Saturday, July 5, 2008

Bonding Through Pie Tradition

For my daughter, Les, and for my dear nieces Linsey, Genevie, Evani and Bailee, Kristy, nieces-in-law Colleen and Stacy, and great-nieces Tyler, Hayden, McKenzy, Jayden and Navi (forgive any mis-spellings). And, for any of my Tait nieces or nieces-in-law who make care, too!

When I was 16, I had a momentary desire to learn domestic skills from my Mom (“Mayma” to all you grandkids…). It was the 4th of July, and our Mesa 25th Ward was having an old fashioned picnic at a park. I wanted to take something and enter it into one of the contests. My grandmother, whom we called Dee Dee, and Mom were well known for their amazing apple pies. I wanted to follow the tradition and learn how to make their “famous” recipes. Mom took the time that morning to teach me how.

A couple of things happened as a result. One, I won 1st place in the pie baking contest – I beat all of the older ladies in the ward. I was quite proud of that, especially since it was my first try. Second, a family tradition was continued on and mothers and daughters bonded. Mom made me feel so good about my achievement, and from then on said that my pies were way better than hers, and much prettier. That was not true, but it certainly boosted my confidence a bit.

At least once a year or so, during most years, I have made at least one apple pie. I always make a BIG mess, and the bottom crust almost always tears, and I then begin praying that the top crust does not. Regardless, I always enjoy the experience and it always takes me back to the days of making them with Mom. I made one yesterday morning for our July 4th Barbeque. I missed my mom, and grandmother who have been “on the other side” for many years now. But I also began thinking about my sweet daughter, wonderful nieces and great-nieces. I missed them all so much. I realized that this tradition needed to be passed on. Since I live across the country from them, I thought I would blog about it and share some of those wonderful pie-making secrets given to me that day by Mayma.

I am not going to give every step to making a pie – you will have to learn some of that on your own (OR, ask me to teach you sometime when we are together because I would be more than happy to do so. That offer stands for any friends as well). I will share the important parts that these women, raised with Pioneer roots, had learned from their mothers. And, I will include the recipes as well.

The only shortcut that Mayma took was to buy her apples canned – Comstock pie apples. NO, NEVER canned pie filling, but just canned apples. However, the last few years out here on the East Coast they are nowhere to be found. So, I bought about 5 Granny Smith apples and cut up 6 cups of thinly sliced pieces and added that to the rest of the pie mixture.

The recipe for the Apple Pie Filling is:

1 can pie apples (OR enough thinly sliced pie baking apples, like Granny Smith, to make 6 cups)

¾ c. white sugar

½ c. brown sugar

2 TBSP flour

½ - 1 tsp cinnamon

dash nutmeg

1 TBSP lemon juice

1 TBSP butter (to dab around the top of the mixture right before putting on the top crust)

Let the mixture sit on the counter while you make the crust – the juices start to work and it gets juicier and yummier by the minute.

Now the pie crust:

1 ½ c. flour

½ tsp. salt

Cut in ½ cup rounded, of shortening with knives!

Add ½ c. icy cold water

When shortening is “cut” into the flour and salt mixture, we don’t use a pastry cutter – oh no no no. We use TWO knives and literally “cut” up the shortening until it is in tiny pea sized shapes, or smaller. No, they really do not have to be round like a pea!

You will be adding ICE-cold water – not lukewarm, not cold, but ICE cold. Yes, it matters.

It is important to remember that when mixing the dough, you must mix it together as little as possible, because the less you handle it, the more flaky your crust will be. It is a challenge to get the exact right amount of flour and shortening, because if one of them is off, this happens:

Yes, my bottom layer did tear – I still have a bit of trouble!

Another trick is in the “fluting” of the edges – here is how Mayma very carefully taught me how:

Doesn’t it look pretty?

To help the pie to brown and to be slightly crunchy on top, you must put a little milk in a dish, and then gently brush it on the top with your pastry brush. Then, sprinkle it with cinnamon and sugar. YUM!!

I baked mine a tad too long and it got a little too brown, but hey, that won’t affect the taste! Looks like the top layer did end up tearing a bit, but that’s ok. It gives it “character”, right? (that's even Mom's old pie cooling rack....)

Well, I am sure that yours will be much more beautiful and tastier than mine – just like Mom told me.


  1. Yum, that looks really good. I've never attempted a homemade pie before, but maybe I'll have to try.

  2. We will have to bake one together when I come to visit!

  3. Mmmm. I'm always trying to perfect my apple pie. I'll have to try some of your secrets!

  4. It looks delicious! I became interested in making pies, and biscuits too, because I liked to nibble the dough. *^.^*
    You are right about the ice cold water. As Martha Stewart says, "Make it cold; bake it hot."
    About the crust tearing, I had the same problem. I would try to keep it from sticking by using extra flour, but that makes the crust stiffer. Something I learned from a friend is to dampen the table and roll out the dough between layers of plastic wrap. I know, it's a lot of plastic wrap to toss afterwards, but it works great. When you pick up the pastry to line the dish, you slip your hand between the plastic wrap and the table and lift the whole thing into the dish. That way, when you have to reposition any of the pastry, the plastic wrap holds it together.
    BTW, have you tried blackberry-rhubarb? MMMMmmm!

  5. Hi Deon! Thanks for your recipe. I have been making my sister's apple pie lately which has a "pretend" crust made out of oatmeal, flour, and butter. I can hardly wait to try yours.

    Josh and I really enjoyed looking at your July 4th pictures and seeing so many familar faces! Isaac's preschool actually did a July 4th celebration as a multi-cultural event. They asked for my help, so I donated an American flag and a cd with Born in the USA, Surfin' USA, and R.O.C.K. in the USA. The kids marched around to the music with some shakers they made and we had ourselves a little a parade. I brought some root beer, which British people love, and some American snack food like Goldfish and pretzel sticks. It was fun to get to celebrate being American! I forgot my camera. I can't believe it!

  6. Ohhh Yummy! Todd LOVES apple pie and I have never been ambitious enough to try it...will you come help me???

  7. Man, that looks good!!!!!! I miss you guys! I wish I would have taken a pie lesson before moving..


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