My Grandma Hogan lived for desserts. She was NOT an outstanding cook, but her sweet tooth rendered her incapable of becoming a poor baker.
As a child, I remember savoring a slice of apple pie that tasted magical. Every other apple pie I'd tasted was made with a double pastry crust, and the syrupy filling never masked the mushiness of the apples. Knowing the typical textures I'd encountered before, I recall wondering if my Grandma Hogan's version even contained apples. (It did!) Grandma only baked that pie every so often. I don't remember her serving it at holiday meals; she would make it if one of her children requested it, or occasionally when she "just felt like pie."
I didn't just enjoy Grandma's pie for its unique crust and its irresistible contents. To me, it embodied Grandma's attitude that not all aspects of life should be serious: sometimes, we should just eat, laugh, and enjoy. When we sang "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling" at my Grandma Hogan's 80th birthday party, I couldn't help but think of the sparkle I'd always seen in her gaze when she served or encountered dessert.
I asked Grandma Hogan for her apple pie recipe when I was a sophomore in out-of-state college craving a taste of home, and she gave me her recipe. One of my sisters asked her for the recipe a couple of years later, and Grandma gave it to her. About four years after that, my sister and I discovered that our recipes featured slightly different quantities and different types of apples. Nevertheless, both versions had received rave reviews each time we had baked them.
I have to admit that, over the years, I have added a few of my own tweaks to the version of the recipe I received. Even so, I think of Grandma Hogan every time I bake it. Sometimes the baking process ends in tears, but the pie experience always yields smiles and laughter. Grandma Hogan fought a long battle with Altzheimer's that was largely terrifying for her, but she managed to retain the childlike sense of lighthearted mischief that made her who she was until the end. I have to say, my sister and I believe that the differences in recipes were a result of the latter. Whatever the truth might be, Grandma herself sampled slices of what was once her own creation several times before her death last November. Each time, she commented that whoever had baked that pie sure knew what they were doing.
I want to be remembered for this recipe because it's proof to me of the reality of love: that love lasts, wrapped tightly in positive memories, even after you don't even remember who you are. I want to see that sparkle that shone in Grandma Hogan's eyes in future generations. —shamrock455
one 9-inch pie
Snowcap lard or regular (non-flavored) shortening (If you can't use Snowcap, go with shortening!)
Mix the flour and salt. Cut in the lard with a pastry blender or fork till crumbly, then add 6-8 Tablespoons of water and stir. Add water a Tablespoon at a time, stirring till a crumbly ball forms. Roll out or chill up to 8 hours. When ready, roll the crust to 1/2 to 1/4 inch thickness. Ease the crust into a 9" pie plate and cut 1/2 inch beyond the pan. Fold the excess crust under itself and flute the edge with your fingers. DO NOT BAKE.
If desired and safe, place a large sheet of aluminum foil on the bottom of your conventional oven.
Heat oven to 450 F.
For the filling:
Peel the apples and slice them by hand to cut pieces roughly 1/2 inch thick and not wider than 2 inches. Place the apples in a large microwave-safe bowl, sprinkle 1/2 c. sugar and cinnamon over the apples and stir to mix thoroughly. Heat the apples in the microwave 1 minute at a time, stirring and heating until just hot (don't cook the filling!). Pour the filling into the pie crust; there's only too much filling if the apple slices are falling on the counter or floor.
For the crumble crunch topping:
Combine the flour, remaining 1/2 c. sugar, and salt in a small mixing bowl. Cut in the butter till the mixture looks crumbly (as opposed to chunky or fine), and pour it all over the top of the pie. If the pie is overly full (which is best), I usually set the whole pie pan on a large sheet of foil before baking. Juice will likely escape as the filling takes its finished form, so plan accordingly.
Bake the pie for 10 minutes at 450, then reduce heat to 350 and continue baking for at least 30 minutes. The pie is done when the topping takes on a golden hue; you'll likely glimpse the bubbling filling as well. Carefully remove the pie from the oven and cool completely on a wire rack. Chill, or serve warmed with ice cream.