It’s autumn in New England. The leaves are morphing into their annual blaze of flourescent orange, magenta and yellow and the chill in the air is a reminder that winter is right around the corner. Except for winter, the seasons here in New England seem to race by so quickly. Winter sits on the region like a really fat cat sitting in your lap, cutting off the circulation to your legs. But before the snow begins to fall, we have a couple of glorious months of autumn. And the most abundant and delicious fall crop, in my opinion, is apples.
Store bought apples simply aren’t on the same planet as the ones we pick here in New Hampshire. Last weekend, Jason and I picked 18 pounds of scrumptiousness. We picked ozark gold, gala, cortland and Molly’s delicious apples, but there are just as many varieties that you may never have heard of. The ozark golds are yellow with a pink blush on the skin and the flesh is soft and mellow. I also very much like the spartan apples, bright red, crispy and tart. And every year, I look forward to honey crisp, which is very juicy and taste surprisingly like honey, and ginger gold, which is green, hard and has a spicy flavor. Later in the fall, I’ll go back and pick idared and mutzu apples. The tastes, textures and qualities of these varieties are as unique as the people who pick them.
There are so many fantastic things to do with apples. But fall is not complete without apple pie. My mother made some pretty good apple pie, but again, all recipes have room for improivisation. After three years in New England, experimenting with various apple pie techniques, I think I have a pretty good approach.
Some might say it’s sacreligious, but I don’t make my own crust. For many years I lived in tiny places with puny kitchens and I literally had no room to roll out a pie crust. After making my own a couple of times, I found no difference between the home made and Pillsbury. So, I save myself the extra work on the crust and I concentrate on the filling. Still, there is something very special about making the whole thing from scratch. More power to you if you choose this route.
Many people prefer the granny smith for pies because they are tart, have lots of pectin and hold their shape when they are cooked. But I actually like to mix varities. The sofer apples break down into a saucy consistency blending with the firmer apples to make a really intersting pie. The ozark golds break down nicely and the macintosh or granny smith keep their texture. Also, I like my apple pie like I like my friends, straightfoward and honest with no tricks, games or gimicks. I do not add raisins, nuts or any other fruity little intruders. I want to taste the apples.
One of the problems my mother always had with her pies was a soggy crust. She never blind baked her crust, so her pies always had a gooey layer on the bottom. GROSS!! I always blind bake my crust by laying it into the pie plate, pricking the it with a fork a few times, covering it with waxed paper, parchment or foil and filling it with rice or beans. Bake at 375 degrees for about 15 minutes or until the edges just barely start to brown. I also bake all my pies on a pizza stone to make sure the bottom gets nice and brown.
I rarely measure anything unless I’m baking cakes, cookies or breads. Normally I just eyeball this stuff. But you might be more comfortable with measuring things….and your pie might come out better.
ABBY’S APPLE PIE
6 or 7 large apples, mixed varieties
1/4 cup of flour
1/3 cup of brown sugar
1 tbsp of cinamon
1/4 tsp of nutmeg
1 pinch of salt
1 squeeze of lemon juice, about half a lemon, and you can add some zest for good measure if you want to
A couple of pats of butter
While your crust is blind baking, peel the apples, use a melon baller to core them and slice them into thin slices. Throw them into a large bowl and drizzle with the lemon juice. Mix in everything but the butter. Pour the apples into the baked crust. They should create a high pile, like an apple mountain, in the middle of the pie plate. Dot the top of the apple mountain with small blobs of butter. Cover with the second pie crust and seal the edges by pinching them together.
Make an egg wash by beating one egg with a little bit of water. Brush the top of the pie with egg wash and cut some slits into the top of the crust for venting. You can get creative with your slits here. Make a smiley face or carve your initials. Sprinkle the top with cinamon sugar before putting it into a 375 degree oven. You might want to brush the pie again with egg wash half way through baking for a really shiney crust. Bake for 45-50 minutes until the crust is a deep golden brown and you can see the apples bubbling. Serve warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and you might just think you died and went to New England in the fall.
RATING: Killer Delicious