I was once told by an important woman in my life that all people should know how to bake an apple pie from scratch. At the time, being twelve years old, I found it to be a little old fashioned. However, I stood in the kitchen with my neighbor Mrs. Tanner for hours on end, learning how to make an apple pie.
I spent a lot of time there in my preteen years, often my mom would send me over to help with household tasks and errands. My parents didn’t know the Tanners terribly well, so I always found it peculiar. At the time, I was very ill due to my genetic disabilities. When I grew older I realized that Mrs. Tanner had been sick for the couple of years I was over there, sicker than I was. My mom sent me over so often because she didn’t want either of us to be alone, and we understood each other on a deeper level.
When I was fourteen I received a letter on blue stationery, I’ll never forget it. It was from Mr. Tanner, whom I rarely spoke to. He was informing me that Mrs. Tanner had passed away from cancer, but that she had enjoyed our time together and hoped I would continue to bake pies. This was life altering because it was my first experience with death, and I didn’t know she was sick. As the years went on little things started adding up and I suddenly understood what my mom had been doing and why she never told me that Mrs. Tanner was sick.
Mrs. Tanner taught me to live life to it’s very fullest, which is quite the feat when your life is withering away, as both of ours were.
I am healthier now; I’ve had good times and bad with my disabilities, but I have learned how to be joyous despite the challenges. Joy can be found in the symbolism of a pie, and just like Mrs. Tanner I firmly believe that everyone should know how to make a pie from scratch. Therefore, I would like to share the recipe we created together.
Mrs. Tanner’s Apple Pie
Makes one, 9 inch pie.
For the Crust:
2 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar (this is the secret ingredient)
1 teaspoon of salt
3 cups of sifted, unbleached all purpose flour
1 1/4 cup of chilled butter
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Then measure the flour and salt into a large mixing bowl and blend. Cut butter into flour mixture, if you have never done this or it proves to be difficult, a pastry blender may help. The intention is to cut small cubes of butter into the flour mixture, and stir until you have a crumbly consistency.
Next, whisk your egg and vinegar along with two tablespoons of cold water in a separate bowl. Now add to flour mixture with a fork until the dough becomes smooth. It should be heavy and sticky, no longer crumbly. If it starts to dry or crack you have over-mixed. If this occurs, add another tablespoon of water and gently mix again.
Letting your dough sit for a moment, flour a flat surface. I typically like to clean off my kitchen island and use that, it’s a nice height and is a large flat surface. Turn out your dough onto the surface and flour your hands. Divide dough in half and then very delicately knead the dough, once you are confident with the consistency, flatten each half down on your surface and form a rectangle as best as you can.
Using a floured rolling pin to roll it out to be a 1/4-inch thick or slightly thinner. The crust does not need to be round. Lastly, pick up one of your crusts and gently lay it into a greased 9 inch pie pan. The crust should hang over the edge of the pan by about 1/4th of an inch, cut away any excess.
Filling – Apples are based on size, so approximate
3 Honeycrisp apples
3 Granny Smith apples
(I personally like to use these two types, but you can use any four to 6 apples you please)
2 tablespoons lemon juice (another secret ingredient)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup of water
¼ cup of white sugar
¼ cup of brown sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
To begin, wash and peel your apples using a potato peeler, then core them. Then cut your apple slices into halves. Put apples into a large mixing bowl and immediately add lemon juice, this will keep them from browning. In a separate bowl; whisk together water, cinnamon, sugar, cornstarch and nutmeg. Add this mixture and the apples to a saucepan and cook on low for 5-10 minutes, or until the apples are tender.
While the apples cook, brush your bottom pie crust with melted butter, then add filling once it’s finished cooking. There should be 1/4-inch between the top of your filling and the rim of the pie pan. Moving to the top crust you can now cut designs into it while it lays flat, if you are going for a classic look I would suggest just using a knife to make slits. If you’re a little more adventurous use small cookie cutters, but don’t go too crazy. Now take your top crust and gently drape it over the top.
Use your fingers to pinch together the top and bottom crust. This is called pie crimping and there are many different styles, get creative! Finally, put your pie in the oven at 425 degrees for 15 minutes, and then for an additional 30 minutes at 350 degrees, or until pie is softly browned.
Enjoy, and savor the memories!