Autumn Apple Pie

 

I thought I’d have it all figured out by now. I know I’m by no means the only twenty-something who hasn’t a clue how their life is supposed to turn out, but as I’m crying into my crumbly pie dough, willing it to roll out evenly just this one last time, I can’t help but feel like a total and complete failure.

People I went to high school with are getting married and having kids. They’re buying houses and diapers and being real adults; meanwhile, I’m watching re-runs of The Office in Spongebob pj’s and thinking about what I want to do when I grow up.

My parents were 23 when they got married, 24 when they had my sister. That scares me a little bit when I think of it. I can’t possibly imagine being someone’s wife right now, let along being responsible for a little baby.

It’s not that I don’t want those things, either. I’ve already got half of my wedding playlist written down in a drawer somewhere, and every time I see a baby, this otherworldly pang takes over my body, and it takes everything I have not to snatch the little bundle up in my arms and feed it cookies. My boyfriend likes to remind me that he’ll gladly give me those things (well, maybe not the baby quite yet), all I have to do is say yes. It’s not that he isn’t ‘the one’ or that I’m afraid of marriage, I just don’t think I’m grown up enough to be a grown up yet.

I have this memory of my sister and I when I was about seven and she about 13; we were in my grandparents’ basement in Charlottetown, devouring popsicle after popsicle from my grandmother’s never-ending supply of them in the freezer. I was braiding my sister’s long red hair on the promise that she’d draw words on my back later on. She asked me when I wanted to get married and have kids. I responded, rather confidently, that I was going to be 23 when I got married and 27 when I had my first kid. It’s kind of funny to think about it now, how sure of my future I was at seven years old.

I’d like to say I realized how ridiculous that was once I got older, but it’s just beginning to hit me now. When I was in school, my plan was to graduate, move to Toronto and work for Chatelaine. Turns out national magazines aren’t so enthusiastic about hiring journalism grads from New Brunswick, and I’m not willing to risk everything for a chance at a job I may not even want.

What scares me the most is that I know I’ll never figure my life out, but I fear I’ll waste it all trying to. My mom’s 51 and she still doesn’t know what she wants to do when she grows up. My dad makes more money than I’ll probably ever make, and he’s still unsure.

I set out to make the perfect apple pie this fall; I’ve always wanted to be that Mom that makes the best pies, so I figured I’d better get the recipe nailed down well in advance. The first attempt was awful, and I’m pretty sure the pie is still in my fridge, two weeks after I made it, missing only two slices. The second was my grandmother’s recipe, which called for a pound of lard. I assumed lard and shortening were interchangeable, and the result was an insurmountable disaster. I tried that recipe twice; I really wanted to be able to say I made Granny’s recipe, but no amount of kneading or water would make that dough stick together.

I had luck with this recipe; my mom dug it out from one of her old Harrowsmith cookbooks while I was home for Thanksgiving, and judging by the slops of apple juice and flour on the page, I had a feeling it was a good one. My first attempt at the dough was another failure, but Mom helped me out on the second attempt, and the end result was worth all the frustration, tears and meltdowns. I’m hoping life turns out kind of the same way.

Tools

pie dish
large mixing bowl
small mixing bowl
pastry blender
fork
measuring cups
measuring spoons
cutting board
rolling pin
peeler
kitchen knife
wooden spoon
pastry brush

Ingredients

Pastry
5 1/4 cups flour
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 lb shortening
1 large egg

Filling
8 cups peeled, cored and sliced cooking apples (I use Gravenstein)
1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch, or 2 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter
water or milk

Instructions

Sift dry ingredients in a large bowl. Cut in shortening.

In a small bowl or measuring cup, beat egg and cold water to make one cup. Slowly add to flour mixture, mixing with a fork. Add only enough liquid to make the pastry form a ball.

Turn pastry ball onto floured cutting board and knead until mixture is smooth. Divide into thirds and refrigerate until ready for use.

When ready to roll out pastry, sprinkle flour on cutting board and rolling pin. Roll out one third of the pastry until it’s large enough to fill your pie plate and have an inch extra overhanging. Carefully line pie plate with pastry.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Place peeled and sliced apples in a large bowl. In a small bowl, mix brown and white sugar, cornstarch or flour, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Sprinkle over apples and let stand for 10 minutes. Mix apples and spices and turn into pie plate.

Cut butter into chunks and place them on top of the apples. Roll out another third of the dough (leaving the remaining third as back-up in the event of disaster) and top pie, sealing with a fork or your fingers. Brush top of pastry with milk and sprinkle with white sugar. Slash top and bake for 40-50 minutes.

Enjoy!

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