“But best of all Almanzo liked the spicy apple pie, with its thick, rich juice and its crumbly crust. He ate two big wedges of the pie.”
Apple pie is an American classic. People have been enjoying this warm, comforting dish for generations. We typically think of it as a dessert, but in the pioneering era it was also enjoyed as a breakfast pie.
Apple pie isn’t a quick convenience food. It takes time to make, so it’s best to enjoy the process and savor every last bite.
Old-Fashioned Spicy Apple Pie Recipe Inspired by Little House on the Prairie
The first step in making an apple pie is getting the apples. My family loves to go apple picking every fall. We’re able to bring home the best apples for a pie because we can pick a mixture of different varieties. Grocery store apples work too, of course. To keep with the frugal spirit of the pioneers, see if there are any apples in the “reduced produce” section. Apples with dings and dents are fine for a pie, and you can often get them for a bargain.
Ingredients for Two Pie Crusts (known back then as “Common Family Paste for Pies” as described in The Little House Cookbook)
- 2 ½ cups flour, plus extra for dusting
- 1 tsp. salt
- ⅔ cup butter or lard (10 tbs.)
- 6 Tablespoons ice water (as needed)
Directions for Ma’s Old-Fashioned Pie Crust
- Chill the crust ingredients, along with a 2 quart bowl, in the refrigerator. Prepare a cup of ice water.
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
- Mix the flour and salt together in the chilled bowl. Slice the cold butter into small pieces and add them to the flour. Blend together with your fingertips until the mixture is uniformly coarse. Continue to toss the mixture with a spoon as you add up to 6 tablespoons of ice water.
- Shape the dough into two evenly sized balls and chill them in the fridge while you prepare the pie filling. (In summer, Ma Ingalls might have set the dough bowl in a pan of cold well water.)
Ingredients for Spicy Apple Pie Filling
- 1 lemon
- 2 lbs. tart apples
- ¾ cup brown sugar
- 3 tsp. flour
- Pinch of cinnamon
- Pinch of cloves
- Pinch of nutmeg
- 1 tbs. butter
- Heavy cream for serving
Directions for Spicy Apple Pie Inspired by Little House on the Prairie
- To make the filling, zest the lemon with a lemon zester or microplane. Set the zest aside, then halve the lemon and squeeze the juice into a large mixing bowl.
- Peel, core, and slice the apples into the bowl with the lemon juice. An easy way to do this is to quarter the apples, then peel the quarters, cut the cores out, and slice. Toss the slices with lemon juice. (Note: If you have children underfoot, this is a good time to put them to work. They can help peel the apples.)
- Dust a work surface lightly with flour and flatten one ball of dough on it. With a floured rolling pin, roll the dough into a circle 2 inches wider than your pie pan and 1/8 inch thick. Roll from the center of the dough to the edge, giving it a slight turn after each roll.
- Butter the pie pan. Transfer the dough by folding it in quarters, placing it in the pan and unfolding. Trim with a knife around the pan edge.
- Line the bottom pie crust with a layer of apple slices. Sprinkle the layer with a third of the brown sugar, and sift a third of the flour on top. Repeat the layers until these ingredients are used up. Sprinkle the lemon zest and spices over the top of the apples and dot with butter.
- Roll out the top crust as you did the bottom one, transfer it on top of the apples, and trim the edges. Pinch the edges together with your fingers or press with the tines of a fork. Vent the top crust by slashing it in a simple design or piercing it a few times with a fork.
- Bake the pie in a 425 degree oven for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350 degrees and bake for 30 to 35 minutes more, until the crust is brown. Serve warm in bowls with a pitcher of heavy cream.
Apples are one of the most common fruits mentioned throughout the Little House books and a major part of Laura’s life even as an adult. In 1894, Laura, Almanzo, and their daughter Rose moved to Mansfield, Missouri and bought land outside of town, which they named Rocky Ridge. Here they worked together to turn the stony land into fertile farmland and planted an apple orchard.
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The author drew ideas and inspiration from The Little House Cookbook: Frontier Foods from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Classic Stories by Barbara M. Walker (New York: Harper & Row, 1979). You can read a review of this wonderful resource by clicking here.
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