Since the mid 1980s, I’ve kept a set of lab notebooks where I take notes about books I’m studying or problems I’m working on. On January 7, 1989, I was visiting my parents in Minnesota and I took a page of notes about how my Mother makes apple pie.
The story goes that when they were first married, my Dad asked Mom to make pies. She was not particularly good at it, and one time she burned a pie just before company was to arrive. In a panic, she put the burned pie on their bed to hide it. The friends discovered it though and thought it was pretty amusing.
Finally, she asked her cousin Maxine, who was a great cook, to teach her how to do it. She became a master of pie, cake and cookie baking as time went on, much to the enjoyment of me and my brothers. Talking to her later, my Mom said that many of these recipes were inspired by the Spry cookbook, made by an early manufacturer of vegetable shortening. Older country recipes use lard as shortening, which gives a greasy and somewhat burnt-tasting crust that I don’t like.

3 cups flour
1 cup vegetable shortening (Crisco)
1 tsp salt
Cut together thoroughly with a knife and then mix with: 1/3 cup cold water.

divide dough into two portions for upper and lower crust. Form into 0.5″ x 5″ disks, then use roller and pastry cloth to flatten into 1/8″ sheets. Put lower crust into Pyrex glass pie pan and allow to relax into place.

Large Granny Smith are good. Avoid sweet red apples, which will turn to mush. Quarter, core (never let pieces of apple core get in a pie), peel and cut up into small slices with paring knife. Pile apples in the pie pan, pour one cup of sugar over them, light sprinkle of salt, cinnamon and half a dozen chunks of butter.

Top Crust:
Water around edge to fuse top crust to bottom. Cut some small steam vents (you can make a dashed outline of an apple with leaves or the letter “A”). Brush top with milk before baking.

Bake for one hour at 400 F next to the bottom row in the oven. Put Pyrex pan on a metal pie ring to catch possible boil over.

Mary Mitchell (1918 – 2007)