By Morgan Dodd
Farm-to-table fresh food was always on the menu in my North Georgia childhood home, and I didn’t have to travel very far to pick sweet strawberries, plump peaches, crisp apples and savory sweet potatoes.
The “farm” was located in my backyard. The “farmer” was my dad, a successful businessman with a green thumb who learned to live off the land when he was boy growing up in rural West Virginia.
I can remember walking in the shadow of the cornstalks in our garden to pick juicy tomatoes and ripe cucumbers for family dinners. Holidays were the best. Thanksgiving was a harvest of fresh flavors, from the salads to the sweets. Storebought dressings or boxcake shortcuts weren’t the Dodd way.
That’s why as an adult, I have a huge appreciation for cooking meals from scratch with local fruits and vegetables. Thanksgiving remains one of my favorite holidays.
The Dodds still gather for a meal made with love and surprises. Our potluck family tradition challenges each of us to make a dish and bring our A-game. My contribution has always been my autumn apple cranberry pie. Trust me: It’s a conversation starter.
Cranberries are versatile. They are nature’s comfort condiments. They can be used as Thanksgiving dressing, they can fill cookies and they can add color and zest to sauces. But pairing cranberries with honey crisp apples can elevate the ho-hum holiday apple pie to the next level and make you feel warm inside.
I learned how to make my autumn apple cranberry pie at my grandmother’s house in Savannah, Georgia. We used to travel there to cook the Thanksgiving meal. I would spend hours in her tiny kitchen determined to make the best fruit pie that I could make.
I was often discouraged from trying to make a homemade butter crust because I had heard how hard it was to master. But I was determined to teach myself how to make a buttery crust, so I tried and tried until the taste and texture of my pies could compete with the best of bakers. Now, I am the only person in my family who has mastered how to make a buttery crust fruit pie. I hope to pass down my secrets when I have kids of my own.
I only use fresh fruit for my pies and add just a few extra ingredients. It is important that the flavors of the fruit speak for themselves. A pie should be light, buttery and scrumptious, but not too filling. It should leave you wanting more. This mouth-watering recipe is sure to get your dinner guests ready for dessert after the Thanksgiving meal.
The writer is owner of Extraordinary Pie Gal, a regular at the Del Ray Farmers’ Market.
Recipe: Autumn apple cranberry pie
Homemade butter crust
- 4 sticks salted butter, cold
- 1 stick shortening
- 16 tbsp. cold water
- 4 cups unbleached flour
- 2 tbsp. sugar
- 1 egg
- plastic wrap
- 9-inch pie pan
- 3 apples
- 1 ½ cups fresh cranberries
- ¼ cup honey
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 tsp. cinnamon
- 1 lemon
- 1 tsp corn starch
- In a medium sized bowl, combine 2 sticks cold butter (cut into small pieces), half a stick of shortening, 2 cups of flour, 1 tablespoon of sugar and 2 tablespoons of cold water.
- Slowly combine all ingredients with your hands and add an additional 6 tablespoons of cold water. Keep working the crust until you are able to form a medium-sized disk.
- For another pie crust, repeat directions. Ingredients will make 2 medium-sized pie crusts.
- Wrap the crust in plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator for approximately 2 hours.
- Peel 3 honey crisp apples and cut them into small pieces. Add juice of 1 lemon and set aside.
- Over medium heat, add cranberries, sugar, brown sugar, cornstarch and honey. Let mixture simmer for about 10 minutes.
- Combine cranberry and apple mixtures together. Place in the refrigerator for 30-45 mins.
- Take one disk of crust out of the refrigerator. On a flat surface, add loose flour to the surface to avoid the crust from sticking. Roll the crust until completely even, then place in a 9-inch pie pan, evening out the edges using a fork.
- Pour the cooled fruit filling into the pan. If the filling is still hot, it could melt the crust.
- Take the second pie crust disk, which will serve as the top of the pie, out of the refrigerator and decorate it to your liking. Lightly brush the crust with an egg wash and sprinkle sugar on top. Place the prepared pie into the oven at 375 degrees for 45-50 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown.
Note: You can skip the homemade crust and use prepared pie crusts if you wish. If using pre-made crust, skip steps 1-4.