It's amazing how food really connects us. Families pass recipes down from generation to generation, like jewels. Certain foods remind us of loved ones, or of places or special times in our lives. Food is more than just sustenance. It's a way to remember family. And what do you do when someone has lost a family member? You bring them food. It shows you care.
This week, food -- apples, in particular -- bonded my extended family together. My dad's first cousin, John Foust, passed away unexpectedly. He was a CPA with a law degree, but he never lost his passion for his agricultural roots. He had a farm near where he grew up in south-central Iowa, and was actually working on that farm when he passed. "At least he was doing something he loved," was heard over and over again at his funeral. That knowledge seemed to bring comfort to his grieving family: wife Mary, my cousins Brian and Michael, and their wives and children. (John is pictured here with grandson Mikey, taking part in another of his favorite pasttimes, fishing.)
After the funeral service and burial, we went to Michael's house for lunch and fellowship. When we walked in the door, we were greeted by several bushel baskets full of Golden Delicious apples, along with a sign that explained John had picked these very apples on his farm just a few days before he passed. One cousin said this was the first year the relatively new trees really produced, and that they were just loaded down with fruit. In the middle of the baskets, the family had placed several fabric bags, with an invitation for visitors to take a bag of apples with them. What an amazing and generous idea!
On the dessert table, there were pans of apple crisp, along with more hand-drawn signs that said, "Made with love and John's apples." Again, how generous of the family to share this precious fruit.
At the luncheon, cousins caught up with cousins, stories of John were shared, and his apples were enjoyed. When we left, I took a few apples home for my boys, and my mom gathered a bag full. The next day, she turned them into two apple pies: one for her and my dad, and one for me and my family. We "toasted" John with our slices of pie, and enjoyed them all the more, knowing his hands had picked the very fruit we were eating, and that it had been a labor of love.
I'm not sure I'll ever eat a yellow apple again without thinking of John and his family, and how they shared with us at their time of loss.
Rest in peace, John.
Oven: 450 degrees for 15 minutes: 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes
6 cups golden delicious apples, peeled and sliced
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 Tbsp. cinnamon
1/2 cup flour
2 Tbsp. butter
3 cups flour
3/4 cups plus 3 Tbsp. oil
9 Tbsp. ice water
2 T white sugar to sprinkle on top crust
Peel and slice apples to make 6 cups. Toss with lemon juice to prevent darkening. Combine sugars, cinnamon, and flour. Add to mixture to apples and mix to coat.
For crust, simply combine flour, oil, and ice water. Lightly stir until flour is incorporated into mixture. Divide dough in half and roll to desired size between two sheets of waxed paper.
Fit bottom crust into 10" pie pan. Add the apple mixture, heaping in center. Slice the two tablespoons of butter over the top of the apple mixture. Roll out top crust and place on apple mixture, tucking the outer edge of top dough under edge of bottom dough. Crimp edge to seal.
Brush top of crust with egg white or water if desired and sprinkle with the 2 tablespoons of sugar. Cut slits in top crust to vent.
Bake pie on a sided cookie sheet to protect the bottom of your oven if the filling overflows. Place on the middle oven shelf in a pre-heated 450-degree oven for 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and bake for an additional 45 to 50 minutes. Remove from oven when golden brown.