Archive for September, 2011

Apple-Cheddar Pie

Friday, September 23rd, 2011

Strangely, I’m not a major fan of pies, particularly apple pies. (I hope this doesn’t make me un-American.)

Nevertheless, every once in a while … particularly at this time of year … I feel impelled to bake an apple pie.

Yesterday was gray, and I was expecting company for supper. I hadn’t gotten very far in my menu planning. I knew we were having meatloaf; it was definitely a meatloaf kind of day. I also knew I needed to come up with some vegetables and a dessert.

One of my guests emailed me to say she would be happy to take care of the vegetables. So I was down to dessert.

I looked out the window for inspiration and was greeted by our apple trees, bursting with fruit.

The trees have been here much longer than we have. Most years they are purely decorative, bearing just a few mealy, wormy apples. I add them to applesauce out of habit but don’t eat or cook them much other than that.

Every three years or so, however, the fruit fates smile upon us and we suddenly find ourselves with enough apples to use multiple times. It turns out that 2011 is one of those years.

I took Truffle out for a quick walk, and in no time at all we had enough apples in our basket for a pie.

I was given this recipe many years ago by its creator, Rose-Ann Harder, who used to own a bakery in Greenfield, Massachusetts, called Rose-Ann’s. Her apple pie was one of her signature desserts. Somehow I never ended up trying it out until yesterday.

Knowing that many people accompany apple pie with a wedge of cheddar cheese, Rose-Ann incorporated cheese into her pie crust.

The cheese made the crust a little hard to roll out—at least for me, never the most deft of rollers. The difficulty was exacerbated by my lack of pastry flour. I substituted all-purpose flour, which may have made the crust more difficult to handle.

By the time the pie baked, however, the crust looked charmingly homespun rather than ragged. And it tasted perfectly autumnal, adding its savory flavor to the sweet filling.

Rose-Ann’s Apple-Cheddar Pie


for the pastry:

2/3 cup vegetable shortening
2 cups pastry flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
ice-cold water as needed

for the filling:

6 cups apples, sliced
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
2 tablespoons flour, plus a bit more if the apples are very juicy
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt


Cut the shortening, flour, and salt together with a pastry blender until they form nice crumbs. Add the cheese, then add cold water a bit at a time until the dough cleans the bowl. Roll the dough into two 9-inch crusts, and place the first crust in a pie pan.

Combine the filling ingredients, and place them in the pie pan. Cover with the other crust, and pierce air holes in the top. (Rose-Ann likes to draw a little apple on top, but that’s beyond my skill.) Bake at 350 degrees for about an hour, until the apples are tender and bubbling out through the air holes. Serves 6 to 8.

Ready to Eat

Friday, September 2nd, 2011

This post will be a little different from most since I’m not sharing a recipe. I promise to be back soon with something to cook. I always find apple time irresistible!

Today I’m simply describing an eating experience I encountered courtesy of Hurricane Irene.

As readers of my blog about caring for my mother know, my hometown of Hawley, Massachusetts, was hard hit by Irene … despite the fact that she had supposedly been downgraded to a Tropical Storm by the time she reached our community.

The roads in Hawley hew to the tradition of roads in many small communities—particularly hilly small communities. Our byways are built alongside brooks and rivers. Most of the time, this is a great idea. Why carve a road down a hill when you can just follow a stream around the hill?

During a hurricane, however, having one’s roads follow a river seems a lot less smart. Large parts of Hawley (including my own area, Pudding Hollow) were cut off during and after the hurricane by washed-out roads.

As a result, Hawley had its first ever (to my knowledge, at any rate) visit from FEMA. Federal and state officials helicoptered in to plan road repairs, bring medical help to a neighbor in need, and share food and water.

The food in question was a group of MREs—the ready-to-eat meals favored (or at any rate consumed) by our armed forces in the field.

Naturally, as a food person, I was fascinated by these. My mother and I really had no need for food. (Please don’t tell FEMA; this might be some sort of fraud!) Nevertheless, I asked for three of the meals.

The one I actually tried sounded intriguing. One somehow doesn’t expect to find Thai Chicken in MRE form.

A friend reminded me that Hawley is a bit far from Thailand. Even New York, where the MREs originate, is far from Thailand. So I’m not sure why I expected the food to be good. I guess I hoped it would be for the sake of the troops.

It took me a while to read the (very small, very obtuse) directions for heating the MRE with its “flameless heater,” a chemical pad that reacts to create heat when one adds a little water to its bag and then puts the bag in a box. The box is then rested on a rock “or something,” according to the directions.

Even after I managed to decipher the directions, I didn’t quite heat the food correctly. I put both the chicken and its accompanying rice pilaf in the heater bag. Only the one closer to the little pad actually got warm. I resorted to my microwave for the other—not an option open to soldiers in the field.

The chicken and rice proved sadly bland … even when I added a little hot sauce from the enclosed miniature bottle (a nice touch). The dishes’ consistency was off putting as well; both were gummy.

The rest of the meal was pretty darn odd but designed, I guess, to put protein into soldiers. It consisted of vegetable crackers (today’s hard tack) with peanut butter, a peanut/raisin mixture, instant coffee (a tea bag provided an alternative), and chewing gum.

My friend Brett informs me that he and his fellow members of the 379th Engineers subsisted on these meals for weeks at a time overseas.

The whole thing gave me a renewed appreciation for our men and women in uniform. Risking their lives and leaving their families are bad enough. Having to eat bland, boring food … now, that’s too great a sacrifice.

When I learned that National Guard troops and other officials were working on the roads out of town it occurred to me that these men might be subsisting on MREs. I hastened to bake them some butterscotch brownies, and my neighbor Alice and I drove down to the road-construction site (very carefully) to distribute the treats.

I wish I could do the same for our troops everywhere.

Meanwhile, if you would like to help with hurricane relief in our area, please consider contributing relief supplies to the drive at our local elementary school, Hawlemont School in Charlemont. Coordinator Beth Bandy is asking for bottled water, nonperishable foods, cleaning supplies, baby food/formula, pet food, clothing, and anything else that might be helpful. She is also looking for drivers with hardy cars to deliver the supplies. For more information on the drive, call Beth at 413-337-4291.

Beth has also set up a Facebook page for her efforts.

And if you’d like to hear an abridged audio version of my blog post about our own hurricane experience, here’s the link for my commentary on WFCR-FM.