Rural All American Apple Pie

October 27, 2016


Sarah Willis at her family apple tree.

We have an old apple tree that grows right next to our gas barrel here on the farm.  Admittedly this is not an ideal location, but these are the very best apples for making apple pie.  My grandmother planted a crabapple tree (the only native apple tree to North America) there many years ago.  In the wild, apples are highly heterozygous and don’t grow true to the subspecies of seed.  Apples of all varieties are created by grafting trees onto a hardier apple root stock. This is how our favorite apple originated: from the root stock of the original crabapple, a separate seedling grew into another tree.  We are not sure what kind it is but believe it to be a Mackintosh.

Apples are a favorite of insects, so organic apples tend to have spots on the skin where insects have fed. This doesn't make the apples any less delicious.

Apples are a favorite of insects, so organic apples tend to have spots on the skin where insects have fed. This doesn’t make the apples any less delicious.

We don’t apply any insecticides or other chemicals to our apples, so they stay pure and healthy. They may not be the prettiest of apples since they are also popular with the insects, but you just can’t beat the flavor composition, which is both tart and sweet with a medium crispy texture.

Sarah with her mother, Phyllis.

Sarah with her mother, Phyllis.

One of my most treasured traditions every autumn is picking as many apples as we can before the bugs get to them, and then using those apples to bake a few pies using grandma’s recipe while we store the rest in our root cellar or crisping drawer in the refrigerator.


Sarah rolling out the pie crust.

Although our rural lifestyles have changed with the advent of the telephone, television, internet, cell phone and more we can still enjoy the simple comforts of our family traditions that warm us when the temperatures begin to drop. These traditions include enjoying the fruits of harvest season.


Sarah cutting slits into the top of the pie for venting.

Nothing beats these heritage apples with a rich history steeped in tradition.  Just like the traditionally raised livestock we provide at Niman Ranch, raised the “old-fashioned way,” outdoors with just the right blend of breeds to bring out the best tasting flavor profile.

Looking for a classic all American apple pie recipe? Here’s ours:


The Willis family All American Apple Pie.


1 ½ cups of all-purpose organic flour
½ cup all natural lard
1 pinch salt
6-ish tablespoons ice water (dash of vodka is desired), then add one more until the dough is workable.

  1. Cut the lard into the flour and salt mixture until consistent texture is achieved.
  2. Add the iced water.
  3. Mix together being careful not to overwork the dough.
  4. Dust your surface area with flour- place the ball of dough in the center and roll out.
  5. Fold and lift your pie dough to place into pie dish.

All American Apple Pie Filling:

4 large organic apples (select those best for baking), peeled and sliced
¼ cup quick tapioca
½ cup organic sugar
a sprinkle of cinnamon to taste
a pinch of lemon zest
½ lemon juice fresh squeezed
2 tbs  all natural salted butter cut into 5 small wedges

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Place the apple slices in a large mixing bowl and mix in the tapioca, sugar cinnamon, lemon zest, and lemon juice until all the apple slices are covered.
  3. Pour into the pie crust spreading out the filling evenly.
  4. Place the 5 wedges of butter equally around the top of the filling.
  5. Fold the edges over for a casual pie or place a layer of crust across the top pinching the edges together around the rim and trimming off any excess.
  6. Cut a design in the top layer of dough or make sure to slice the top to allow for vent holes.
  7. Bake for 40 minutes until the crust is golden brown and the filling appears to be bubbling.
  8. Remove from the oven and let cool.  Serve alone or with ice cream.  Enjoy.

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