Smart pie bakers like Nancy Byal know that you can cram the most apples in your apple pie by partially precooking them first. Nancy, the former food editor of Better Homes and Gardens magazine, knows her way around her Iowa kitchen. And she know apples, too. Her husband, Wayne, used to run an apple orchard that was started by his father and uncle in the 1930s. Back then, says Nancy, Iowa was a significant apple-producing state—something that changed virtually overnight in 1940 when the devastating Armistice Day blizzard killed many of the state’s fruit trees. During that storm, the temperature dropped from 70°F to 0°F in a matter of hours.
As you might imagine, Nancy made many apple pies during her husband’s tenure at the orchard. This was a family favorite—a thick apple pie made with cider-cooked apples, a little sugar and spice, and not much else. The cider is boiled down and added back to the pie, so it has a pure, clean apple flavor. Nancy likes to use Jonathan apples, a variety that she says is very traditional in Iowa.
Excerpted from Pie, by Ken Haedrich. © 2004, used by permission from The Harvard Common Press