In the spring of 2015, I packed up my rolling pin and traveled from my rural home in Washington State, to the Big Apple to do all the baking for the Art of the Pie photo shoot. Each evening, photographer Andrew Scrivani would ask me for the backstory of each of the pies he would be shooting the next day—he wanted each image to capture the feeling of the story.
One of my favorite recipes, a Sausage and Apple Pie, is evocative of apple harvest time. I told him about community cider pressings and potlucks, crisp air, and the scent of the first woodstove fire of the season.
Over the eight days we shot the book, it was not unusual for me to have five or more pies in process at any given time. Whether blind baking a crust, whipping egg whites for a meringue, making custard filling, or rolling out dough, I was doing my best to keep track of it all. I had placed a saucepan on the stove to reduce some apple cider for my Sausage and Apple Pie but lost track of it while weaving a lattice top for a berry pie. When I turned my head to check on the cider, I saw that it had nearly caramelized—not quite what I wanted. I removed the saucepan from the heat, and when it was cool enough, took a taste. There was no burned flavor so I decided to forge ahead in order to keep to the very packed baking schedule.
When it was time for a lunch break, the Sausage and Apple Pie was placed on a big table already covered with ones from the previous day’s shoot. I was still in the kitchen finishing up and overheard someone call for a bottle of wine and glasses. Good sign, I thought. I pulled up a chair to the table, hoping that the pie hadn’t been a complete disaster, and saw only one slice left…and some very happy faces. I took a bite and smiled, too. That extra time the cider had spent reducing on the stovetop had resulted in a pie with great depth of flavor. I immediately amended my original recipe to include this fortuitously happy outcome.
Use a favorite pork sausage, a mix of tart and sweet apples, and a flavorful apple cider or juice. The liquid will intensify in flavor, much like boiled cider, when reduced. I like to pair this filling with a cheddar cheese crust either with or without a bottom crust. Don’t worry if there is extra moisture released in the bake from your fresh juicy apples. That bottom crust will soak up the delicious flavor.
Kate McDermott is the author of ART OF THE PIE: A PRACTICAL GUIDE TO HOMEMADE CRUSTS, FILLINGS, AND LIFE (The Countryman Press/W.W. Norton 2016). She lives in Port Angeles, WA where she is at work on her next book KATE'S CAN-DO COOKBOOK, EASY AS PIE RECIPES FOR EVERYDAY COOKING to be published Fall 2018. Follow Kate at www.artofthepie.com