The story of Johnny Appleseed may be apocryphal, but it is so charming that I always think of some little wrinkly old gnome tramping through the countryside sprinkling apple seeds wherever he went whenever I put an apple pie into the oven. Which I just did.
Years ago when our family had a house at the Russian River, my mother-in-law and I went to orchards in nearby Sebastopol and picked boxes of apples for sauce and pies. We were great canners of fruit in those days. We did the picking and the rest of the family ate. When it was blackberry season she and I picked berries and brought them back so that she could make pies and the rest of us could go swimming. I feel guilty about leaving her with all that work, but she was a better pie baker than I in those days.
For years, our garage was filled with the delicious and tantalizing smell of apples in summer, at least until I fell off the roof while making applesauce. I would take a week off from work and devote it to making 50 quarts of applesauce. As the sink filled with the accumulation of appleskins, I kept trying to grind them up in the disposal. It jammed up nicely so don’t ever try that. Dr. Advice was away on a business trip, and I felt quite capable of unplugging it by sticking a hose down that pipe that sticks up out of the roof. I don’t remember what they call it. Anyway, I climbed the ladder carrying the running hose and prepared to poke it down the pipe, when the ladder gave way and I fell off the roof. Dr. Advice said it wouldn’t have worked anyway. Mott’s makes a fine substitute for homemade sauce now.
My old cooking teacher Marian Cunningham just passed away a few months ago. She was the second one to teach me to not “sweat the small stuff”after Julia Child had instilled the thought. Marian believed in keeping it simple. She was so honest she even disagreed strongly with her good friend Alice Waters about which lettuce was best. Long after we were using spring greens, arugula, radicchio, etc., Marian still like the old iceberg lettuce she (and I) had grown up with.
I’m passing along Marian’s recipe for pie crust which is infallible. (I know everyone who gives you their favorite recipe says it is infallible, but this one really is.)
My mother-in-law’s crust was divinely flakey because she only used shortening, but I prefer the buttery taste of this one. As Julia used to say “Bon Appetit”!!
PROCESSOR PIE CRUST
2 Cups All-Purpose flour, 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/2 tsp. sugar Pulse 8-10 times till mixed well.
Add 1 and 3/4 cubes of butter very cold and cut into small pieces, 1 Tbs. cold shortening
Pulse about 10 times till butter is nicely distributed and you can still see flakes of it
Add 1/3 Cup ice water and pulse 8-10 times or until it comes together in a mass
Wrap it in plastic wrap and chill about an hour before rolling. Freezes well