Until last year I had never been to an apple orchard before. And since last year was such a terrible growing season for apples, by the time we got to the orchards in late September the apples were off the trees. I was not about to make the same mistake this year. So I spent three hours researching U-Pick Apple Orchards in Illinois (I should admit now, I have an obsession with researching), trying to find the least hokey, best possible orchard that also has cider donuts. I mean, how can you pick apples without getting the amazingness that is a cider donut?!
So we ended up finding Prairie Sky Orchard in Union. Wonderful small orchard, not a tourist trap, just apples and a barn with autumnal delicacies such a cider donuts, cider, pies ect.. I plan on going back again next fall. Anyway, after getting a peck of an awesome hybrid of Jonathan and Golden Delicious called JonaGold apples, (for those of you who were unaware of how many pickled peppers Peter Piper picked, its 10lbs), we had 10lbs of apples.
And what does one do with 10lbs of apples? Well, when there are two people there are only so many apples you can eat. And I can tell you now, if the old adage of “An apple a day…” is true, we’re set for a while. Anyway, we had all of these delicious apples and I figured a pie would be perfect. I’ve made pie crusts in the past, but to be honest, I’m not a huge crust fan. So this time, I wanted to make something really delicious. After much research I came across a recipe from Mindy Segal of Hot Chocolate. The pie crusts base is butter and pork lard, instead of the usual butter and Crisco. The lard makes the crust insanely flaky and extremely rich. While I kept the integrity of her crust recipe, I did tweak the insides. What resulted was a delicious, flaky, rich pie that I plan on making again. I served this with some homemade cinnamon ice cream I whipped up (recipe forthcoming). They complement one another really well. To make this crust you will need a kitchen scale, the ingredients are in ounces and pounds.
For the Crust (this will make enough dough for two stuffed pies ie top and bottom crust, and one bottom crust)
7 ounces cold cubed butter
3 1/2 ounces frozen cubed pork fat ( I bought this from The Butcher and Larder, but you can probably get from any butcher shop in the area)
1 tablespoon sugar
Pinch of salt
1 pound, 2 ounces all purpose flour
1/2 cup ice water (more or less)
Place butter, flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a mixer with the paddle attachment. On low speed, start mixing. About halfway into mixing, add frozen pork fat and mix until the fat resembles small peas. Then add the beaten egg with a tablespoon of iced water. Work with mixer for one second then take off stand and mix dough with hand to feel moisture. You may need to add more water if you are unable to incorporate all of the flour mixture. I added another 2 TBS of water to get everything. From there, wrap dough in plastic and put in the fridge. Let it sit at least 4 hours, preferably over night.
For the Filling
5 JonaGold Apples (or another sweet baking apple like Honey Crisp)
2 Granny Smith Apples
2 cups Apple Nectar (you can get this at any organic food store)
Pinch of black pepper
4 tbs natural cane sugar
1/4 cup corn starch
Egg white (for top of pie)
Peel and quarter apples, cleaning out the core. On a mandolin or with a sharp knife, slice the apples paper-thin and place in a bowl with all other ingredients other than egg white and let marinate for at least 1 hour.
Remove the pie dough from the refrigerator and cut off roughly 1/3 of the dough. Cover the remaining dough and place back in refrigerator. From the dough you’ve cut, cut that in half and place ½ on a well floured space. Roll out flat and place in the bottom on a pie dish, make sure the edges are overhanging by at least an inch. Take apple mixture, drain the liquid (but keep it! You’ll need it) and place on top of dough. Take one cup of the liquid and place it in the mixture.
Roll out another circle of pie dough, but only the circumference of the pie tin. Cut four small slits in the middle so that the liquid and steam can release. Place dough on top of apples and roll the overhang dough around so that it curls. Refrigerate.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees, brush pie with egg white and sprinkle with sugar; I like more sugar, others like less. Bake for about 1 hour. If top of crust starts to get too brown, turn down the oven.
Take the pie out, let it rest and serve!