvest season.  Each autumn as a picker, as the end of the season neared, I would make my way back into different blocks of apples that had already been picked and find those apples that escaped the careful eyes of my fellow pickers.  Late on an October day, when the crew made its way back to the picker house and home to a weary, but well deserved supper, I would drive out into the gently sloping hills of Cortlands, Empires, Haralsons and Golden Russets, and walk down the long rows, picking bag slung over my shoulder.  The trees, unburdened of their crop took on a new dimension, stretching their weary limbs, tired but proud.  Strolling down the rows bathed in the auburn rays of the deep afternoon sun, I would peer under limbs and into the depths of the trees to the places where apples find their hiding places.  It was like playing hide and seek; my eye would catch a glimpse of an apple two rows over, after ducking through outstretched branches it would deceive my gaze.  I used to tell myself you needed a pickers eye to find these apples; the last of the crop.  After a long day of picking this was some of my favorite time in the orchard, my own time.  As the bag began to weigh heavy on my already tired shoulder, I would find a gap in the trees further down the slope and wend my way back in the direction I had come.  Almost always, I would find a trove of unnoticed apples just as my bag neared full, forcing me to heap the fruit and lumber back to my car under the weight my winter store.  By the end of the season a colorful assortment of my favorite varieties filled the trunk of my car.  Inevitably the first days and weeks unoccupied by picking would be full of simmering pots of apple sauce, crumbly crisps and of course apple pies, many, many pies. 

Apple Pie

 I am a believer that any recipe serves only as suggestions subject to the creative license of its follower.  Thus, proportions should be adjusted to taste and additions should be made thoughtfully.  I am not a huge fan of sugar and like to let the apples speak for themselves, if you have a big sweet tooth, you may want to adjust the amounts of sweetener.

6-8 Apples (at least two varieties, preferably with different colored skin)
2 T. Fresh Lemon Juice
1/3 C. Maple Syrup
1/4 C. Honey or Brown Sugar
2 t. Cinnamon
1 t. Ground Ginger
1/4 t. Ground Cloves
1/4 t. Ground Nutmeg
1/4 C. Unbleached White Flour or 2 T. Corn Starch

2 C. Unbleached White Flour
1 C. Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
1 C. Soft Butter
1 t. Salt 
1/2 to 3/4 C. Cold Water

For crust, cut butter into flour with pastry cutter or knives.  Add salt.  With fork, fold water into dough only until no loose flour is visible.  Divide into two even balls.  Let the dough sit, or chill it if you wish.  Peel apples and divide into 8-12 slices.  Cut the slices in half and place in large mixing bowl.  After 6 apples pour the cut apples into the pie dish to gauge how many you will need.   You want the dish to be slightly heaping.  Pour back into bowl and cut more apples if needed.  Add lemon juice (this will keep the apples from browning and add a little zest to the pie).  Stir in  maple syrup and other sweetener.  Add spices.  Add flour or cornstarch (this helps soak up some of the juices which will cook out of the apples during the baking).
Roll out the first ball of dough on a floured surface or between two sheets of wax paper until it is large enough to cover the pie pan (you can place the empty pan over the dough to judge this).  If you are using wax paper peel the top layer off, place the pie pan on top of the dough and flip them both over.  Peel the other layer of wax paper off and finesse the dough into the pie pan, leave 1/2 inch of dough around the edge. Pour in the filling.  Roll out top crust in the same manner and flip onto filled pie pan.  Fold the top and bottom crusts together around the edge and crimp with your fingers or use a wet fork to press the crust.  Cut slits into the top crust in a pattern of your choice.  Bake at 425 for 15 min and then reduce heat to 350 and bake for 35-45min more.  Cool and enjoy!

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