Posts Tagged: pie crust

Grandma’s Apple Pie

apple pie

Grandma Alice’s Apple Pie

Story & Recipes by Joyce Meyer • Illustrations by Lauren Bonney
Photos by Aryn Henning Nichols • Originally published in the Summer 2016 Inspire(d)

Thinking of apple pie conjures up memories of family. The sweet cinnamon-laced aroma of bubbling apple pie wafting through our old family farmhouse brings memories flooding back of my late grandmother, Alice Mansheim Uhlenhake. Grandma Alice lived with us while I was growing up, and being a former teacher, she was eager to teach me many things, including the art of making apple pies from the orchard on our family farm near Calmar, Iowa.

apple pie

At left in our farm kitchen in 1961 is my sister Eileen Schissel, Grandma Alice Uhlenhake and myself, Joyce Meyer, near Calmar.

Grandma grew up with fruit orchards that included a peach grove in Fort Madison, in southern Iowa. Being the only daughter, grandma and her mother, Bernadina Mansheim, had plenty of practice making fruit pies. After she was married, Grandma’s brother, John, would even bring a truckload of peaches up to our area in Northeast Iowa each year. We were privileged to have grandma stay with us in her senior years. A month at a time, she made rounds to each of the four daughters and her only son, who farmed the Uhlenhake family farm by Ossian. Grandpa Ted died at age 61, so for many years Grandma worked as a cook and housekeeper for Monsignor Leander Reicks in Cherry Mound and Dougherty, Iowa.

When I was a child, Grandma would get up early, while the rest were milking cows, and we would wander the orchard together as the sun rose in the sky. We would check on the gardens, grapes, raspberries, and apple orchard. Grandma was a devote women, and at the end of our walk, we would stop to meditate over the beautiful purple Morning Glories as they opened up to the sun and we would offer up our work for the day. Then the bustling farm kitchen came alive.

One day when I was about 10, Grandma decided it was time to teach me how to make pie by myself. It sounded like fun, so we gathered apples from the orchard and the flour went flying as she patiently taught me how to roll out the lard-based dough. It took practice and learning to use less flour to roll out the dough. I eventually became so proficient at my pie-making skills that I was sent to my sister Juanita Elsbernd Cole’s home in Cedar Rapids a few years later to make pies for a baptismal dinner. My mother, Ruth Elsbernd, recalls that Wealthy apples were the choice apples out of the orchard for pies.

apple pie

Summers were busy on the farm, and many times there were extra hungry workmen to feed. Grandma, mom, my sister Eileen (Schissel), and I made large meals at noon, and often the meal ended with her flaky apple pie. We learned the difference of our generations – sometimes we laughed about it, sometimes we just listened. It was the era of “hot pants” for us, as we became teenagers. We would chuckle, looking out at the clothes blowing on the line with grandma’s bloomers alongside our shorts… that just so happened to be shorter than her bloomers.

As soon as I was in high school, I was thrilled to sign up for Home Economics class. Poor Mrs. Grimes may have found me adequate to lacking in my cooking skills, so it came as quite a surprise that I could make a great pie. All because my grandmother felt it was a culinary skill she wanted to pass on to her grandchildren.

Years later, as our children were growing up, it became a tradition with my husband Kevin and our children, Lisa (Keigan) and Scott, to make apple pies to give to neighbors, friends, and put in the freezer for the long winter days ahead in Iowa.

When it was time to say good-by to my 93-year-old grandmother (who said lard is bad for you?!), many of us granddaughters brought pie for the meal after the funeral. I remember looking over the rows and rows of pies and thinking it was a perfect tribute to a wonderful lady we called Grandma.


Grandma’s Pie Crust – makes 3 regular crusts or two deep-dish crusts

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 cup shortening
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 4 to 5 cold tablespoons water

Apple Pie Filling

  • 5 or 6 sliced apples (Honey Crisp is a favorite as well!)
  • ¾ to 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Tablespoon of flour
  • Speck of nutmeg

Make dough by sifting flour and salt together. Add flour mixture to shortening slowly; use a pastry blender or a fork, cutting it to the size of small peas. Chill for 30-60 minutes (or longer), then slowly add water up to 5 tablespoons until the mixture is barely dampened. Take half of the mixture and press into compact ball.

Dust flour on rolling pin and board. Roll pastry out to about 1/8 thick and about an inch larger that pie plate. Fit into pie pan. Sprinkle a little flour over it and add 5 or so sliced tart apples. Pour in ¾ to 1 cup of sugar, little dab of butter, 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, and a speck of nutmeg.

Next roll up the rest of pastry and place on top of pie pan and crimp the edges. Mix a small amount of cream or milk with sugar and using a pastry brush, brush mixture lightly on top of crust. Cut slits in the top crust to allow for steam to release in oven. Bake for approximately an hour at 350 degrees.

Tip: If you don’t mix water in dough, you can keep it for almost a week in the refrigerator and make a one crust cream pie (I make Key Lime pie) with the third crust. When making apple pie I use a deep-dish pie pan about 11 inches – so I use all the dough from this recipe. Also if you have a little leftover dough, we cut small squares & put jam in them-pinch ends to make tarts. Bake about 10 minutes.

Tip 2: If you choose to make three regular crusts, take a cup of the dry dough mixture out (and save it for later), then only add 2 to 3 1/2 tablespoons of water to finish the dough. If making a deep dish (or a two-crust pie and a one-crust pie) you can slowly add water as needed, up to 5 T.


Read more Roots of Food: Family Recipes and Stories here!

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie Recipe


Strawberry Rhubarb Pie is our favorite to order at the Luren Singers food stand at the Winneshiek County Fair – a la mode, of course. (Yay! FAIR TIME is coming up soon!) But I’ve never made one of these pies from scratch – so far, I’ve only baked apple and peach/blueberry. Clearly, it was time to add another pie to my repertoire, and we needed to use some of our monster rhubarb 11116396_10207300461533212_6958272834708009085_o(see right) plus strawberries are so good right now!

Don’t be afraid to make your own crust – it’s really not hard, I promise! This crust is a little different from my regular recipe (usually I bow to Betty Crocker). I love that there’s ample dough to work with and the sugar and extra butter helps the crust crisp up nicely. Yum!

The filling for this pie is nice and tart, so I recommend serving it up a la mode too – with vanilla ice cream, of course! Happy baking!

Enjoy – and please let me know if you have any questions.


Strawberry Rhubarb Pie Recipe


2 1/2 cups plus all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup cold butter, cubed
1/4 cup ice-cold water (added by tablespoons)


2 1/2 cups chopped fresh, red rhubarb
2 1/2 cups washed and cut strawberries
1 1/4 cups sugar
6 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons butter, cubed

Make your crusts:
Combine the flour, sugar, and salt. Cube the butter and cut it in with a pastry blender, two knives, or your fingers! You’re good when the bits are about the size of peas. Add water a couple of tablespoons at a time, mixing up the dough lightly with a fork until it seems like it’s starting to stick together (but isn’t sticky). Push the dough into the middle of the bowl and form a ball.  Cut in two and move over to Saran Wrap and form into two discs. It often seems a little dry, but don’t fret. It comes together.

Chill in the refrigerator while you make the filling. You can also make dough discs ahead of time and freeze, or keep in the fridge up to three days. I like to double my crust recipe when I’m making them so it’s easy to throw a future pie together. Just grab a couple crusts out of the freezer and make a filling!


Preheat your oven: 425 degrees F.
Tip: Place a foil-covered baking sheet at the bottom of your oven to avoid bubble-over mess!

Make your filling:
Mix the rhubarb, strawberries, sugar, cornstarch, flour, lemon juice, cinnamon, and vanilla. Carefully stir together in a large bowl.

Assemble your pie:

Pull your dough discs out of the fridge and sprinkle a little flour on your counter where you’ll be rolling our your dough. First roll out the bottom crust. To move it over to the pie pan, fold dough in half, then in half again. It’s handy to have pastry cutter to get under your dough. Fold out into the pan. Pour in the filling, dot with butter, and then roll out the second disc of dough and repeat the folding maneuver for the top crust. Cut a few slits in the top to avoid steaming your crust, and decorate the pie too, if you like!

Cover the entire pie with foil and bake at 425 degrees F for 15 minutes. The, decrease temperature to 375 degrees F, remove the foil, and bake for an additional 45 to 50 minutes, or until the filling starts bubbling. Cool before serving (with ice cream). Enjoy!