Lemon meringue pie. Cherry pie. Rhubarb pie. Apple pie.
Falling off the top of a ladder, stretching to pick cherries.
Trying to eat my brother’s lemon meringue pie when he forgot to add shortening (flour + water = paste).
Picking rhubarb out of a Chicago suburban garden.
Cutting up slices of apples and sprinkling them with cinnamon and sugar.
I remember summers, and that my mother made the best pies I have had before or since.
Once I was grown, and came to realize how amazing her tender piecrusts were, I asked her how to make piecrust.
“Oh, it’s easy. Just don’t knead it too long.” But, she never again made them for me.
When I was young, I had seen her mix up cold water, flour, a pinch of salt and Crisco shortening into crumbles. I had seen her quickly form it into a ball, cut that in half, if for a top and bottom layer, roll it out thin, then fold it in quarters, place it in a pie pan and unfold it, sticking extra pieces of dough on spots that did not climb all the way over the top of the edge of the pie pan.
I had seen her use a table knife to cut off the dough on the outer edges of the pie pan and use two fingers on one hand and one finger on the other to push in a beautiful, scalloped edge.
If for two crusts, I had seen her slice musical staff swirls in the top layer, to release the steam from the fruit as it cooked.
I had watched her slide an extra cookie sheet under the pie pan in the oven for the inevitable fruit juice spills, and throw salt on the oven floor when the spills missed even the catching cookie sheet.
In those days before self-cleaning ovens, salt was used to dry up spills, which might then be wiped up before the regular oven cleaning. Salt was also handy to throw on an oven fire, because it dampened the fire without spreading the grease, the reason you don’t use water on a grease fire.
I inherited my mother’s rolling pin.
Click here for a recipe, from Simply Recipes, which, though it uses butter instead of shortening, and a blender instead of forks or a manual pastry blender, comes the closest to my memory of my mother’s recipe.
What are your secrets for how to make piecrust? What is your favorite recipe?
When I told my awesome daughter-in-law that I had just about given up making a decent piecrust in favor of using frozen puff pastry dough, she served me a pie with an amazing crust.
She has promised to show me how.
To you and the food memories you make with your grandchildren.
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Carol Covin, “Granny-Guru”