Of the Earth: Drippings secret to a delicious apple pie

  • Sara Cummings’ grandmother, who lived in Pleasant Ridge, Mich., always said that the drippings, also called the “draw,” was the secret to making her apple pies so delicious. Contributed photo

  • Sara Cummings of Greenfield uses her grandmother’s recipe to make apple pie. For the Recorder/Wesley Blixt

  • Sara Cummings of Greenfield reserves the drippings, also called the “draw,” to later use as her apple pie’s glaze. For the Recorder/Wesley Blixt

  • Sara Cummings of Greenfield uses her grandmother’s recipe to make apple pie. For the Recorder/Wesley Blixt


For the Recorder
Published: 11/13/2018 4:46:43 PM

Just remember: The secret to a divine apple pie lies in the drippings, or the “draw,” according to Grandma Pond.

Grandma Pond died in 2000 at the age of 99, but her granddaughter, my dear friend Sara Cummings of Greenfield, has generously shared her legacy and the secret of the golden glaze that makes this pie a knock-out at any holiday table.

I should say that Cummings is one of the best cooks I’ve encountered (naming “the best” cook is a little like naming your favorite book, movie or child — you can’t do it and shouldn’t try). She has run a catering business, a sandwich shop and a high-end restaurant, and entertains her friends with grace and generosity. She is now director of community services and asset development for Community Action Pioneer Valley.

For all her accomplishments, however, complete success with the pies for which Grandma Pond was well known around Pleasant Ridge, Mich., has eluded her.

“It took over 50 years to get my grandma to write the recipe down. She would always say she didn’t know the quantities, and that she just used a handful of this and a dash of that,” said Cummings, noting that Grandma Pond would make up to 100 pies for fundraisers, and they sold for about $20.

“She baked every day and I think that is what kept her going,” Cummings said.

And then there was Cummings’ father, who — given his mother’s performance as a baker — had pretty high standards in the pie department. Cummings couldn’t win her father’s unreserved enthusiasm for her apple pie. It wasn’t until very late in his life, and access to the recipe contained herein, that she won the smile she had been awaiting.

“He said I nailed it,” she recalled.

Cummings is clear about what makes this pie so good. The secret is in the drippings, the liquid amalgam of butter and apple juice that gets drawn off the pie three or four times during baking, and is then reduced in a skillet by half or so, before being brushed on the pie vents. The result is a rich, sweet, beautiful glazed pie.

Grandma Pond’s Apple Pie

Crust ingredients:

3 cups all-purpose flour

1½ tsp. salt

1½ tsp. cream of tartar

1½ T sugar

1 cup shortening (preferably Crisco)

10 to 12 T cold water

A little milk

While Grandma Pond made the crust for her deep-dish pies by hand, Cummings said it is “just as good” to use a food processor.

“Just don’t over mix it,” she said.

Put the flour, salt, cream of tartar and sugar in a bowl. Pulse two times to mix. Add the shortening and pulse a few times. With the motor running, add 10 tablespoons of water and mix just until the dough starts to form a ball. If it appears a bit dry, add the remaining two tablespoons of water.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface, form it into a ball and flatten it into a disk. Divide the disk in half. Roll out one piece to fit the bottom of a 9-inch pie plate with a 1-inch overhang.

Pie filling ingredients:

7 to 8 large Northern Spy apples (available late-season at Clarkdale)

1¾ cup sugar

2 tsp. cinnamon

5 T butter

Grandma Pond used Northern Spy apples, “or whatever folks brought her.” Cummings uses Granny Smith.

Peel and core the apples. Slice them about ¼-inch thick and put them in a big bowl. Toss with sugar and cinnamon. Pour the apple mixture into the pie shell, mounding nice and tall. Put the six tablespoons of butter around the mound.

Roll out the top crust. Gently put it on top and pinch into a decorative border. Cut vents into the top crust and brush it with a few tablespoons of milk.

Bake for one hour at 350-degrees. After 30 minutes of baking, remove the pie from the oven and gently tip it over a skillet pan to catch the juices (½ to 1 cup).

Quickly heat the juices on high to reduce by half, or until the liquid turns the consistency of a glaze (less than five minutes). Brush and pour the glaze all over the crust, including the vents, and return to the oven. When the pie is done, repeat the glazing process, but do not return to the oven.

Wesley Blixt lives in Greenfield. He is a longtime reporter and is the author of “SKATERS: A Novel.” Send him recipes, stories and suggestions at wesleyblixt@me.com.

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