Apple pie was not in my Thanksgiving repertoire for many years – my grandmother was usually in charge of the pies at family functions and she more or less restricted herself to pumpkin and pecan. Once in awhile I would wheedle a mincemeat pie out of her, but since she and I were the only people who would eat it, that didn’t happen very often (and it’s for that reason I haven’t made one in many, many years – even Beloved doesn’t care for mincemeat and he’ll eat just about anything).
However, while the kids all have their favorite pies – Oldest Son loves pumpkin, Darling Daughter prefers pecan, and Miss Jacki will eat any kind of pie you put in front of her, Jolly doesn’t like either pumpkin or pecan pie. She likes apple pie. Since I do too (it’s my hands-down favorite pie of all time), and there’s nothing I like better than throwing another dish on the holiday menu (I never claimed to be in my right mind), apple pie became part of the Romanesque orgy we call Thanksgiving dinner.
Oh, and The Young One? He’d rather have warm chocolate souffle. There’s one in every family.
I’ve been refining my apple pie for many years. The version I make now uses a method that Rose Levy Berenbaum perfected for her fruit pies, and it makes a damn fine pie. It’s a little more involved than most standard apple pie recipes, but I promise you it is well worth it.
Note: I put a mixture of tart apples and sweet apples in my pies – I think it just makes for a tastier pie. Make sure, whatever type you prefer, to use firm apples that stand up well to cooking. Granny Smith and Macintosh are good tart baking apples, and Jonathan and Gala apples are sweet varieties that withstand cooking fairly well. Don’t use Golden or Red Delicious – they seem to turn to mush too easily. I also don’t slice my apples very thinly; we’re shooting for tender yet firm apples in the pie. Slicing them too thinly can easily turn your pie into an “applesauce pie.”
Pie crust for a 2 crust, 9″ pie
2 1/2 pounds baking apples (about six medium), peeled, cored and sliced at least 1/2″ thick
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/2 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons cornstarch
Preheat the oven to 425 F.
In a large bowl, combine the apples, lemon juice, sugars, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt and toss to mix. Allow the apples to sit for about an hour.
Transfer the apples and their juices to a colander suspended over another bowl for about 15 minutes, capturing the juice. You should have between 1/2 and 3/4 cup of liquid. Return the apples to the original bowl and toss with the cornstarch. Set aside.
In a small saucepan over over medium-high heat, boil the liquid from the apples with the butter until syrupy and slightly caramelized. Swirl the liquid but do not stir it. You should have between 1/3 and 1/2 cup of syrup, depeding on how much liquid you started with. Pour over the apples, tossing gently. Don’t worry if the syrup hardens slightly on contact with the apples; it will dissolve during baking.
Pour the apple mixture into a pie plate that has been lined with the bottom crust and trimmed 1/2″ wider than the plate. Brush the edges with water, and cover with the top crust, trimming it to fit the bottom crust; press down all the way around to seal. Crimp the border using a fork or your fingers, then slash the top crust 3 – 5 times.
Place on a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to 375 F and bake for another 40 to 50 minutes. Cover the edges with foil if the crust seems to be browning too quickly.
Allow to cool for at least 4 hours before serving.