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My Grandfather’s Orchard and Fully Loaded Apple Pies

Dennis“This article includes a basic recipe for apple pies plus instructions for adding sour cream, walnuts, cranberries, and other inclusions to your apple pies.  It includes serving suggestions and recommended products and tools for great apple pies.” -Dennis Weaver  

My grandfather had a big orchard.   At least it seemed so to us boys.   We spent hours in that orchard—climbing trees, checking out bird nests, eating green apples, and doing what boys do.  The outer row of trees had peach and plum trees and I don’t remember what else.  We didn’t spend much time in that row.

The inner rows always beckoned, more secretive and better to explore.  There was a giant, gnarled apricot tree with spreading branches that was easy to climb.  There was a whole row of apple trees—Jonathans, Winesap, and I don’t remember what else.  In the far corner of the orchard was a pillar of a pear tree with branches so thick and tall that it was difficult to climb and with a tangle of low plum bushes behind and along the fence.

Beyond the plums and pears were the sand lots with sagebrush and scattered ponds with lots of frogs and an occasional jack rabbit.  It was a boy’s paradise.

I remember picking apples at the end of the season with Mother and my brothers.  “It’s going to snow,” she said.  “We have to get all we want.”

The skies were leaden and we kept sticking our hands in our coat pockets to warm them up.  The wind found its way through the orchard to bite our noses and turn our cheeks red.  But the apples were incredibly good–cold, crisp, and sweet.  We picked bushels to take home and store in our covered porch where we could have them until late in the winter.

I learned how to bake apple pies from my mother.  I don’t recall her using a recipe.  She would roll out the dough and line a pie pan.  She would toss peeled and sliced apples in cinnamon, sugar, and flour.  She would load up the pie pan and place chunks of butter over the apples before covering it with a top crust.  In my memory, her pies were the best.

Rarely do I use a recipe when I make an apple pie.  I just load and bake as my mother did.  But I’m prone to add ingredients that my mother often didn’t have—bright red cranberries either fresh or dried, golden raisins, sour cream, or caramel sauce—whatever sounds good at the moment.  I have a choice of cinnamons; she had whatever was at the store.  She would put one of her boys at the sink peeling the apples; I use an Apple Master.  I don’t think my pies are as good as the memories of my mother’s pies but I like them and I like making them.

How to Make a Fully Loaded Apple Pies

You can freelance your apple pies or you can start with a recipe and then add what you want to it.  Here you will find a list of suggested ingredients like sour cream, dried cherries, and walnuts.  You’ll find quantities but you can add more or less—it’s your pie.

The top crust always seems better if it’s slathered in butter and coated with a sprinkling of sugar and cinnamon.  You’ll find a choice of cinnamons here.

A Basic Apple Pie Recipe

This is a good recipe to use as base.  It makes a nice rounded pie.  Add more goodies to it.  If it stacks higher, so much the better.  Be sure and use a dark pie pan so that the crust bakes and is not soggy.  We recommend a pie crust shield to protect the edges from burning so that you’re not tempted to remove the pie from the oven before the apples are tender and bottom crust is baked.  Use an Apple Master to peel and slice your apples.  Not only will it save you a lot of time but your slices are uniformly thick so that they bake uniformly.  A just-add-water pie crust mix will save you more time and give you a tender professional crust every time.

Apples and cinnamon are essential companions.  You have a choice of three cinnamons.  Ceylon or Sri Lankan cinnamon is very mild and fruity.  Korintje cassia cinnamon is what we are most familiar with—but the quality ranges widely.  Vietnamese or Saigon cinnamon is very aromatic and flavorful with a taste of cinnamon oil.  For apple pies, we use Vietnamese most often.


For the crust:
9-inch double crust pastry from a just-add-water pie crust mix or equal

For the filling:
8 cups apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tablespoon ground cinnamon
4 tablespoons butter
For the topping:
2 tablespoons melted butter
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 tablespoons granulated sugar


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

  1. Toss the apple pieces with the lemon juice and set aside.
  2. Prepare and press the pie crust into a dark pie pan setting aside the dough for the top crust. Trim the crust. Do not bake the crust.
  3. In a large bowl, mix the sugar, flour, and cinnamon together.  Add the apples and toss them with the dry ingredients to coat.  Scrape the apple mixture into the unbaked pie shell.  Cut the butter into chunks and spread on top of the filling.
  4. Roll out the top crust. Brush the top edge of the bottom crust around the rim with water to help the two crusts seal. Place the top crust over the pie. Trim the crust and seal the two crusts with the tines of a fork or with your fingers.
  5. Mix the remaining 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon together with the remaining sugar. Brush the melted butter over the top of the pie. Sprinkle the cinnamon and sugar mixture over the top of the pie.
  6. Cover the edges of the pie with a pie crust shield to keep it from burning.  Bake for 35 to 45 minutes or until the pie is bubbly and the crust is golden.

Suggested additions with which to load your pie:

  • 2/3 cup sour cream
  • 2/3 cup Bavarian cream
  • 2/3 cup walnut pieces
  • 2/3 cup dry cranberries
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 2/3 cup caramel sauce
  • 2/3 cup dry cherries
  • 2/3  cup golden raisins

Serving Suggestions

I love warm apple pie with a scoop of ice cream and a drizzle of caramel sauce.  (Use an ice cream topping or Carmel Designer Dessert Sauce.)  Caramel whipped cream is fantastic on an apple pie—it’s fantastic on cardboard.

To make caramel whipped cream, substitute caramel flavor for vanilla and brown sugar for white sugar when you make whipped cream.   Or you can buy caramel whipped cream packets from The Prepared Pantry with the flavor, sweeteners, and a stabilizer in each packet.  The stabilizer will stabilize the whipped cream so it won’t melt nearly as rapidly.

What You’ll Need (Recommended Products for Apple Pies)

  1. Dark Pie Pans.  Dark pie pans absorb heat so that the bottom of the pie bakes and avoids soggy crusts.  Our Professional Pie Pans have a quality nonstick finish so that you can slip the pie from the pan to a platter for cutting and serving.  We also carry nonstick dark deep dish pans.
  2. Pie Crust Shields.  These rings cover the edges of the pies to keep the crusts from burning.  Available in both silicone and aluminum.
  3. Cinnamon.  A good quality cinnamon makes a magical difference.  If you taste a good quality cinnamon with your finger, it will be pleasant and not medical-tasting.  We carry Korintje Cassia, Vietnamese, and Sri Lankan cinnamons each with very unique tastes.  We recommend Vietnamese for apple pies.
  4. Professional Pie Crust Mix.  This is the mix that many bake shops in America use for their pies.  Just add water and beat for about one-minute in your stand-type mixer.  It makes excellent pie crusts without the labor. 
  5. Apple Peeler.  An Apple Master peels, cores, and slices your apples with the twist of a handle.  It will reduce your prep time by half to two thirds and it cuts slices the same thickness for even cooking.