Pie-making was on the agenda for today, as was putting together the cranberry relish. My grand girl Nicole was available and willing, so I grabbed her from the bus and brought her straight over to my kitchen for us to get right to work together.
We’ve made pie together before–she knows the drill and is passionate about pumpkin pie. Yes, we would be making apple pies too, but the pumpkin pie–that was the whole point of this, right?
We pulled out the cans of pumpkin and evaporated mix, plus eggs, and spices. Simple ingredients, we decided to get this done first since our other projects would be more labor intensive.
I had mixed up several batches of pie dough the day before so it would be chilled and ready to use. Good thinking, Grandma.
Once the pumpkin pie was in the oven we tackled the apple pies. I have a special brown-handled knife I’ve used since my kids were small, a cheese knife really; it only cuts hard things, not soft things like fingers. Works great on apples, not so great on soft foods like meats or stringy foods such as celery. my children, and now grands like that they can be part of the cooking process and have a real knife to use in the kitchen.
Nicole is getting the hang of rolling out dough, and especially enjoys playing with any leftover dough. Today, with four pies scheduled, there was no shortage of opportunity to practice with Grandma’s rolling pin.
As we worked, I told her stories. That the rolling pin was the same one I had used when I was a little girl in my mother’s kitchen. As we assembled the apples, I told her about when I first knew the man I married, (and later divorced) who is now her beloved “Papa.” After learning his favorite pie was apple pie, I went out and purchased a can of apple pie filling. Big mistake. That was when I first learned about the difference between “Apple Pie” and “Fresh Apple Pie.” This Florida-raised girl had no idea. But having spent the past 40 years or so in New England, I don’t think twice about making apple pie from fresh apples. It felt good to pass on to Nicole a story of a time when her beloved grandparents created a family together.
The last step before baking the apple pies is to coat the pie crust with plain yogurt. My former mother-in-law taught me to slather the crust with fresh milk, but we keep yogurt on hand, and it works great. Such fun for a grand girl to dive into the dish of yogurt and get messy with Grandma.
Once the pumpkin pie was baked and the apple pies were in the oven, we assembled everything for the cranberry relish. The most essential tool is an old meat grinder I grew up using to make this same recipe when I was a child. It’s a “once a year” piece of equipment, but is perfect for young (and older) folks to use to grind apples, oranges and cranberries into a crushed, ground up mass of delicious relish. My kids were always ready to help with this task when they were growing up. When my son was here a few years ago for Thanksgiving, he dove right into the job, showing his young son how much fun it was to turn the hand crank and watch the berries, apples and oranges become relish. Moe often is was my daughter Anna who took over grinding duties, even recently, but today was Nicole’s turn.
When the relish was done, the pies were golden brown and baked, and Grandma was pretty pooped.
Nicole took only a few breaks, and one of her breaks was to head to the sink to clean up the dishes. We laughed about her attending “Camp Grandma.”
Yes, I took pictures, but my hope is that she is also storing memories. Memories of helping, of having fun, of being an essential part of her extended family. And memories of those who have gone before her, cooking, baking, grinding, caring. It’s a big part of what family is all about. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!
Marjorie Turner Hollman is a writer who loves the outdoors, and is the author of Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd edition, More Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd edition, Easy Walks and Paddles in the Ten Mile River Watershed, and Finding Easy Walks Wherever You Are. Her memoir, the backstory of Easy Walks, is My Liturgy of Easy Walks: Reclaiming hope in a world turned upside down.