Saturday, July 11, 2020

Homelife!

I have just begun to notice that I do not write much about my homelife, thinking instead of business, business, business. And I don't think that is what a blog is meant for.  I notice most people talk about more personal things on blogs and leave the business to their websites. So I think I WILL follow suit and begin pushing my website, theyankeechef.com, for cooking and use my blog for passionate endeavors and other, more intimate details. For example, many of you may be aware that my son and I spent days and days digging up the ground for a 21 foot pool.

 And to top it off, instead of having sand trucked in for the floor(under the mat), we decided to sift every bit of sand we dug and use it for coving as well.


Everything worked out perfectly, plus I saved a ton of money. A little hard work never hurt anyone.



                     https://www.facebook.com/james.bailey.165033/videos/3821097067906239/


Now on top of that, my family and I took our yearly pilgrimage to Topsfield to 'say hi' to our ancestors and what a beautiful scene we came to when we went to Thomas Bailey's grave.  Above, find the headstone of Thomas BAiley and his father Josiah of whom my book was relentlessly written. While on our way to Topsfield, we decided to FINALLY take a picture of my son Nathaniel(named after Josiah's father and founder of Baileyville, Nathaniel Bailey) with my grand daughter Aviana at 3 generations of Baileys buried in Lincoln, namely my Dad Jack, his father Samuel and his father Jesse, along with Jesse's wife Alice and my dear Uncle Val.



And speaking of graves, I am elated that my other son Thomas is the first one to say yes when I ask him to do something special for someone else. A longtime friend of mine living in Topsfield was looking for someone to clean her mothers headstone in the next town over from where I live and she offered a pile of rhubarb in consideration for me doing her a favor. Rhubarb?!?! Ahh....that was a no brainah'. Thomas even jumped at the chance of helping someone. Plus what a great learning experience for him.

And last but certainly not least is our down time.
With a youngin' to keep wet and cool this summer in Maine, Aviana and her mom Jessica(along with Thomas and I) went to the splash pad in Bangor and Aviana met her great aunt Diana for the first time along with a cousin, Lindsay.
Boy does Aviana have a huge family to get to know. A whole slew of cousins just itching to play.



Friday, May 22, 2020

My 'New' Family

It has been a few years, but finally have things worked out with my oldest boy, Nathaniel. We haven't been in touch over the past few  years because of an issue I HOPE we have worked out. And it was a shame that so long had passed too, but onward and upward I hope. He and his girlfriend, Jessica, have a little girl named Aviana. And she loves to be outside just much as the rest of us. Nathaniel and Jessica bought bikes and a tag along to put her in so she can enjoy bike rides around town.
I am glad to see Nathaniel following in his ancestors footsteps cooking in the kitchen at a local restaurant but I am still holding out hope that before summer is over, we will have our own place so we can make it a family affair just as I had the privilege of my fathers wisdom in the kitchen.
I distinctly remember my Dad offering me an opportunity of going to culinary school but I decided against it because there was absolutely no way on God's green earth that I could have learned anymore at an institution than by my Dads side since the age of 14.
As for what I want to be called as Aviana grows up? Well, one thing is for certain, Grandpa is not going to be it. I much prefer either "Poppy" or "pa pere". I am leaning toward pa pere because it is significant to me that we keep alove our French heritage as long as possible. My great grandmother was pure French and besides, pa pere sounds a whole lot less.....aged.







Sunday, May 3, 2020

My Son's First Blog

It is so nice to see the art of the violin continuing on in the family. My daughter started it when she was younger but as with most children learning the violin(*me included), it doesn't take much to lose interest. I did for many years at the same age so keeping fingers crossed that Thomas won't lose too much interest. I think the key is NOT pushing. My Dad pushed me but it was a two way street. I was not interested in playing for a while because I think I was forced to practice, which didn't make it fun anymore.
So with Thomas, I am going to take it slow, give him plenty of space to choose what to practice and when for the most part and simply make it as enjoyable as I can.
Having said that, here is a  link to his first official post of his progression on his own blog.

https://thomastheyankeechef.wordpress.com/?fbclid=IwAR2ArWM7dcWl2rEaEzM8kHMS_IUWSWWBo9h9-Uj01KG-7Qh_F-iJSlBZn7k


Friday, February 14, 2020

Why Do Ghosts Wear Clothes

   My latest book is truly a work of fun. I wanted to take a break from research, cooking and being serious and focus on some topics that capture your imagination and get you thinking. This book does that and then some.

   I also wanted to finally solve a topic that many in the religious community think don't belong together. And that is the relationship between the Bible and God in particular and other beings that may be or may not exist that are not of this earth. Many people will say that if there were other beings in the universe, then God would have said so in the Bible. This  is not the case, and i explain it in the book. 



 Here is the paperback version. The ebook version is below.


   I also have little known mysteries, enigmas and events that cannot be explained by believers and skeptics alike. I tried to bring you 'riddles' that even the harshest critic cannot explain away, or at least if they try to, the story is far more believable than what the skeptic an assert.

   I have given you over 100 just such cases from telekinetic powers, UFOs, ghosts, teleportations and simply a whole host of weird things that will really have you scratching your head.
So have fun and I think you will thoroughly enjoy reading this book. I know, I know. I told you last time I was going to write a fiction, but I wanted just one more book under my belt before I dive into those waters.

   Now here is the link and picture of the same book, but as an ebook. I need to explain that you will notice that each has a different cover and title. This ebook I had to change the title slightly because someone else wrote an ebook a few years back with the same title, so I changed it up a little. It is the same exact book though.



   I have to add one more thing to this post that makes me super excited. My youngest, Thomas, has decided to pick up the violin now. So I went to my friend Rob at RDL Strings in Bangor and got him his first REAL violin, a full size that will last him the rest of his life. Anyway, he was tickled pink, as my Dad would say, when he got it a couple days ago. Now to hopefully keep him interested, He is the last of my children that can keep the fiddle playing going for the fourth generation. Keeping my fingers crossed.




Friday, January 10, 2020

A 400 Year Old Fart

Well, that got your attention, didn't it? And I am not kidding when I tell you I am going to GIVE you a recipe for a fart that IS 400 plus years old! Let me tell you, though, about what is the most inconceivable and odd "mistake" that has been kept as such, regardless of the connotation.
The reason for this post to begin with is because I celebrated my birthday yesterday and there was ONLY one thing I wanted, being a simple Yankee. While most of you will cling to a classy meal as something that stands out above the rest or you simply like to 'brag' about your Pan Seared Goose Foie Gras with a Balsamic Reduction on Crisp Citrus Watercress......what brings me to a culinarily fulfillment is enjoying a meal that my father or grandparents made every Saturday night. Not only was it satisfying in every sense, but to this day, it stands out above any meal I have ever had. Last night I had Baked Beans(from a recipe of my fathers), brown bread, cole slaw, potato salad, a slab of grilled, REAL, ham(for those of you who may think it a Swamp Yankee and beneath you, then you can say pan seared)and true Indian Pudding. So need I say more as to the intent of this post now?

On November 7, 1480, Martin Rodkyns received an order from the ship Sanctus Spiritus, owned by John Stephyns. There was sugar, honey, wood and cork.

                                           And Marin received...4000 farts of Portugal.

Thinking this may have been a type by the author of this cookbook, I began my research. Nope! It truly was called a Fart!

In a cookbook printed in England called A book of cookrye. Very necessary for all such as delight therin, 1591, there is a receipt(recipe)for Farts of Portingale:

"Take a quart of life Honey and set it upon the fire and when it seetheth scum it clean, and then put in a certaine of fine Biskets well serced, and some pouder of Cloves, some Ginger, and powder of sinamon, Annis seeds and some Sugar, and let all these be well stirred upon the fire, til it be as thicke as you thinke needfull, and for the paste for them take Flower as finelye dressed as may be, and a good peece of sweet Butter, and woorke all these same well togither, and not knead it."



Three years later, another English cookbook called Good Husewife's Handmaide for the Kitchin, 1594, there is a recipe called Farts of Portingale.

"Take a peece of a leg of Mutton, mince it smal and seasopn it with cloues, mace pepper and salt, and dates minced with currans: then roll it into round rolles, and so into little balles, and so boyle them in a little beefe broth and so serue them foorth."

But I will say that in all likeliness, the word Fart started out as a typo somewhere along the lines and, although crude, the name stuck.

Today, sadly(I think), there is only one fart that anyone makes anymore and they are Nuns Farts. Yup, these Canadian original, cinnamon-like pastries are actually called Pet de Soeur, translated as sisters(Nuns) Fart. One day I will make them because they are simply a flaky pie crust cut into long strips, coiled as you would a cinnamon roll and baked. Once out of the oven,you drizzle a mixture of melted butter, brown sugar and cinnamon.

Here is a GREAT recipe from my friends at https://www.recettes.qc.ca/recettes/recette/pets-de-soeur




 Its funny to read about so many Canadian Food Historians trying to find out why these are called farts. One saying because a Nun farted in a kitchen when they were making them one day, making the other Nun laugh so hard she accidentally dropped her rolled up pie crust in hot oil. Of course this is foolish not only because of the question why was she rolling pie crust to begin with, but we have the original recipe for Farts, which is a dough.

Heck, even Mozart lamented on Farts when he wrote to his mother in Mannheim:

"Madame Mutter!
I like to eat Butter.
We are, Thank the Lord,
Healthy and never bored.
Our trip is bright and sunny.
Though we haven't any money;
We enjoy the company we keep,
We are not sick, we do not weep.
Of course, the people I see
Have much in their bellies, just like me,
But they will let it out with a whine,
either before or after they dine.
There's a lot of farting during the night..."

....wait! Wrong kind of Fart..sorry about that!



To end this post, I DID make a fart, and here it is. Was simple a meatball simmered in beef broth. So go ahead and make you favorite meatball and simmer it in broth until if floats. Cover it with gravy or demi-glace as I did and have at it.





Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Recipes From Our Past

   I am not only a purist in the kitchen, but a softy when it comes to recipes our ancestors made. I don't think there is a day that goes by that I don't think about what kitchens smelled like in the era of no electricity yet food was cooked all day lone to feed the large, sprouting families of our "fore-families". So here are some of my favorite recipes that I have prepared that stick to the past as close as I can. 


Christmas Orange Cake
     This recipe really isn't one from the past, but the taste of it reminds me of that special orange I found in my 
Christmas stocking every year. A delicious blend of tart and sweet with the flavors of Christmas, this super moist cake is easy to make and bake and the topping is as simple as it gets. 

Nonstick cooking spray
1(18-ounce)jar orange marmalade(about 26 T.), divided
1 cup cranberry juice concentrate, thawed and divided
1/3 cup milk
4 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon each cinnamon and dried ginger
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs, beaten well


Liberally grease a 9-inch square pan with nonstick cooking spray; set aside. Preheat oven to 350-degrees F. In a small saucepan, add half the jar of marmalade, 1/2 cup cranberry juice concentrate, milk and butter and bring to scalding over medium heat, stirring often. Once butter is melted, set aside.
In a large bowl, blend the flour, baking powder and spices. Add the marmalade mixture, brown sugar and eggs. Beat until as smooth as possible. Pour into prepared pan and bake 35 minutes, or until it bounces back in the middle when pressed. 
Make Orange Sauce by heating remainder of marmalade and remainder cranberry juice concentrate, whisk well and heat until warmed throughout. Pour over warm or cold cake.

Sweet Molasses Cake

    Molasses cake was a staple at lumber camps many generations ago and sadly it is very seldom made now. But I will guarantee you one thing. If you switch your gingerbread with this recipe for the Holidays, you will be thrilled at the comments from everyone, especially if you top it with vanilla ice cream while warm. I can honestly say that this is the perfect cold weather cake and my all time favorite.

1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup milk
1 tablespoon lemon juice or vinegar
1/2 cup molasses
1 stick(1/2 cup) melted butter or margarine
2/3 cup sugar
1 egg
1 cup flour
2 t. cinnamon
1 t. baking soda
1/2 teaspoon each nutmeg and ground cloves*

An hour before making cake, cover raisins with boiling water, cover and set aside. Line an 9-inch square pan with parchment paper; set aside. Preheat oven to 350-degrees F.
When ready, drain and set aside.(See NOTE)
In a bowl, with a hand held whisk, NOT an electric mixer because you don't want every single lump to disappear, add milk,lemon juice or vinegar, molasses,melted butter or margarine,sugar and egg. Whisk well. In a separate bowl, thoroughly blend flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and ground cloves and add this mixture to molasses mixture. Whisk until just incorporated and then fold in raisins. Pour into prepared pan and bake 38-40 minutes, or until it springs back when touched in the center. Remove cool slightly cut and eat it NOW

* Use allspice if you like that netter, but you really should use cloves

NOTE: The reason we treat the raisins this way is because if you don't, they will sink to the bottom of the batter and burn while cooking. The batter is not thick enough to suspend them and don't listen to other chefs or articles that tell you to coat them in flour to prevent this from happening. It simply does not work in thin batter.


Maine Chocolate Potato Donuts


     I found this recipe in one of my grandfathers music books from his days at the Boston Conservatory from 1918-1920. He was cooking at that time in Boston and am sure he slipped in this while there. I just made them for my family during Thanksgiving and want a fantastic donut to make throughout the winter? This is it folks!

1 1/2 quarts frying oil
Spiced Sugar Coating, recipe below
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cups cocoa
1 1/3 cups sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup milk
1 cup cold mashed potatoes*
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup butter or oleo, melted

Heat oil in deep fat fryer until 350-degrees F. You can also heat oil in a sturdy pot over medium heat, using a clip-on thermometer.
 For the Spiced Sugar Coating, mix together 1 1/2 cups sugar and 1 teaspoon nutmeg in a shallow bowl; set aside. In a large bowl, combine flour, cocoa, sugar and baking powder, blending well. Add milk, mashed potatoes, eggs and butter. Beat with a sturdy wooden spoon until it leaves the side of the bowl. A tabletop mixer with a dough hook or paddle attachment works as well
 Empty out onto a well-floured work surface. Knead only for a minute, until smooth. Roll out to about 3/4-inch thick. Cut out with a 3 to 3 1/2-inch donut cutter or glass. If using a glass, find the top of a screw on lid of a soda bottle and press in the center of each dough disc to remove donut hole.
Cooking 2-3 donuts at a time, fry them for 3 minutes per side.
 Remove each donut onto a rack or paper towel-lined plate,
allowing grease to come back to temperature before continuing to cook the remainder of donuts. When cooking the donut holes, you will need to gently swirl them as they are cooking because once the bottom side is cooked and you flip them over, they will NOT, repeat will NOT stay that way!
 While the donuts are still warm, dip in cinnamon sugar to evenly coat both sides or dip in Maple Glaze on both sides, drain excess glaze and transfer to rack for the glaze to harden.


* After you boil, mash and chill potatoes in refrigerator, remove from container and place on double folded paper towels. Place paper towels on top as well and push down to remove any excess water. Put into recipe.

True New England Stuffed Squash


For those of you who enjoy polenta and think only high end, expensive polenta is the best...think again! We New Englanders were the first to make corn meal mush back in the 17th century and this delicious side dish is so cheap to make, I hope you rethink spending so much in an upscale restaurant for something you can make at home for pennies a serving. When combined with other Yankee ingredients, you end up with a Holiday feast accompaniment that is killer.





Polenta:
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
Salt and cracked, black pepper to taste
1 large(3 pound)butternut squash *
Twine or butchers string



Prepare polenta by bringing milk and chicken broth to a boil over medium heat in a medium saucepan. Slowly add the cornmeal in a thin stream, whisking constantly to prevent lumps. Remove from heat and stir in cheese, salt and cracked pepper. Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate at least 2 hours, or until cooled and firm. When ready, prepare squash.
Cut an inch off of both the stem and bulb ends of squash. Cut in half lengthwise. 
Pare just enough skin and flesh from 2 halves to stand up level on a sheet pan(which you should have lined with foil).
With a sturdy spoon or melon baller, scoop seeds and membrane from each squash half. Continue making this 'well' down the skinnier portion of the squash. This may prove difficult with these utensils so use a sharp knife to begin with by cutting into the flesh at angles if needed. Do not allow this 'well' to go through the outside surface or you will have a mess in your pan while roasting.
Remove polenta from refrigerator and mound it equally among 2 halves of prepared squash. Cover with unfilled squash half, pressing down lightly just to make sure upper half is filled with polenta. Tie firmly but not too aggressive and place on prepared pan.
Bake 50-60 minutes, or until the flesh of squash is soft when pricked with a fork. Remove from oven to cool slightly before carving and serving in 1-inch slices.



Super Easy(and Original) Sugar Plums




     True Sugar Plums were so-named because, although not actually 'sugared plums', the original recipes used raisins or dried plums, otherwise known as prunes. Raisins were held together with nuts of various types and other dried fruits and rolled into small truffle-like balls They were a hit with youngsters and oldsters alike many generations ago. Without altering the original too much, try The Yankee Chef's version of this Christmas sweet the way your forebears tasted them, with only a couple of extra touches to round off the textural experience.
     Today's recipes use the food processor or blender to finely mince all the ingredients, but I think that method muddles the flavor too much and gives it a monotone texture.......Blah! By simply chopping the ingredients by hand, the taste is fantastic and you can actually distinguish the different flavors all "rolled up into one". Adding granola is a great touch as well, but if you happen to have some granola-type cereal on hand, even the nut-laden variety, by all means this is a nice alternative too. Refer to NOTE for extended list of various alternatives to use.
1/2 cup raisins, left whole or chopped
1/2 cup granola
1/2 cup dried banana chips, crushed
1/2 cup candied green cherries, chopped
1/2 cup dried plums(prunes), orange-scented, chopped
1/2 cup candied red cherries, chopped
1/2 cup orange marmalade
1/2 cup honey
In a large bowl, combine all ingredients well with damp hands or use gloves(latex that is.....work gloves won't work so well here, sad Yankee humor). This may be best accomplished if you have a standing mixer with a paddle attachment. With your hands still slightly wet from water, mold into small balls, pressing tightly to mold. Place on a large platter and let air dry for an hour to dry the outside and make less sticky. Cover and keep until needed at room temperature. For a 'sweet and salty' flavor, sprinkle some kosher or other large-grained salt on top of each Sugar Plum.

NOTE: You may also substitute the following or use some imagination to form that perfect Sugar Plum, I promise Santa will love it just the same. I use candied fruits here because it adds that special flavor and extra holding power. Use all dried ingredients if desired. Try dried apple slices, candied pineapple(both yellow and green), crushed walnut, pecans or slivered almonds, golden raisins, dried apricots, candied or grated lemon or lime peel, candied citron or shredded coconut.



Easy and Delicious Gingerbread Men




     What joy it is when you can gather the children around the table to help cut out gingerbread men. Not only do you have the scent of ginger and molasses wafting through the air, but the joy that is Christmas truly shines through. So what if the shapes or icing is haphazard and not perfect. It is the time spent and the joy created that is important.....don't you think?

  • 1/2 cup(1 stick)butter or margarine
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice, optional
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon each nutmeg and cinnamon
  • Decorating Icing:
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, divided
  • Red, green, blue or other colored food coloring
Preheat oven to 375-degrees F. Line two cookie pans with parchment paper or grease with nonstick cooking spray*; set aside.
In a large bowl, beat butter with brown sugar using an electric mixer until as smooth as possible. Add molasses, milk, vanilla and lemon juice, if using. Continue to beat until everything is well incorporated.
In a separate bowl, blend all dry ingredients. Add dry to wet and beat an additional minute or two until cookie dough is stiff and well mixed.
On a floured work surface, transfer dough and roll out to about 1/4-inch thick, adding more flour to prevent sticking. Cut out gingerbread men, or desired shapes. Lift shapes off counter onto prepared pans with a spatula, leaving an inch between cookies. Reknead dough, cutting out more shapes. Continue until all dough is used. Brush off excess flour with pastry brush, cloth or paper towel. Bake 10-12 minutes, or until evenly puffed and they bounce back in the middle of each cookie when touched.
Remove from oven to cool completely on pans with paper. Peel cookies off parchment and set aside to decorate.
To decorate, simply mix 1/2 cup powdered sugar with 5 drops desired food coloring and 2 teaspoons water. Repeat with remaining powdered sugar in separate bowls.
Transfer icing to piping bag with round tip or into a very sturdy plastic baggie with a very small corner snipped off.

* Let cool for a couple minutes if using nonstick cooking spray before lifting off onto a rack to cool completely.

NOTE: Want Peanut Butter Gingerbread Men for a change? Simpl omit the molasses and place 1/2 cup peanut butter into a saucepan with milk listed. Over medium heat, stir and heat until smooth and melted. Remove from heat to cool for a few minutes. Beat in butter mixture before adding dry ingredients. The dough will be much softer when done, so you will have to cover and refrigerate until it has stiffened back up, about 30-45 minutes. Continue as directed.Makes about 30(3 1/2-inch) Gingerbread Men






Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Perfect Apple Pie

    I have been blessed to have been brought up in restaurants run by my parents, with each proficient and an expert in their respective kitchen areas. My Mom was the hardest working baker I have ever met and she never put out a dessert, pastry or bread products that weren't perfect. She did every single thing by scratch and, although it irked me in a childish way, she constantly washed her caked-on doughy hands in my clean dish water, it only meant that she used her sense of touch along with sight to properly prepare biscuits and pie doughs by hand.

   My Dad, as you all know, was my god-like idol as well. Even though he had his demons, and I had mine later in life, he was never-ending work-a-holic and knew more than any other man when it came to the kitchen. I think it had to do with him climbing the ladder to his position, rather than starting out at some high brow cooking school.

   The one attribute he had that I admired him for was his love of reading. Although he enjoyed reading fiction  mostly, he read nonfiction as well because he always told me to never stop learning.

   I never did enjoy reading fiction, but nonfiction...pile it on, especially if it had to do with how our ancestors cooked, the way they lived in backwoods New England and the daily bread they enjoyed. I admire them for the hard work involved when it came to something as simple as bread, cider, raising crops and the like because they didn't simply go to market to purchase ingredients to make pastries and pies, but grew their own wheat and made their own flour from the ground up. Much like how my Dad and I learned the four corners of the kitchen and restaurant. That is why I consider myself one of the most informed and knowledgeable New England food historians out there. If you choose what you read because you love to read about it, then the more you read and the more you WANT to read!




   So comes the purpose of this blog post. I have been blessed with opportunities my father would have adored to be part of, a food judge. In particular, a Yankee food judge. And especially an apple pie food judge.

   I just was invited to be a judge at the Great Maine Apple Day in Unity, Maine. And it was here that I decided to write my first article on apple pie because of the varied and delicious apple products that were available at this event. It was also here that I tasted what is the best apple pie I have ever tried and judged. Yup, in the middle of nowhere Maine, I took a bite of the most flavorfully balanced apple pie out of the 1000-plus pies I have judged. The reasons it was the best? Because they stuck to my Puritan ideals and preparation, which not many people do anymore. I hate to say it, but the closer you come to how apple pie was originally made, the better it will be. Never mind the fancy decorative crust or the new-fangled baking pan, if you stick with the following information, you will end up with a pie that our New England ancestors enjoyed and at the same time, conclude with the most delicious pie you have ever made.

1. First understand that apple pie was originally called apple tarts and had only 1 crust, and it was on top. They were called coffins for a long period of time as well. The crust was called a paste and as mentioned, only sat on top before baking. But obviously when entering a contest or even preparing an apple pie at home, you would want a bottom crust. There are so many handed down recipes for keeping the bottom crust from getting soggy during baking and, although some may say their way is fool proof, there truly is only one way of keeping it from getting soggy. And that is with the right pie pan. 
   Many bakers and even professional pastry chefs have their own "tricks" but honestly, by using the right pan is the only true method. Toss those earthenware pie plates right to the side! They do not conduct enough heat fast enough to prevent a soggy bottom. That basically leaves 2 types. An aluminum and glass. 

   If you have a glass pyrex pie pan, use it! It conducts heat quickly and evenly and browns the pie up almost perfectly. I can't say enough about glass cookware and especially when baking apple pie.

   Aluminum pans are my choice. There are two kinds of aluminum pans, disposable and non disposable. Each work great by for the BEST, use disposable because they are thin enough to heat up faster than any pan on the market but they have a con to it. Once baked, you are going to have a dickens of a time cutting the pie without cutting the pan itself. I simply put the pan in the earthern ware pie pan before cutting, hahahaha. Hey, found a use for that expensive pan after all. 

2. Apple sizes. Make sure you cut your apples thinly and with each piece as close to the same size as possible. That is half the reason(the other half below)why some of the apple pie is mushy while other bites are done perfectly. Never mind dicing or cutting huge chunks of apple. They will not cook at the same speed as you want your crust to brown.

3. The right apple or apples. While everyone and their mother will tell you to use Granny Smith, please try a different apple. There are a number or reasons why apples mush when baking, with the main being its cellular structure and ph level. Apples get mushy because of its pectin amount. You want the apple to hold its shape once it hits 184-degrees F because that is the temperature at which the cell walls start collapsing. Try Pink Lady, Braeburn, Honey Crisp, Cameo, Fuji and Granny Smiths. Try using 2, 3, 4 or more different apples in each pie. 
   Want to help prevent the cell walls from collapsing into mush? My secret it to prepare my apples, place in a large bowl or pot and pour boiling water over them. Immediately cover tightly and let sit for 15 minutes, then drain very well and cool enough to continue with recipe. This "pre-poaching" transforms the natural pectin into a more heat stable type and helps TREMENDOUSLY from turning to mush.

4. The crust. Now I will tell you what made the pie at the Great Maine Apple Day exceptional. The baker knew that it wasn't the flakiness of the crust that made it perfect, but the time she took to cook the pie. This ultimate search for a flaky pie crust is something fairly new and played no role in apple pie making for centuries. Heck, even biscuits should NOT be flaky. It was the advent of machines and preparation techniques using these machines that flaky products first took hold because they could be made in layer upon layer upon layer without human hands, thereby shortening labor.

Can you mimic this(or close to it) on YOUR apple pie?



   No sir...the kind of crust you are after in an apple pie is the type of crust that reminds me of an artisan bread straight from hot oven. Dark brown, super crispy without tasting burnt and with the taste of what a true Maillard reaction should taste. The Maillard reacton is what happens when the natural sugars in a product turn the resulting food brown. It will never create a burnt taste. And to give your crust a soft and delectable texture, use an acid. Many chefs use vinegar or lemon juice with their water when making crust, and both are great. But I use ice cold orange juice...INSTEAD OF WATER. Perfect, perfect, perfect.  A true compliment to that artisan taste. And remember that it isn't just the edge, or rim, of the pie that should be dark brown, the entire top of the pie should be as well. The top of the pie should be irregular, not smooth. 
   I also think it is a form of cheating when you glaze the top with egg white, any dairy product or anything that will hasten the browning of the crust, even a spice. If you can bake an apple pie and believe in your talents, forgo these "cheats" and do it the right way.
   Having too many large bubbles popping up when baking? Only to be completely hollow when you slice into it? Be sure to properly vent to the top. This also helps in the pie liquid thickening and reducing. 

(Amelia Simmons in her cookbook only had two ingredients in her pie paste(crust). 2 pounds of flour to 3/4 pound of butter. 

5. Butter pats right on top of the apples. We Yankees have been adding butter to apple pie for millenia. If you add 6 teaspoon sized butter pats placed evenly around the top of the pie before the crust, it will taste like heaven. A HUGE difference.


6. Seasonings, seasonings, seasonings...wait, too many seasonings! Many, and I do mean many, cooks add so much seasoning, the apples get lost. I do understand that our day and age, sugar is found in every single thing, in one form or the other. Candy counters have more types of sugar-laden sweets than I ever thought possible when I was a child. Desserts, treats, pastries and more are easily obtainable at a cheap price now than when I was a child as well. That is why our palates are craving sugar at a much higher rate than in decades past. (This is why I came out with It's Just That Simple brand of products, but that is for another time)
   We tend to crave sugar and spices too much now. So when using cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves or nutmeg, just add enough to accent the apples, not bury them(Didn't Marc Antony once say that about apple pies....no, that was Caesar)
   I use only 1 1/2 teaspoons of cinnamon per 5 cups thinly sliced apples per pie. I also add 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg and 1/8 teaspoon allspice. Try mace for a true Yankee flavor. Use the same amount as you would allspice and omit the nutmeg. Mace is almost exactly the same flavor profile as nutmeg, but more intense.
   (Want to know a little tidbit that will actually turn an apple pie into something special? Rose water. Yup, our ancestors used this in apple pies and it truly is a great addition. Yes, you can still buy real rosewater as well online.


   As for a thickener, I use cornstarch and a hair over a tablespoon per pie. I mix the cornstarch with the seasoning and toss the apples all together before putting them in the shell. If you prefer flour, use 1/4 cup per pie. I don't like using flour because there is much more of a chance you are going to have flour lumps in the pie.


   Now when I say that unfortunately I am a purist, a Puritan purist to be precise, it gives me pause at times. It makes me seem old fashioned and not ready for taste elevations that today's chefs may bring to the table. I really do like different tastes, originality and new flavor combinations. But I also want the true essence of the dish or main ingredient to shine through, as it should. I want to taste the centuries gone by when the sweetness of the fruit was in front of the sugar used. I want the flavor of the main ingredient to hit me before any other spice. I want a crust that is meant for an apple pie and if there is one thing out of all these ingredients and preparation methods that really should not change is the way the crust was "back in the day". After all, if it ain't broke, don't use duct tape on it...or something like that. 


   I could go on and on about that perfect apple pie, but it truly does take patience and trial and error to make a pie that you enjoy personally and one that will be a proud addition to your families heritage. But these are the basic precepts when making that phenomenal apple pie and these tips come from a long line of chefs and a true New England bookworm.