By guest blogger Dana Blinder
I come from generations of foodies. My auntie Rae makes a brisket that will knock your yarmulke off and my papa had a backyard garden that yielded crisp cucumbers and plump raspberries. My immediate family cooks often, as well, though not many meals are duplications of family recipes. The one outstanding exception is my Grandma Jenny’s apple pie.
Since we kids are all plane rides, train trips, and automobile excursions away from home, little is predictable about the holidays—with the exception of that apple pie. When we all come in, all hands are on deck for this creation. My dad and brother peel and core the apples, paying special attention to remove every ounce of skin; I slice them thin, small, and uniform; my mom rolls out the crust and constructs the pie; and my sister and brother-in-law arrive just in time to eat.
We’ve built new family traditions for this pie, but I still remember the old ones. I have fond memories of playing in my grandparents’ kitchen while Grandma Jenny cooked up traditional Polish food from scratch. When all I was capable of doing on my own was nuking canned soup, Grandma Jenny was filling the kitchen with scent of buttery goodness without even owning a microwave. Her homemade apple pie went fast at Christmas dinner. These memories weren’t new to this recipe either; the Kowalczyk family apple pie recipe originated in Poland with “Babcia,” Grandma Jenny’s grandma!
I’m proudly the fifth generation of Polish hands to hang onto this recipe. If that lineage doesn’t prove it’s good, I don’t know what does. The directions are detailed, the ingredients simple. Make it this year and it’ll quickly become your new holiday tradition.
Kowalczyks’ Apple Pie
2¼ cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
¾ cup + 2 Tablespoons shortening (Crisco, not butter-flavored)
5 Tablespoons water (may need 1 extra)
8–10 apples, peeled, cored, and sliced into bite-size pieces
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Dash of nutmeg
2 Tablespoons flour
1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
2. Whisk together the flour and salt.
3. Add shortening to the flour mixture and, using a pastry blender or fork, mix until dough becomes like small peas.
4. Add the water, one tablespoon at a time, and mix well.
5. Shape the dough into a ball.
6. Cut the dough in half. Using a floured rolling pin, roll out half the dough onto a floured surface and place into a 10″ pie
pan. Using a floured fork, prick the bottom crust several times to enhance the flakiness of the crust.
7. Combine all the apple filling ingredients.
8. Add the filling to crust. The mound of apples will seem too large, but it will condense as it bakes. Place a few pats of butter on top of the filling.
9. Roll out the other half of the dough.
10. Pat the edges of the bottom crust with water; this will help seal the top and bottom crusts together. Place the second rolled-out dough on top of the apple filling.
11. Using a knife, cut away any excess crust that hangs over the edge of the pie plate. With floured fingers, lightly press down all around the edge of the two crusts to seal.
12. Using a floured fork, press the tines of the fork down all around the edge of the crust to seal the top and bottom crusts and create a pretty design. Or, if you’re talented (and have short fingernails), pinch the dough together, with your fingertips, all around the edge of the crust to seal, creating an even prettier design.
13. Using the floured fork, use the tip of the tines to prick the letter “A” (for apple) into the top crust, to act as a vent.
14. Bake for 40 minutes with aluminum foil placed around the edge of the crust. Place a cookie sheet beneath the pie pan to catch leaks.
15. Remove the aluminum foil and bake for another 20 minutes.