For the next two posts I’m going to share some of my favorite off-beat pie recipes. This week I’m sharing an old-fashioned skillet pie; sometimes referred to as a pandowdy.
While I’ve used this method for all kinds of sweet and savory pies, for this post it had to be apple. There’s good reason for it. Since the apples started to ripen on our trees this Fall, Darrell has been a little fruity and obsessed with all things apple. Sure we’ve eaten a lot of apple pastries but his real love is cider, sweet and hard.
I knew it was serious when a local farmer offered him a chance to harvest apples from his orchard and Darrell came home with his pick-up loaded. At that moment, it came down to the old adage, “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.”
I started planning a trip to the 23rd annual Franklin County Cider Festival which turned out to be a great place to connect with dabblers like Darrell as well as full-blown down-the-rabbit-hole cider makers who mean serious business!
While we were there, we attended some of the programs together but Darrell was focused on building his base-knowledge and outlasted my staying power.
Between the beautiful fall colors and the winding roads, it was easy to lose track of time and destination. Road signs like this didn’t help.
We may have gone our separate ways for day-offerings but the high point of the weekend came Saturday night.
The Cider Salon featured 150 ciders from around the world to sample. Knowing we couldn’t (and shouldn’t) taste them all, Darrell started scrutinizing the list of vendors before taking his first tentative sip. It was a great way to end our time there and an eye-opener for me about how passionate people are about sharing what they know to help someone else along.
Of all the things I took away from our time in Franklin County, I think the biggest gem was what I learned about pruning apple trees. Darrell and I have some old growth apple trees behind the barn that some well-intended homesteader planted decades ago. We’ve wanted to bring them back to full potential but haven’t known where to even start. They look like I do on an extremely bad hair day, wild and unruly.
Here’s the thing we learned at the festival: Pruning an apple tree is not so different than tending to a happy, fruitful life. Pruning, after all, is meant to promote healthy growth and flowering. Given that, here’s a few tidbits I’ll be pondering over the snowy months ahead.
How to prune an apple tree and grow an abundant life:
- Cut off dead wood (No worries, I’m not talking about getting rid of Darrell here.)
- Keep your orchard clean. Pick up drops. Rake up leaves. Burn
dead branches (Can I finally burn that coat of his in the picture, too???)
- Keep the openness in mind when pruning anything growing back toward the middle needs to be pruned out so sunlight and air readily available.
- Every time you cut a branch, it encourages growth in a different direction. (this definitely happened when Darrell sold his optometric practice: Revamping Recipes Revamping Life)
- With older established tree(Ummm…like me??) first envision the entire shape you want then cut it back in 3 consecutive (aka “don’t give up the ship too soon”) years taking a third each year. Don’t be surprised if it takes longer than that.
- Voila! A happy, fruitful life and apple tree!
Hope to see you around the bread bowl one day or, who knows, maybe even at the Cider Salon tent next Fall! In the meantime, we’ll be bottling!
Rustic Apple Skillet Pie
*adapted from Cook’s Illustrated
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 T sugar
1/2 tsp salt
8 T butter
3-4 T ice water
1/2 cup apple cider (or apple juice reduced by simmering to 1/2 cup)
1/2 cup maple syrup (you could also use sugar as in regular apple pie)
2 T lemon juice
2 tsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp cinnamon ( + nutmeg if you like)
2 T unsalted butter
3 pounds sweet and tart apples (about 6 medium) peeled, cored, and sliced
*1 egg white, lightly beaten
*2 tsp sugar
Make the crust by combining dry ingredients and then cutting in the butter. When mixture is in coarse crumbs (no larger than pea size) sprinkle with 3 T ice water and gently mix until dough holds together. Please avoid over watering your crust (mine is nearly dust when I start working with it) but do add enough additional water so that it holds together. Press into a 4 inch disk in plastic wrap and refrigerate (up to 2 days ahead). If refrigerated more than an hour, let it stand at room temperature till it’s malleable before rolling)
For the filling, whisk cider, syrup, lemon juice, cornstarch, and cinnamon together in a medium bowl til smooth. Heat butter in 12-inch heatproof skillet over medium-high heat. When foaming subsides, add apples and cook, stirring 2 or 3 times until apples begin to carmelize (about 5 minutes). Do no fully cook the apples.
Remove from heat, add cider mixture, and gently stir until apples are well coated. Set aside to cool slightly.
Meanwhile, roll out your dough on a lightly floured surface. Roll the dough 1 inch smaller than your pan (11 inch for a 12 inch skillet, for example; adjust size if you’re using a 13 x 9 pan)
Brush dough with egg white and sprinkle with the 2 tsp of sugar. Cut dough into desired number of pieces and top apples. I cut 8 pieces, the original recipe suggest 6.
Bake on the center rack of a preheated 450 degree oven for about 20 minutes; until apples are tender and the crust is a deep golden brown. If the crust seems to be browning too fast, loosely top with foil.