As American as mom, baseball, and apple pie.
I started thinking about that while making this apple pie -- except I was thinking about grandmas instead of moms, and horses instead of baseball.
While my husband was busy completing some projects in the warm autumn air, the kids and I spent Sunday visiting my grandma (the one on whose farm I rode horses as a kid). She will be 89 years young in a few weeks and now resides in an assisted living apartment. Though she still cooks for herself, I prepared a meal to take along, and of course, it being Sunday and all, an apple pie.
As a kid, I enjoyed running around on my grandparents’ farm. I remember the sweet smell of hay as I explored the barn, and the freedom I felt as I roamed the property. The farm is where I had my first driving lessons, imagining my own roads and stop signs (and trying not to crash into any buildings). When we weren’t begging to drive the pickup, my cousins, my sister, and I would race the three-wheeler across the length of the farm, from the highway, past the house, and all the way down to the crick.
(Yes, people. I said it. Crick. Also known as creek, for those of you who might be English majors, or unlike me, grew up somewhere north of the 43rd parallel. South of there, sometimes we get lazy and just call it a crick.
Oh, and a pickup? That’s a truck, in case you were wondering.)
At the top of my list of things to do on the farm was riding horses. I didn’t get to ride very often, so it was always special when I did, and to me, horses have always been such special animals. One particular horse with a most calm disposition was Raebo.
My grandma and I talked about Raebo during our visit. A registered quarter horse, my grandma said Raebo lived to be 32 years old. I remember her being a kind and gentle mare, with the patience needed to handle young riders like my cousins and me, especially since I hardly knew what I was doing.
While being impatient ourselves and not wanting to take no for an answer (quite possibly a family trait), I remember a time when my cousin and I decided that we would ride anyway. We needed help with the saddle, and since no one would help us, Neil and I figured we could just ride bareback. We had done it before, but this time we would do it without assistance…and without reins.
Knowing how much the horses loved the apples from the Wealthy tree that stretched across the fence into the pasture, Neil and I lured Raebo to the fence with the apples. Standing on the fence post to give us some height, we carefully mounted Raebo once she was close enough to reach. I rode behind Neil, hanging onto him to stay atop the horse, and he held onto Raebo’s mane.
For a short while, we were quite proud of ourselves, mounting a horse without any adult assistance, riding bareback without a saddle, and without reins, we soon realized we had little control. Raebo was her usual kind spirit and moved slowly, though we had hoped for something closer to a gallop even for a few moments. But even patient horses have their limits, and we soon realized Raebo had reached hers. We did quickly enjoy those few moments of a gallop, and then suddenly, but ever so gently, Raebo put on the brakes, lowered her head and neck, and gave Neil and me our first trip down a horse slide. One right after the other, we slid off the front end of Raebo and landed softly in the pasture. I guess it was Raebo’s way of telling us to get a saddle, or get off.
While I enjoyed riding horses, I also enjoyed eating apple pie. My other grandma (the one who taught me about rendering lard and making pie crust), would take my sister and me to visit our great-grandma on occasion. I remember the pink walls in her bathroom, her cats who liked to bite, and her incredible apple pie. I was very young at the time, but I can still taste the apple pie she would serve us. It was very fresh-tasting, not overdone with lots of spices, just a small amount of cinnamon, perhaps even a dash of nutmeg. I have not tasted any apple pie like it since then, and though I try, I certainly have not been able to re-create it.
The apple pie I made for Sunday is as close as I’ve come to my great-grandma’s apple pie. It has a nice fresh apple flavor, and it reminds me of her. So if you make an apple pie, think of your grandmas, or your mom, and horses, or baseball…..or whatever it is that makes you feel American!
Yours in pie,
Classic Fresh Apple Pie
My favorite apple for pie is the Jonathan. (It’s also my favorite name for a husband.) They are firm apples that hold their shape during the long baking required for pie, and I especially like their tart flavor, which allows you to add the amount of sugar needed to give the pie as much or as little sweetness as you like. If you use another apple (and the possibilities are endless), you may need to adjust the amount of sugar, and possibly the amount of thickener (flour in this case), to achieve the results you desire.
Pastry for double-crust 9” pie
6 to 7 cups peeled and sliced apples (I used 6 ½ c. for this pie)
2/3 c. sugar
2 T. all-purpose flour
½ tsp. cinnamon
Dash of salt
2 T. butter
Combine sugar, flour, cinnamon, and salt; add to apples in a large bowl and mix well. Transfer filling to pastry-lined pie plate. Dot filling with butter. Adjust top crust, flute edges, and cut slits to allow steam to escape. Brush crust with milk; sprinkle with sparkling sugar. Cover edges with foil. Bake at 375° for 15 minutes, lower heat to 350° and continue baking for another 45-60 minutes or until filling is bubbly in center, removing foil the last 15 minutes of baking. Cool completely on a wire rack.