Friday, December 31, 2010

Aunt Janet's Apple Pie #52

Growing up, the only way to get any sugar in my body was to sneak the Tang bottle out to the back yard and pour the powder right into my mouth (which I did) or pray that a bite of the previous Sunday’s dessert, always provided by Aunt Janet, was still covered in tinfoil on the counter.
We never had sugar cereals or candy in our house (which, judging the way Tang disappeared around our house, was probably a good choice on my mom's behalf); however, the array of desserts prepared by Aunt Janet for our weekly Sunday dinners provided enough of an education for me to learn that anything baked was superior and set me up for a life-long quest of trying to bake as well as she did. Especially since it made so many people happy.
Among my favorite treats that Aunt Janet made, were her pies; and until a few years ago, Aunt Janet was the only person that I knew that made pies. It’s been at least 20 years since I last made a pie with her, but I’ve never forgotten the amount of care and precision that she gives to each pie. In fact while we cooked, she told me how her mother would call her “Fussy Janet” and remind her that the more she worked over her piecrust the less desirable it would be. Though, through all of her fussing, she has perfected her technique and each pie is a true labor of love. She plans, prepares, and exactly measures every step she takes and humbly takes no credit for the wonderful outcome. If it really is possible for cooks to transfer emotions into their creations, then there may be no better way to feel Aunt Janet's love than to taste one of her pies.
This recipe has been passed down for generations. From Alta Taylor; to my Grandmother, Myrtle Calder; and luckily landed in the talented hands of my Aunt Janet. Within my lifetime alone, I estimate that she’s made this pie around 120 times (two at each Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner) though I know that is a pretty modest estimate since it says nothing about the many other occasions where it’s graced our table or the fact that she was making this long before I came around.
Aunt Janet says that the secrets to this pie are the Golden Delicious apples from Allred Orchard and, most importantly, the lard crust. Although our apples were not from Allred Orchard this time, I think that she is right about the lard crust. Stacked up against a butter crust that we had from another pie, I have to admit that I was very impressed with how good the lard crust tasted. This is a fairly salty crust, but the sweet interior makes a perfect combination.

Another secret that we learned together, this week while we baked, is that using baker's sugar (which is sugar that has very small granules, but not as small as powdered sugar) made a difference in the overall sweetness and texture of the pie. Also, this pie is better if you sprinkle flour over the bottom crust before you add the apples.

Thanks to Aunt Janet's precision, this pie is nearly perfect. And thanks to her generosity and sweetness, I was able to make such a wonderful pie as my last one this year.
Aunt Janet's Apple Pie
1 generous cup lard cut into cubes
1/2 cup boiling water

Pour boiling water over lard and whip up together until lard is melted. Chill in the fridge until lard has hardened (about 30 minutes) stiring occassionally to check the progress.

3 cups sifted flour (go lightly on the flour; cups should be slightly rounded but not heaping)
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons sugar

After flour has been sifted several times, sift the salt and the sugar with the flour a few times to mix completely.

Once lard has chilled,  mix flour mixture into lard until just combined. Roll into two balls. Cover each ball in waxed paper and tin foil and store in refrigerator overnight or until ready to use.

(Makes one 2-crust pie or 100 tarts)
5 to 7 tart apples (Golden Delicious)
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons enriched flour
Dash salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
Pare apples and slice thin, Mix sugar, flour, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg, and add to apples. If apples aren't tart, add 1 teaspoon lemon juice--or grated lemon peel, if desired. 

Fill 9-inch pastry lined pie pan. Dot apples with butter. Cover apples with the top crust. Bake in hot oven (400 degrees) 40 to 45 minutes.


  1. 52 pies!! Kimberly, I'm so proud of you! Way to go!

  2. Kim, how fortunate you are to have a Aunt Janet.

    I have a question. Why do you add hot water to the lard and them chill again?
    What type of lard are you using and where did you get?

    I made a lard crust but I had to render my own leaf lard, it's just not sold around here.

    Thank you for sharing your pie bakes.

  3. What an amazing journey and the #52 pie story is just lovely!! Amazing job Kim...what's the next project!? You can't stop now!!

  4. I've made similar apple pies in the past, but not with these exact proportions. I look forward to giving it a try.

    Thanks for sharing!

    John McConnell
    The Apple Pie Connoisseur

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