About half an hour straight north of Lincoln is Martin’s Hillside Orchard (take the name with a grain of salt). One afternoon this summer, after a hot time picking raspberries there, I came back to my car to find I’d locked the keys inside. The proprietor called a Ford dealership in nearby Ceresco and gave them these directions to the farm: “Go a mile south and two miles west.” That’s it. No address, no road name, just a point on a grid. Two guys arrived in a truck about eight minutes later, no fuss, and let me into my car.
When we were first thinking about moving to Nebraska, one time-killer I really enjoyed was mapping random addresses and switching to Street View to soak in the dread and sublimity of the wide-open place. Here’s where Google tells you the orchard is, for example:
Yep. I think it’s up on that hill.
On Saturday, at about the same time in the evening as the Google car had been there, apparently, Thalia and I were picking apples. We wandered up and down row upon row of Winesap, Honeycrisp, Gala, Fuji, Cameo, Golden Delicious, Jonathan, Jonagold, and more, picking a few here, a few there—putting just enough in our bag for a pie, a little applesauce for the fridge, and snacking for a couple weeks. It was all we could carry and still have an arm free for a couple funny-looking decorative gourds. Maybe we’ll go back and get more for applesauce for the pantry and slices for the dehydrator.
I was especially excited to bring home Winesap apples. My mom and dad had a big Winesap tree at the house in Virginia. I’d had them only a few times since then, and biting into one on Saturday night I was suddenly reminded of what, in my mind, apples are supposed to taste like: very crisp, tart, with just a little sweetness at the skin. These are great pie apples, especially if you toss one or two of a sweeter variety in with them and keep the added sugar to a minimum.
You probably don’t need a recipe for a basic apple pie, but I thought it might be a nice way to get back in the swing of blogging; this is how we do it around here:
Basic Apple Pie
6 fist-sized tart-sweet apples (2 1/2 to 3 pounds)
Fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons flour
1/3 to 1/2 cup granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon butter
1 egg, beaten, or 2 tablespoons milk or cream
1 tablespoon sparkling white or coarse sugar
Dough for one double-crust pie (this is my go-to; this time, though, I used all butter, no sugar, and replaced 2 ounces of the fat with grated sharp cheddar cheese), divided into two disks, wrapped, and chilled
Preheat the oven to 375°F and put a baking sheet on the bottom rack (to catch any drips) and position an empty rack in the center of the oven.
Peel, quarter, and core the apples, putting the pieces in a bowl of water with a squeeze of lemon juice as you work to keep them from browning. Pick one or two quarters out of the water at a time and slice them crosswise about 1/4 inch thick and put them in a large bowl. Sprinkle with the flour, granulated sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon of the cinnamon. Squeeze a bit of lemon juice into the apples, toss well to combine, then set aside.
Roll out one disk of dough to about 1/8 inch thick and use it to line a pie dish with plenty of overhang. Roll out the second disk to 1/8 inch thick. Scrape the apples and any of the juices from the bowl into the pie dish, then grate about a quarter of a nutmeg over the top, sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, and dot with bits of the butter. Drape the second round of dough over the apples and crimp the edges. Poke holes in the top crust to allow steam to escape, then brush the top and edges with egg wash or milk and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for about 1 hour, until the crust is nicely browned and the filling starts to bubble up out of the cracks—don’t worry if this happens: it’s true that it means it’ll be a good pie. Remove to a rack to cool completely before slicing and serving.
I also bought a half gallon of Martin’s fresh raw (unpasteurized) cider—it, like the Winesaps, tastes like the Platonic apple cider. I’m hoping we can save a little of it to slowly become effervescent in the fridge.