My Nan made the best apple pie, sweet, liberally laced with cinnamon and heavy with apples, the crust always flaky and golden brown. Like most grandmothers, she never measured, and like most grandchildren, I was too busy doing other things to notice. And now she is gone, and pie has become a taste memory, never to be recreated. But, with the help of Elizabeth Baird, who in my culinary world is a surrogate Nan, I’ve found a recipe that makes me happy. It’s not at all like my Nan’s, but that’s alright. This recipe is a good one and worthy of its own place in the canon of culinary memories, and because it’s written and recorded, it is a taste experience that can be preserved for ever.
Appropriately titled Classic Apple Pie from Apples, Peaches & Pears, Elizabeth Baird, pub.1977
“Apple pie as it’s sold in supermarkets, most bakeries and restaurants is enough to give Canadian cooking a bad name. This is disappointing because a fine apple pie is very easy to make and tastes terrific. What relation to real pie are these crusted things heaped up in the middle with glutinous bright yellow “filling?” Only the colour lets you know that it’s apple, not cherry.
Certain apples are well suited to this classic pie. I recommend any of the August apples, especially the Red Astrachan, or Transparent, and then Duchess, Melba, Cortland, and Northern Spy.”
Sufficient pastry for a two-crust 9″ pie.
6 cups sliced apples
1/2 cup white sugar (3/4 cup if the apples are very tart)
1/2 tsp.cinnamon or 1/8 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg or 1/2 tsp. rosewater
1 1/2 tbsp. butter
1 egg white slightly beaten or 1 tbsp. milk
t tsp. white sugar
Line a pie plate with pastry. Do not trim. Roll out pastry for top crust.
Combine apples, 1/2 cup sugar and flavouring in a bowl. Toss lightly to distribute sugar. Wet the pastry on the rim of the plate with water. Add the apples, heaping them up in the middle (for an intense apple flavour, I spread 2 tbsp. of apple butter on the bottom of the pastry before adding the apples.) Dot with butter. Put on the top crust and press around the edge. Trim and flute. Slash decorative steam holes in the top crust. Brush with lightly beaten egg or milk and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon sugar.
Bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees for 40 to 50 minutes or until the pie is golden brown and the apples are tender. Serve with wedges of well-aged (Canadian) Cheddar cheese.