Grandma Miller’s pies are a staple every Thanksgiving just like her famous baked beans are for every family gathering (except Thanksgiving – I never realized that until now…).
She makes apple and pumpkin (with real pumpkins, more about that later). Sometimes she’ll throw in a chocolate pie for her grandkids & great-grandkids – she has a total of 19, I’m pretty sure I counted correctly, so it’s important to please them all 🙂
Last weekend, we took Olivia to the apple orchard. She’s too little to care, but I wanted the fall themed photo ops & the apples. With some friends, we drove outside of DC to Homestead Farms and had a great fall day.
We picked apples, drank warm apple cider, ate a smorgasbord of meats & cheeses, pies and a caramel apple then headed home.
The next day, I attempted to make my grandmother’s apple pie. My favorite pie, hands down.
Grandma doesn’t use or write down her recipes. Last year, I sat around her kitchen table and I asked her to break it down for me. I needed to know the entire process because I was determined to someday recreate the masterpiece and also selfishly, I want my pie to be as memorable as hers and morbidly, I didn’t want the pie to die with her, which thankfully, we have many more Thanksgivings before I actually have to worry about that.
We sat down around the table, I was with, grandma, poppie, my dad and my husband, Brad. I was ready & eager to have grandma share her secrets. And she did, “a little of this,” “a lot of that,” “mix it until it looks right,” and “I don’t know how much, I just do it until it feels right.” No measurements were provided except for “2 cups of flour” for the crust, “1 cup of sugar unless you have tart apples” and “not too much nutmeg, just one shake” for the pie.
The crust called for oil and milk, which is completely different from what I was taught in culinary school, but hey it’s grandma and she knows best. She also told me that “too greasy” of the crust was the consistency I was looking for… okay I think….
The day before heading to the orchard, I search high and low for this “recipe” so that I could see what kind of apples grandma uses for her pie. I searched all my cookbooks, my day planner, my top dresser drawer because you never know where you stash something to “keep it safe.” Well, needless to say, I never found it. I still don’t know where it is. Luckily, my brilliant husband had the thought to audio record my grandma explaining the recipe when we were sitting around the table last Thanksgiving! It was amazing to just listen to her instructions, I know I will cherish that recording for a long time.
She starts off by saying that last years crust was store bought…I mean she’s 80-something years old so I won’t hold it against her, however I was determined to make her homemade crust for this project.
The second thing she says is that she uses whatever apples she has on hand. That will make this easy.
I picked apples at the orchard. All kinds. I had sweet, tart, & juicy.
The next day I peeled 10 apples, sliced them, trying to do them all the same thickness for an even bake, this is something that was taught to me in culinary school, common sense really, but if you didn’t think about it before, now it has crossed your mind – you’re welcome.
I tossed them with 1 cup of sugar, an unknown amount of cinnamon and “not too much, just one shake” of nutmeg. I veered off course, and tossed in some flour to help thicken the juice that is baked out of the apples. Then of course I tasted them, I probably ate about 1/2 an apple’s worth so I used 9 1/2 apples in the pie.
I made grandma’s crust. This ended up being easier than I originally anticipated. The next time I plan on writing down measurements so I can eventually master it like her. I know once a recipe is made with exact measurements it will lose some of it’s charm, however I think yummy pie crust is worth it.
To my 2 cups of flour (for 2 crusts, the bottom and top) I added a glob of crisco shortening, milk and oil, until it felt greasy. Side note, during this process I used the internet and I quickly learned that a lot of handed-down-from-grandma pie crust recipes are missing butter. I found myself wondering if it was because butter was hard to come by during war times… okay back to the task at hand crust making…
I divided the crusts into two.
I then tried to roll it out between two pieces of parchment paper, I noticed that the crusts were too soft so I put them in the freezer to quickly cool them down to make it easier to roll out (I have no idea how my grandma does it, she didn’t mention it, so I applied my culinary school skills to this to make it easier for myself).
I then put the crust in the pie pan and piled in the apples. Trust me, it looked like too many apples but when they bake they fall down into place,so in order to have a pie worth eating, there needs to be a mountain of apples, dotted with some butter. Grandma in her audio recording mentioned butter, but I couldn’t make out what she said to do with it, so I assume this is what she does with it. I then covered the apples with the second crust, I cut out some slits to allow evaporation.
I went to go bake the pie and realized the grandma didn’t tell me how. So I did the usual 350 degrees. I was amazed at how close my pie turned out compared to hers. I think I needed to bake it a little longer for color. There were some slight differences, so I may have to consult her again next month when I see her at Thanksgiving. Trust me, I’ll definitely be trying this again.
Look at these pictures!
Look at those apple layers!
The lady behind the pie ❤️