Sibling Rivalry, Part I
I timed last year’s apple pies perfectly. Every September I call Blue Jay Orchards in Bethel, Connecticut and order a bushel of Rhode Island Greening apples. They are one of the only orchards that I know who still grows this stupendously wonderful apple variety that is the absolutely best apple for pie no matter what anyone else, even the most expert of experts in the food business, says.
I make 12 apple pies every year and then, as the months go by, eat them down when company comes or my grandson Zev who eats almost nothing but likes my apple pie so of course there’s some for him when he visits.
So now I have one pie left, which we will have this week because I just called Blue Jay and put in my order for this year.
When I called them last week they weren’t sure they would have the apples this year because of all the rain and hurricanes, especially Hurricane Irene. Ohmyohmyohmy, that sounded like terrible news at the time and I actually began to think about other apples I could bake into a pie.
But they told me to call back in a day or so and sure enough, when I did they told me that they have some! So I am in luck.
I never did decide on what apples I would have used.
Anyway, my Mom made apple pie every year too. Her sister, my Aunt Beck, made apple cake. And, you know, sisters will be sisters. They loved each other lots but they had this kind of apple-baking rivalry come September, when the new apples came out. They each not-so-secretly let everyone in the family know that the pie or cake was much better than the cake or pie.
And so it went. I liked both, but, being daughter to the pie baker, I learned to bake the pie.
My mother was the one who clued me into the Rhode Island Greening apples. And she showed me how to make the dough and how to cut the butter and shortening into the flour so the crust would be crumbly and how not to add too much liquid because that makes the dough rubbery. She also taught me how to roll the dough gently, so it would be tender. “Don’t murder the dough!,” she used to caution.
Her apple pies were the best of the best and I use her recipe, so, well, I don’t want to brag but —- everyone says mine are the best of the best.
Here’s the recipe., You might not be able to find Rhode Island Greening apples. So you’re on your own here. If you use a sweeter apple, cut back on the sugar.
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon grated fresh lemon peel, optional
1/2 cup cold butter
1/3 cup cold vegetable shortening
4-6 tablespoons cold milk, juice, water or melted ice cream
1 tablespoon butter
To make the crust: Combine the flour, sugar, salt, and lemon peel, if used, in a large bowl. Cut the butter and shortening into chunks and add the chunks to the flour mixture. Work the fat into the flour mixture until the ingredients resemble crumbs (use your hands, a pastry blender or the pulse feature of a food processor). Add the liquid, using only enough to gather pastry into a soft ball of dough (start with 4 tablespoons). Cut the dough in half and flatten each half to make a disk shape. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let it stand at least 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly flour a pastry board or clean work surface. With a rolling pin, roll one half of the dough on the floured surface into a circle about 1/8-inch thick, making sure the circle is larger than the pie pan by about 1 inch. Place the dough in a 9” or 10” pie pan. Pour the apple filling into the pastry-lined pan. Cut the butter into small pieces and place on top of the filling. Roll out the remaining dough and place it over the filling. Gently press the bottom and top crusts together along the flared edge of the pie pan. For a fluted rim, press your thumb and index finger against the outside of the rim, or crimp it with the tines of a fork or the blunt side of a knife. Cut steam vents in the top crust with the tip of a sharp knife or the tines of a fork. Bake the pie for 50-60 minutes or until golden brown.
3 pounds pie apples (Rhode Island Greenings, Granny Smith, Gravenstein, Northern Spy, Golden Delicious, Idared, Stayman, Winesap, Baldwin, Jonagold, Braeburn
1/2 cup sugar, approximately
2 tablespoons lemon juice
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Peel and core the apples then cut them into slices. Place the slices in a bowl. Add the sugar, lemon juice, cinnamon and flour and toss the ingredients to coat the apple slices evenly.