Long ago, in the late 1800's in Milwaukee, a committee of matrons took it upon themselves to create a book that would help immigrants not only learn to read, but to cook. The note on the title page of the cookbook that they created says, "The way to a man's heart …" It is called the Settlement Cookbook.
There is a section called household rules with information about setting a table, weights and measures and using a window box outside the pantry or kitchen window to keep food cool. I do not remember the window box from my grandma's kitchen, but I remember the great, leafy apple tree in the yard that shaded the kitchen and provided apples for her apple pie that was the best. Of course the crust recipe came from the Settlement Cookbook and included lots of butter, that's the trick. My grandma would make a boatload of pies at one time, rolling that crust out all afternoon. She stacked those pies in her freezer, wrapped in waxed paper. Then during the holidays, she would give us a pie to take home with us. My mom would take the waxed paper and string tie off the pie and pop it into the oven and you could smell it baking in there, knowing that it was going to come out all crusty and cinnamon-y and not too sugary. It tasted of apples and not syrup.
Of course, we had pie with our holiday meals at grandma's too. We were over there every Christmas and Easter and every other month during the year too. We did not have the pie every time, but when we did, it was always a special treat. It always felt warm and cozy in my grandma and grandpa's home. My grandpa would listen to the Milwaukee Braves on the radio in the kitchen. He rocked back and forth in his rocking chair with his leg swung over the side. Sometimes he smoked a cigar. Other times he got out his harmonica and played Oh Suzanna. When my grandma managed pickles, he always said, "Who put all that hay in the cucumbers," because my grandma used fresh dill.
The Crust Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup shortening or butter
1/4 cup cold water (about)
How to make the crust:
Melt fat, add water and mix with rest to smooth dough. Chill. Remove the chilled crust from the refrigerator. Dust surface where you will roll it out and dust rolling pin slightly with flour. Use about 3/4 of the crust for the bottom. Roll out the bottom crust to 1/4 inch thick from the center to the edges with short strokes, keeping it as round as possible. If it begins to split at the edge, pinch the cracks together. If the dough sticks to the surface, loosen with a spatula and dust with flour. Transfer the bottom crust to the pie tin and prick it with a fork about 4 times so that it does not bubble up. Trim off the edges with a knife. Bake in 425 degree oven to brown slightly and so it does not become soggy when you bake it with the fruit in it.
The Pie Filling Ingredients:
4-5 granny smith apples or apples of your choice
cinnamon to taste
brown sugar to taste
nutmeg to taste if desired
other spices to taste if desired
How to finish the pie:
Core and slice the apples. Toss in a bowl with the spices. Put aside.
Remove the bottom crust from the oven and fill with the apples. Roll out the top crust, fold in half and transfer it to cover the pie. Then unfold it to cover the fruit. Make 3 or 4 slashes in it with a knife to allow the steam to escape. Pinch the edges to attach to the bottom crust. Trim off the edges with a knife. Bake at 450 degrees for 12 minutes. Reduce heat and bake another 20 to 40 minutes until the top crust is browned at the edges.