Once a food nerd always a food nerd. I am making this statement with this particular apple pie recipe because with it I won two blue ribbons at the South Carolina State Fair…in the junior category when I was 16 and then in the adult division when I was 17.
Needless to say, I was very proud of this accomplishment, but not enough to EVER tell any of my friends at the time, lest it get out into the general population of my high school. In those days, and actually to this day in my soul, I was what would be considered a wallflower. If I could blend into the background I was comfortable, which became tricky as I grew to a height of 5 foot 10, towered over all the boys, and sported the typecast Irish/Welsh look of ultra pale skin, freckles and thick red hair.
Even as I got older I tucked my ribbons away, dreading any mention of “the blue ribbon winning apple pie” that would surely be revealed to every boy I dared bring home. In my family of cooks it did give me a boost in confidence especially around my mother, who is a very fine baker in her own right.
We tried for years to get her to enter her superb caramel cake (my favorite) or her billowy, 4-layer coconut cake in the State Fair. But she never would, she’d just say, “It would be wasteful. You know they take one slice and then the rest of the cake just sits there… and rots.” If there’s one thing my mother is NOT, its wasteful. Long before being green was hip (like 30 years ago!), we (lovingly) called her the “original recycler” as she insisted we rinse out and reuse every plastic Ziploc bag and save all the aluminum cans to take to the local metals salvager.
Nothing was safe from the ‘original recycler’. I can still see my dad rummaging through a waste basket at the insistence of my mom, searching for pantyhose (women, even girls wore pantyhose back in the 70’s and 80’s, people) and then seeing all manner of lady’s unmentionables propping up row upon row of tomato plants and runner bean trellis in our garden. Ugh.
But in all truthfulness I do now use old tights to prop up my own tomato and pepper plants, so for that Mom and Dad, I salute you. But I still don’t ante up to the blue ribbons – well at least until now, I suppose. They reside somewhere at the family homestead – dusty and disintegrating in an old metal frame. Next time I’m there, maybe I’ll look for them and show them off to Girly Girl, who now proudly proclaims herself to be my “little sous chef”. Good girl, good girl.
I do have a “secret” ingredient to this pie, proclaimed to the world here for the first time ever, and it is… molasses. Actually when I won the blue ribbons all those years ago I had 3 secret ingredients…one was the molasses, one was the apples I used which were hand picked from a family-owned orchard in Easley, South Carolina and the last, the pièce de résistance was…
my Father. Dressed in his work suit and tie, he hand delivered the pie first thing in the morning, fresh baked and toasty from the oven. It was the first pie tasted. I’m not saying that this necessarily had any influence what so ever, and I do like to think this recipe is “award-winning”, but that pie was delivered warm and my Dad, well, he was a very charming man…
- 6-8 large apples (about 3 lbs), washed, peeled, and cored
- ½ lemon
- Ice water
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 2/3 cup brown sugar, packed
- 2 tbl flour
- 2-3 tbl cornstarch*
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- ¼ tsp nutmeg
- 1/8 tsp cloves
- ½ tsp salt
- 2 tbl molasses
- egg wash, if desired
In a large bowl squeeze the lemon into several cups of ice water. Slice your apples and place in the water. Stir the mixture around as you continue to more apple slices. This will help the apple from turning brown. When finished, stir once more and drain the apple slices in a colander. Pat dry if necessary.
In a small bowl mix the sugars, spices, 2 tbl. cornstarch and salt. Pour the drained apple slices back into the large bowl and sprinkle the sugar/cornstarch mixture over them, stir gently to coat. Allow the apples to sit at room temperature at least 30 minutes and up to an hour.
If I have pastry crust to make this is when I make it. Preheat oven to 425 degrees ahrenheit . After the allotted time, stir the apples and see that the juice from the apples and the sugar mixture has created a ‘syrup’. Stir the apples again and spoon them, but not the ‘syrup’, into the prepared pie crust.
Add the remaining tablespoon of cornstarch*, the flour and the molasses into the ‘syrup’. Stir or whisk. Pour this mixture over the apples evenly. Cover the pie with the top or lattice crust and crimp the edges. If you like, brush the crust with an egg wash.
Bake the pie for 15 minutes at 425 degrees and then reduce the heat to 350 degrees and bake another 45-55 minutes or until the apples are cooked through and the filling is bubbly. Remove to a rack to cool. Slice and serve warm with ice cream or whipped cream.
Makes 8 deep-dish slices or 10 regular size portions.
* I added in 1 extra tablespoon cornstarch to compensate for the using the Yellow Delicious apples, which tend to contain more moisture than classic pie making apples.