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Apple Pies, Apple Butter and Apple Syrup

What does one do with 3 1/2 bushels of Minnesota grown apples, consisting of a combination of Harrelsons, Cortlands and Regents? What you do is invite a group of good friends over to spend the day making pies, apple butter and syrup, throwing in a lot of laughter along the way. We did just that recently at Bret’s Table. The apples came Minnesota Harvest, an orchard in Jordan, Minnesota.

Everyone arrived about 11:00am on a recent Saturday morning. After a couple of cups of freshly brewed coffee and some freshly baked biscuits we all got down to work, peeling what seemed like a couple of hundred apples. We used a combination of all three varieties to make the pies and apple butter. Also, so as not to waste anything, the cores and peels were simmered with some water and cooked down with spices and honey to make Apple Syrup.

Our friend Julie, brought her grandmother’s pie dough recipe. It is one that has been replicated via oral tradition as much as anything else. Sure there’s an ingredient list, but having Julie demonstrate how she learned to make the dough from her own Mom was a tremendous advantage.

The method goes against everything I’ve learned about making pie dough. In her recipe the lard is room temperature, not cold. The sugar and salt are dissolved in cold tap water (not ice water) along with a beaten egg and a little apple cider vinegar. I learned after the second batch that my hands were just too warm to mix the ingredients by hand, so I resorted to a pastry cutter to blend the lard with the flour and used a fork to mix the wet ingredients into the dry. Still being a somewhat wet dough, a generous amount of flour is used to roll the dough out to the appropriate pie pan size. My suggestion would be to use your favorite pie dough recipe.

For the filling we used 2 pounds of apples, 1 cup of granulated sugar, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves, 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice and a pinch of salt. Depending on the size of your pie pan, this was enough to fill two pies.

Apple pies freeze beautifully prior to being cooked. Therefore, if you’re going to make one, go ahead and make a second the pop one in the freezer to be baked off later. Better yet, invite a couple of friends over and have a pie making party.