Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Make a Pie with the Pippin that Dinged You

The apple tree in question was a remnant refugee of an old orchard that had been slowly eaten up by the development of the tennis courts at the Country Club.
Once an energetic engine of a profuse amount of fruit, it had been reduced to the status of landscaping and shade-maker overhanging the parking lot.

The maintenance men abused this tree by neglect, neither trimming nor fertilizing it, probably because it dropped a serious amount of fruit on the pavement every summer that would need to be cleaned up.

They wanted it dead.

And the tennis players often complained that the tree was lobbing its destructive little orbs at their Beemers and Hummers making unsightly dents.

Shades of Dorothy in the Oz orchard.  And I think in some part, it may have been true.  This particular apple tree had a way of exerting its presence.

The apple tree, my apple tree, makes what would be the butt uglies of the apple world.  Small, worm chomped heirloom pippins with blackspot were the usual specimens.


But if you looked closely, underneath their seemingly inedible appearance, there lurked an appetizingly tight apple skin, the kind that snaps a little when you bite down.  And that skin was colored gloriously in a dappling of red with small tracers of yellow and white.  Or they were solid red with a sprinkle of yellow and green spots.

Biting down on these apples was to baptize yourself in the squirt of juice that would spring out and smack you in the square in the face.  The cream colored flesh in each was streaked with red; delicately veined from skin to core.

And they were sour enough to make not just your mouth pucker.

My brothers and I had spent that summer playing tennis there between odd jobs and campouts. The apple tree provided snacks for us that quenched our thirst and gave us a little sour rush that I swear enhanced our tennis.

One day some kids, some spoiled rotten resort kids, were under the tree picking up apples, taking one bite out of each and then commencing to pelting each other with the half-eaten fruit.

When they finished destroying the apples on the ground they started to climb the tree, breaking down branches and kicking off bark carelessly to reach for the ones I had my eye on for eating.
My hackles went up and I tore off the tennis court and started walloping those little brats with my racket.  They answered my wallops with some pretty well aimed shots with apples until I chased them off.

I had to pick pulp out of my tennis racket strings and out of my hair.  Those brats dinged me in the head more than once.  Kind of think one of them was a pitcher on a baseball team...

Anyway, it got into my adolescent head that day that I was in charge of that tree, even if it did produce some of the most imperfect fruit ever seen, and it was my duty to keep that kind of thing from happening again.

Which meant picking the apples.

All of them.

Before anyone else could be as wasteful and disrespectful as those kids.

I picked every last ripe apple off that tree and brought them home.

After one meal of fried apples, cornbread and sausage, we hardly made a dent in the inventory of sorry-ass ugly little bullet apples.  I needed to get cooking on a way to use the rest of my crop.

Pie was the answer.  I liked pie.

That's when 'ol Euell came into the picture.

Flipping through his book to find out how not to poison myself with wild mushrooms, I ran across his deceptively simple but amazingly tasty and flaky pie crust recipe, and it was on.

I made one pie as a starter and served a slice to my dad, who had dubbed himself the penultimate expert on pie .   It passed the sniff test with a raised eyebrow, and with eyes closed he lifted the fork to his mouth.  In the time it takes for his tastebuds to fire, his eyes opened wide and he blessed my efforts with a demand for more. 

I made pies morning, noon and night for about a month.  I smelled like an apple and sported an array of cuts on my fingers from peeling the little nuggets. 
Mom, my biggest cheerleader got her gal friends to actually buy them and not just out of fealty to their friendships.
The pies were GOOD!

Dinner parties were being planned around my pies.  I was being accosted all over that enclave for my recipe, what's my secret, how did I come up with the Perfect Apple Pie? 

It actually got a little weird.

When the apples were all baked up and gone, I went to the tree at dusk one evening, my favorite time of day, and just sat with her. 

"We done good," I told her.

And she dropped an apple on my head in answer.

Stack of Bibles.

    The Tree Her Own Self

Linda's Butt Ugly Apple Pie featuring Euell Gibbons Oil Crust Pie Pastry


  • Two cups of flour
  • Half a cup of vegetable oil
  • Quarter cup of milk
Filling -
  • About 4 cups of Granny Smith apples (Or sourest you can find!)
  • Half cup or so of sugar
  • Cinnamon to taste
  • Butter
  • Wash, core and peel apples and slice them into inch thick pieces
  • Place in a bowl and add sugar and spices, stir
  • The apples will make juice
  •  Combine all crust ingredients and mix together with a fork
  • Divide into two equal balls
  • Dampen countertop
  • Take one pie-sized sheet of waxed paper and lay it down, it will  adhere to the moist countertop
  • Put a ball of dough in the middle
  • Take another equal sized sheet of waxed paper and place on top
  • Roll out the crust btween the two sheets.
  • Peel top sheet off
  • Place pie tin face down on crust and flip it to line the pie tin
  • Fill pie with apple mixture
  • Dot the mixture with butter
  • Roll out second dough ball same way for pie lid
  • Cut out lattice or whatever cool shapes you want and top the pie
  • Pinch around the edges to seal
  • Some like to brush egg wash to make it golden on top
  • I like a sprinkling of sugar on top
  • Make sure to have steam holes in the top
  • Bake 350 degrees, 30 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly!

Photos:  I took them except for -
Pie photo thanks to Travels with Gertie who uses the oil crust recipe too.


  1. Hmm... while reading this, the 'Pie' song came to mind... the one from 'Michael'... I loved that movie... that song..


  2. That is pretty awesome. Sort of like once you save a life you become responsible for it forever. I know that usually applies to people, but I think it works equally well here.

  3. I have enjoyed many of your stories, but this one really made me smile. Made me think of childhood in Illinois where we had our own apple tree that produced some very sour apples that my brother and I used to pelt each other with.

  4. I was just passing through and saw your apples. In case you were wondering, those are Northern Spy apples (and one of the best for pie; after all the the saying goes, "Spies are for pies").

    The disease looks like apple scab, a very common fungus. If you want to control it, just spray the tree with a copper fungicide in early spring (its cheap and non-toxic, and sold in about every greenhouse, or have an arborist do it for about $50).

    Best wishes!


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