There was so much interest last week when I mentioned the recipes that have resonated with me for decades that I thought I would post them for the convenience of readers. Below are the recipes for my mother’s Pennsylvania Dutch apple pie that used to lure commuters to drive out of their way each week to taste; also the recipe for persimmon pudding, which was not listed in the text but which surely ranks up there with the best; how to make your own vanilla extract for a fraction of the cost of the commercial equivalent; and finally: tapioca pudding, Carrol-style.
Apple Pie (apparently the addition of molasses and raisins make this variety Pennsylvania Dutch-style)
5 – 8 apples (enough to fill a 9 inch pie dish with sliced apples)
1/3 cup white sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons flour (or your preferred thickener)
1 ½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
Modest handful black raisins
2 tablespoons molasses
Peel and cut apples into slices, put into a large bowl with all other ingredients on top. Stir until juice appears in the bottom of the bowl. Set aside, pre-heat oven to 400 degrees and make crust.
2 2/3 cup flour (use all-purpose flour, not hard pasta-type flour)
1 cup shortening
7 tablespoons water
In a medium bowl cut the shortening into the flour with a pastry cutter, or use your favorite food processor instead. When the consistency resembles many little lumps (think baby-pea size) it’s ready. Add the 7 tablespoons water and knead, then divide in half. On a floured table, counter top or wooden board, roll half the dough. Starting from the center roll the dough towards the edges in all directions. When dough is rolled out to fit, place in the bottom of the pie dish (press with fingers to fit perfectly). Pour the apple slice filling into the crust (filling should be gently rounded above the top of the pie dish, and packed tightly). If you have too much to fit, reserve for making a small apple tart (or just eat it, yum!). Roll out the second half of dough. With your finger, moisten the top of the outer rim of the lower crust (this will help seal the top and bottom crusts together). Carefully lift and place the top crust on top of filling. Using your thumb or a knife, remove any excess dough from top crust so that the edges of the top crust and bottom crust are lined up. Press the edges of the top and bottom crust together and use your fingers or a fork to flute the edges into a pleasing form. Cut vent holes in the top crust to allow steam to escape (you can get creative with design here if you want). Place pie in oven and bake for 10 – 12 minutes at 400 degrees, then lower heat to 350 degrees and continue baking for about 45 minutes or until the filling is bubbling out of the vent holes and the crust is a lovely golden brown. Remove pie from oven and let cool on a cooling rack. (Note: you might want to place aluminum foil beneath the pie to catch the drippings.)
Pre-packaged persimmon pulp from native trees (NOT from the sweet Oriental variety) is widely available in southern Indiana. Those who live outside the persimmon zone should check online to find Internet purveyors.
Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees. Blend well the following ingredients in a bowl:
2 cups persimmon pulp
¾ cup white or light brown sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon double acting baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ stick melted butter
2 ½ cups light cream
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon powdered ginger
½ teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup raisins (optional)
Pour batter into a greased 9×9-inch baking dish and bake at 325 degrees for approximately one hour or until the edges turn a rich dark brown. Can be served with cream, ice cream, hard sauce or eaten plain.
If you do any pastry baking at all, you will need vanilla extract for all those pies, cookies, puddings (especially the tapioca pudding, coming up next) and cakes. Some enjoy a shot of vanilla in their coffee, or splashed across their ice cream.
You might ask, “why bother to make vanilla? It’s sold at every supermarket.” When you make it yourself, the prep is fun, AND the taste is far superior. If your household is one that uses a lot of vanilla, opt for homemade, just for an experiment. The longer it sits on your shelf, the darker and richer with flavor it becomes.
Assume a basic ratio of three to six vanilla beans to approximately eight ounces of neutral-flavored hard liquor of any variety. (That said, I have achieved great results using 3 vanilla beans in a 25 ounce (750 ml) bottle of brandy). Most people use vodka, bourbon or brandy. With a sharp knife, cut the beans down the center line and scrape the seedy core into the liquor bottle, include the little stem at the top of the bean, and write the date on the label. Now cut the remaining slivers of bean crosswise into thirds and drop all those pieces into the mixture as well, making sure they’re all submerged. Some people begin using their vanilla tincture almost at once, after a week or two, but in my household we always wait six months. As the level of vanilla extract in the bottle begins to dip, you can do one of two things. (1) You can start up a new bottle and write the date on it. (2) Fish out all the bean bits and add them to a brand-new bottle, along with about two new beans, because vanilla beans work much the same way as a tea bag: you can use them several times.
Tapioca is one of the quintessential comfort foods, especially when eaten warm right out of the pot.
2 ¾ cup milk
1 very large egg (use a farm egg if you have it, because the orange yolk will turn the pudding a lovely pale-gold color)
3 gently rounded tablespoons of quick-cooking tapioca granules
Scant ¼ cup white sugar
1 teaspoon homemade vanilla (I always use a generous splash without measuring)
Combine the tapioca and sugar in the bottom of a dry saucepan. Break the egg on top of the dry ingredients and stir together until well combined. Now stir in the milk and begin to heat on medium-high, stirring often. When mixture begins to gently boil, turn off burner and remove pot from heat. When pudding has cooled for about a minute, stir in the vanilla. As the pudding cools, the egg will “set” the pudding. Pudding may be eaten whenever it has firmed up. Whether you prefer it warm or cold is your option.