As the days grow shorter, we’re spending most of our time getting ready for the winter season; harvesting vegetables from the garden, cleaning rabbit pens, scouting the woods for signs of deer, splitting and stacking wood, hunting ducks, foraging for mushrooms and picking apples! Our garage is filled with boxes and the sweet perfume of apples, “sweating”, waiting to be pressed into cider.
Maine is blessed with an abundance of apple trees, many planted generations ago by hardy homesteaders. Because apples are highly adaptive plants, the deer and birds have spread the trees into the fields and forests. And even though this had been a dry summer, trees with bright red and golden orbs line the roads, often with piles of fruit on the pavement.
For our early ancestors, the apple was not just a sweet table fruit. Apples were a source of vinegar, a hearty beverage; cider, a sweetener; apple molasses, and animal feed.
There are hundreds of varieties, but four major categories. Firm-tart apples like Granny Smith, Rhode Island Greening and Northern Spy and firm-sweet apples like Golden Delicious and Pink Lady are best for baking. Tender-tart apples like McIntosh, Cortland and Macoun break down easily during cooking, and make a superb sauce. Tender-sweet apples, like Gala and Fuji are delicious is salads and eaten out of hand.
Surrounded by all these apples, I’ve been dreaming about apple pies. As I’m not really the pie maker in the family, I decided to try my hand at Apple Crumb Pie; a mound of tart apples covered with a crunchy, sweet, crumbly topping. It’s like an apple pie and apple crisp all in one bite. My apple of choice was Maiden Blush, a variety that hails from New Jersey with a vintage around 1817. Similar to a Granny Smith, it makes up into a delicious crumb pie.
Apple Crumb Pie
- Bottom crust for a 9 or 10-inch pie
- 3– 4 cups peeled apple slices about 6 – 8 apples
- ½ cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- ½ cup cane sugar
- ½ cup unsalted butter cold, cut into pieces
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon grated nutmeg
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Butter a 9 or 10 inch pie plate and line it with a pastry shell.
- Peel the apples and slice them into a bowl. Add ½ cup cane sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon and toss to coat well.
- To prepare the topping: in a mixing bowl or the bowl of your food processor, mix the flour, sugar, cinnamon and ground nutmeg. Cut or pulse in the butter.
- Pour the apples into the prepared pie shell. Spread the crumb topping over the apples.
- Bake the pie on a sheet pan in the oven until the apples are cooked and the juice turns clear, about 40 – 45 minutes. Let cool and cut into slices.