Apple Pie

If you drive the back roads of northern Wisconsin, every once in a while you will come to a place where the “No Trespassing” signs are so closely spaced that you assume the landowner got a discount on them. On a hot sunny day in August of 1964, three fellow students and I from the University of Wisconsin found ourselves looking at a phalanx of ugly signs guarding an apple orchard at an abandoned farm near Mole Lake, Wisconsin.

Since the bottom line of each sign said “By Order of the Sheriff” we assumed three things: First, that the signs had been paid for with tax money, part of which we had contributed; second, that the orchard must be on public land; and third, that the sheriff was probably just hogging all those lovely apples for himself and his friends.

I said, “We could make some good apple pies with those apples.” An hour later we were back at the cabin on Mole Lake with two paper sacks and a T-shirt full of apples. One of the guys had gotten permission from an uncle to use the place for a week if we promised to leave it clean with the beer and bourbon supply intact. We made a quick run to the general store for extra flour, lard, sugar and cinnamon and began our pie-baking project.

While I made the crusts, the guys peeled and cut apples. We had hardly started when we discovered that we were in a truly primitive fishing cabin: There was only one pie plate in the place. However, there were three large cast iron frying pans and a 9 x 13 inch cake pan, and I assured everyone that no matter what your mother did, you don’t need pie plates to make pies.

We had apple pie for breakfast, lunch and dinner for three days in a row to go with the bacon, eggs, bass and bluegills. Though the crusts were not the best I have made, and we had to guess on the amount of sugar to mix with the apples, we thanked the sheriff for some of the best apple pies we had ever eaten. Not that we actually said anything to him, of course, but we were sincere in the comments we shared around the table.

As Paul Kelly sings, “Stolen apples taste the sweetest,” but we all knew that long before he wrote the song.

Here is how to make a tasty 9-inch double crust apple pie like the ones we enjoyed that week at Mole Lake. If you want to bake it in a 12-inch frying pan, you have to double the ingredients.


Pie crust
6 to 8 large tart apples
3/4 cup sugar plus a little to sprinkle on the crust
2 T flour
3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
Dash of ground nutmeg
Dash of salt
2 T butter


Make the pie crust dough first, but don’t roll the crust until the apples are prepared. Here is my recipe for plain pie crust.

Preheat the oven to 400º.

Peel, core and thinly slice the apples into a large mixing bowl. You should have about 6 cups of sliced apples. Mix the sugar, flour, spices and salt together in a small bowl and stir these dry ingredients into the sliced apples.

Line the pie plate with the bottom crust and fill it with the apples. With the right amount of apples, you should have to heap them a little to get them all in. Scatter small pieces of butter over the apples.

Roll out the top crust, dampen the edge of the bottom crust and seal the top crust to the bottom. Trim the crust and make a decorative edge with your fingers or a fork. Sprinkle the crust with a little sugar. Make four or five slits in the top crust to let steam escape as the pie bakes.

Bake 45 to 50 minutes or until juice is bubbling out of the slits.

Let the pie cool as long as you can wait and serve pieces with a large scoop of vanilla ice cream.

NOTES: The best apple pies are made by combining different varieties of apples. If you are buying apples at the market, choose at least two different kinds. Granny Smith, McIntosh, Braeburn and Jonathan apples are good choices. If you are using whatever kind is on the tree, taste an apple before you make the pie. If the apple tastes very sweet, add a tablespoon of lemon juice before you stir in the dry ingredients.

And if you are running short on pie crust, make Apple Cream Pie.

Custard Pie

Our chicken coop was home to at least a couple dozen hens and a rooster year round. Hens need plenty of daylight to lay reliably, so egg producers today have bright artificial lighting that makes the hens think it is midsummer on the winter solstice. We didn’t even have a back porch light or a light in the woodshed, let alone one in the chicken coop. If I didn’t fill the woodbox before it got dark, one of my sisters carried the flashlight while Dad complained about our wasting batteries.

We were lucky to get a half dozen eggs a day in January, which is one of the reasons why we had cereal or pancakes for breakfast so often in the winter. I still like how a bowl of hot oatmeal warms me on a cold morning, so the cereal may have been partly a way to prepare us kids for the walk to the bus stop in -30 degree weather.

During the late spring and throughout the summer, however, we had more than enough fresh eggs. That’s when Mom made custard pies. She could whip one up in 20 minutes, including the time it took her to make the crust. After you have made a dozen, you will be doing the same.

Not as sweet, not as many calories or carbohydrates as fruit pies, a custard pie is a delicious way to end a meal. A custard pie is absurdly easy to make. This recipe will make a nine inch pie that will serve eight.


1 pie crust
3 large eggs
2 cups whole milk or 2 cups reduced fat milk plus 1 tablespoon melted butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg


First make a pie crust. You can halve this recipe for one crust or make two and freeze the second. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. When the oven is hot, prick the bottom of the pie crust and put the crust in the oven. You have 10 minutes to make the filling.

Put the eggs in a bowl of warm water for a few minutes to bring them to room temperature. Have the milk at room temperature or warm it to about 100 degrees. Beat the eggs until the whites and yolks are mixed, but not lemon yellow.

Stir the milk, sugar, salt, nutmeg and vanilla into the eggs and mix well. After the crust has baked 10 minutes, remove it from the oven and fill it with the custard mixture.

Return the pie to the oven, turn the heat down to 325º. Bake for thirty to thirty-five minutes. After thirty minutes, test for doneness with a table knife stuck into the center of the pie. If the blade comes out clean, the pie is done. If not, bake four or five minutes longer and test again.

NOTE: If you have too much custard for your crust, you can bake it in custard cups along with the pie. Jerri puts the cups in a pan of hot water, but I usually just pop them into the oven.