My grandmother set a pretty high bar for apple pies in our family. And I can hear you out there thinking "so did my mother" or "so did my aunt's godmother's second cousin", and I know that you think you have experienced the best apple pie ever. But luckily for you, I've had my grandmother's apple pie, which gives me the credentials to tell you that ... well, you're wrong.
She tried to teach me how to make her crust a couple of times...but I was around 16 years old and was probably wasting time dreaming of my new boyfriend instead of soaking up her buttery wisdom. And really, with fruit pies...the crust is 99% of the battle.
One thing I'm sure of? She didn't ever use vodka in her pie crusts.
Six months or so ago, my mom sent me an article from her local paper talking about why you should make your pie crust with vodka. (Apparently, it is not-so-secret family secret that I look for reasons to pull out alcohol?). Last week, The Beloved StepSon asked for apple pie for Thanksgiving...and I just couldn't pass up the chance.
I did my best to follow the recipe - cutting it in half, since I only needed one crust - but she lost me at "place flour in food processor", since I don't own one. Have you noticed that all pie crust recipes tell you to use that magical machine? I was excited when Deb mentioned that she prefers to make hers by hand, because...that's pretty much my only option. Does anyone else have a pastry cutter?
Where was I? Vodka. Right.
Well, we haven't actually eaten the pie yet, but I made the leftover crust pieces into little cinnamon sugar treats (another lesson from my Grandma). And they puffed up when I baked them. I'd like to say they were yummy - but The Professor found them while they were cooling. And the rest is history.
As for making a good apple pie - I seem to remember reading once somewhere that you need 2 kinds of apples - one that will fall apart and hold together the other kind, which will be more firm. Since I had 3 Gala apples and 6 Granny Smiths in my fridge, I decided that I liked the way that person thinks.
But really - the key is butter, sugar and cinnamon. The crust is half butter (I used butter in place of the shortening in the pie crust recipe), with a little cinnamon. The filling is half sugar with some cinnamon, with eight cups of apple slices thrown in to give you a reason to eat all the butter and sugar. The topping? Half cup of butter, half cup of brown sugar, 2 Tbsp cinnamon.