From Tree to Table: The Apple Pie

Apples, along with a little sugar and spice, make autumn even more delicious


It’s every part of the American culture and identity as Rock’n’Roll and the Star-Spangled Banner. It’s the American Apple Pie, a gem of culinary excellence and multicultural influence that defines the American way of life.

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Pattie Sheeman, bakery manager at Rulf's Orchard, holds an crumb-top apple pie.

Apple pies, and pies in general, have been baked for centuries. Every culture and every generation takes their own spin on things to make each pie truly unique. In the Saranac region of the United States, apple pie is not only a tradition, but also a way of life.

"Both of my grandmothers were good bakers. They loved their apples."

Pattie Sheeman, the bakery manager at Rulf’s Orchard, has been cooking her whole life. “Both of my grandmothers were good bakers,” she says sitting out in the roadside gazebo, “They loved their apples.” She explains that she would come home from school and see one of her grandmothers “sitting at the table with a bowl of apples, ready to peel and made into an afternoon snack or deep-dish apple pie for dessert.”

She now works in the bakery of her family business, making delicious blackberry, raspberry, strawberry, strawberry-rhubarb, peach, and, of course, apple pies. She explains the base to every good apple pie is a good crust. “The pie crust is made with simply Crisco and flour,” but she adds that the type of flour you use is key. The finer the flour, she insists, will make the dough less likely to break apart and crumble. Take 4 cups of flour and 2 cups of vegetable shortening, and make it into a ball of dough, then roll it out to fit your pan. Pattie has her own technique, which she picked up from watching her grandmother in the kitchen. “Never flip it!” she warns, “but you can always move it around.”

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Apples picked and ready to be baked, cooked, or made into cider.

Next is time to add the fruit, the body of the pie. Robert Rulf, owner of Rulf’s Orchard, says this time of year is when the Macintosh is ripe and ready to be picked. Now we have “the fall apples of McIntosh, Red Delicious, Cortland, Empire, and Honeycrisp,” just to name a few.

The apples Pattie uses are McIntosh, a favorite among bakers and tasters alike.  While some recipes call for as little as 3 large apples, pies can as many as a dozen apples. It is important, she explains, to have as many apples as possible because “your apples will always cook down.”

The apples are chopped up into slices about the size of potato wedges and placed in the pie, then sugar and cinnamon is added. Pattie repeats this process to make sure the pie doesn’t shrink in size too much, as the apples will lose some of their form as they cook.

"The beauty of apple pies is not only the connection to the history of our forefathers, but the fact that each one is unique."

Lastly, add the top crust, or crumbs. Crumbs are special in that they are made with butter and flour, but like the crust, should be handled as little as possible. The more you handle the crumbs, the denser they become. Lastly, pop it in the oven. After about an hour, take it out to cool, and you have your own part of fall bounty.

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Typical apple pie with flora design on crust.

The beauty of apple pies is not only the connection to the history of our forefathers, but the fact that each one is unique. Crusts can be plain or elaborately decorated, different spices and flavorings can be added, and the apples themselves can be different types and amounts. Our love affair with apple pie is not only because we grew up with it, but also because it exemplifies human nature. Each one of us is unique--and so are the apple pies which we create.

So celebrate this autumn with your loved ones and your very own unique bit of American culture, the warm apple pie.

 

What is your secret to the perfect apple pie?

What is your favorite apple season memory?