Thursday, February 28, 2013

My Pie*ography

My pie*ography begins  not with me, or even with a single pie, but with my grandma. Grandma Schmidt was your typical Iowa farm wife. She was a hard worker who knew how to cook delicious comfort food. She never saw herself as a great cook, but anytime we visited we knew we would be filled up with all our favorite foods. And what better way to end a home-cooked meal than a slice of freshly baked apple pie? No doubt, Grandma showed her love through the food she made for us.

It was Grandma Schmidt who first taught me to bake pies, though years of practice has helped me improve my skills. Pie baking connects me to the past. Both to my heritage of simple, humble home cooks, and to a time in the past when pie-baking and home-cooking was a part of every woman's life. It was through these everyday acts that women took care of their families.

Making a pie is not especially difficult, yet it is becoming less common for people to make their own pies from scratch. Isn't it easier to take a perfect-looking pie crust from the freezer or order that beautiful pie from your local bakery? Maybe, and I'm not passing judgment on those who take those routes. However, for me, there's something nostalgic about taking the time out to bake a pie from scratch. I feel it keeps me connected to my roots and is a way I can show love to my family or any guests who come for a piece of pie.

For me, the pie that best tells my pie*ography is my grandma's crumb-top apple pie. It's simple and rustic-nothing fancy, but it's a tried and true recipe that always takes me back. It's like a slice of love on the plate, a reminder of where I came from and a part of my heritage I want to pass on to my own family.

Grandma Schmidt's Crumb-Top Apple Pie
Pie Crust (makes two crusts):
1 1/2 C. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 C. lard
1/4 C. Crisco (I use butter flavor)
1/2 tsp. baking powder
5-6 Tbsp. cold water

Mix flour and salt in bowl. Crumble in lard and Crisco. Add baking powder, continue to crumble together. Add water and stir just until combined. Mold into two balls, roll out thin on floured board or counter. (The extra pie crust can be frozen or made into cinnamon sugar "crust cookies".)

4-5 C. apples, peeled, chopped
1/2 C. (generous) sugar
1-3 tsp. cinnamon (to your liking-I use a lot)

Mix apples, sugar, and cinnamon. Place in an uncooked pie crust.

3/4 C. flour
6 Tbsp. butter
1/3 C. sugar

Crumble together and sprinkle on top of fruit filling. Bake pie for 30 min. at 400 degrees. Reduce temperature to 350 degrees and bake for another 30-35 min. until filling is bubbling and topping is golden brown.

I'm linking up to the first Pie*ography Thursday over at Na-Da Farm Life. There you'll find pie*ographies and recipes from other bloggers. You can also pick-up Pie*ography by Jo Packham from your local bookstore or library for more pies.


  1. Hi Bethany...thank you for joining in on pie is one of my favorites, but I have yet to find that terrific recipe with crumb topping...but yours looks perfect (no nutmeg!) and all your natural ingredients are just what I'd love to serve my family and friends...
    I am very close to my Grandma, and I too always connect with the past with pie.
    Thanks so much!!
    xo + blessings,
    Anne Marie
    p.s. love your pie baking pan!

    1. Thanks Anne Marie! My pie baking dish and the vintage cookbook in the background both belonged to my grandma.

  2. I love apple pie and love making it when the apples are ripe on the trees. Your recipe sounds wonderful, I have recipes from my grandmother passed down from my mother. I need to pull them out.

  3. Bethany, your post brought tears to my eyes as I knew and loved your grandmother for years. She truly was a great cook and yes, a humble one. When gathering with friends, it was always a treat when Edith brought a pie, any pie. I am so pleased that she taught you the art of baking her recipes as I feel the same about a pie...just start and you will be so glad you did!
    Thank you for continuing her tradition and sharing her with the world!

  4. Your story is so similar to mine because it reminds me of my Grandma as well. Thank you for sharing!