* * *NOEL KURTZ, a retired school teacher from Hadley, Massachusetts, writes, “Sixty-plus years ago, a young boy who loved to eat apple pie joined his mother in making one. I cored and sliced the apples and felt very important as I worked with the main ingredient. “As my mom directed, I combined the dry ingredients in a large bowl. After mixing (my mother learned later), I ate a fair number of apples from the bowl before they were pressed into the waiting crust. The apples coated with flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, sugar, and lemon juice were irresistible. “They were then, and they are still today. From that day forward, I always add an extra apple, for me, or for my children, and now for my grandchildren.”
Isabella’s Apple Pie6 to 8 medium tart apples like McIntosh or Macoun ¾ c sugar 2 T flour 1 T cinnamon Dash nutmeg 2 T butter 1 T lemon juice Dash salt In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients and mix with apples. Press apples firmly into a 9- or 10-inch pie plate lined with the bottom crust. Dot apple mix with pats of butter in several spots (I now add several additional dashes of cinnamon). Apply top crust. Join crusts at rim and press together with a fork. Cut four 2-inch slits in top crust from center toward edge. Bake at 400° for 40-50 minutes. About halfway through cooking, remove pie from oven and brush top crust with milk. Note: the crust was made from scratch for a double-crust pie from the Better Homes cookbook.
* * *JAMES KREINBRING of Cambridge, Massachusetts, a senior administrator at Boston College, wrote this about his apple pie recipe: “About 25 Thanksgivings ago, I was asked to bring an apple pie to dinner. I had never made a pie. I had been a bread baker for a long time, but had never attempted a pie or, in fact, pastry of any kind. “I needed a recipe, so I went to my James Beard cookbook — that classic volume first published in 1959. He offered a long list of pie recipes, and all of them started with a single recipe for pastry crust. Being a novice, I followed it meticulously for years. “The Beard recipe calls for lots of butter (or other shortening), flour, salt, and water — and the less water the better. He advised that the butter be ice cold and cut into the flour and salt by hand. I was happy to find that this made flaky and rich dough, but surprised it also required about 30 or 40 minutes of intense labor. “His filling called for apple varieties that I could not find in my local store, but I had read elsewhere that Cortlands are a good baking apple, so Cortlands it was. I used a sharp knife to make a scripted letter ‘A’ to vent the crust. “The pie was instant Thanksgiving success. “Very little has changed in those 25 years. I still make one apple pie every Thanksgiving — but I have experimented some. I found that a food processor makes a crust nearly indistinguishable from the handmade variety, but in a fraction of the time. “Recent Thanksgivings have brought me to my daughter’s house in Chicago, where Cortlands can be hard to find, so I have substituted McIntosh and Gravenstein. “I also cut the sugar by half. It remains plenty sweet while reducing the liquid and accenting the taste and texture of the apples. “My paperback edition of James Beard’s classic cookbook came apart long ago — first, not surprisingly, at the apple pie recipe. I now own a 1996 reprint in hard cover. “The apple pie has become a family tradition and expectation at every Thanksgiving celebration. “And I still make only apple pies.”
Jim Kreinbring’s Thanksgiving Apple Pie, with thanks to James BeardPastry dough 2 c flour ½ t salt 12 T butter Ice water In a large bowl or on a marble slab, sift the flour and salt. Put the butter in a hollow in the center of the flour and blend it in with your fingers (or cut in with two knives or a pastry blender, or use a food processor) until it is distributed through the flour and has a mealy consistency. Don’t press it or knead; just flake it gently. When it is mealy, add about 3 or 4 tablespoons of ice water and work the mixture into a ball. If you need a little more water, add it, but be careful not to add too much. The less water used, the better. The pastry should stick together but not be doughy. Roll the ball of pastry up in waxed paper and put it in the refrigerator to chill for 20 or 30 minutes. Divide the dough and put one half on a lightly floured board. Flour a rolling pin lightly and press it down into the center of the dough. Roll gently out toward the edge. Keep rolling gently from the center up to the edge, rotating the dough a quarter turn each time to shape it evenly into a circle. When it is large enough to fill the bottom and sides of the pie tin, roll it over the rolling pin and transfer it to the tin, unrolling it evenly over the bottom. Pat it down to fit the pan and trim off the edges, leaving a slight overhang to seal with the top crust. Roll out the top crust in the same manner. After the pie is filled, place the top crust over the filling, press the edges of the top and bottom crust together with your fingers and trim off the excess dough with a sharp knife. Using the prongs of a fork, or your fingers, flute or crimp the edge of the crust. Cut small slits in the top crust in two or three places. Filling 9 to 10 apples, such as Cortland, McIntosh, or Gravenstein, or a combination Butter ½ c white sugar ½ c brown sugar Cinnamon Salt Peel the apples and cut them in thin slices. Place a layer of sliced apples on the bottom crust, dot with butter, sprinkle with white and brown sugar, a little cinnamon, and a tiny pinch of salt. Repeat these layers until all the apples and sugar are used. The pie tin should be heaped up with apple slices. Put on the top crust, seal the edges and gash the top crust in two or three places. Bake in a preheated oven at 450° for 20 minutes. Reduce heat to 400° for 20 minutes, and then to 350° for a final 20 minutes, until the crust is nicely browned and the apples are soft. “For the last 20 minutes,” says Jim, “I often cover the pie with tinfoil, because otherwise it can get too brown. “As for a topping, personally I only use vanilla ice cream. Sometimes we have whipped cream as an alternative. But no cheddar cheese for me. I love cheese — and I eat cheese with green apples — but I just don’t think it goes well with pie.”