Thanksgiving Countdown

turkey cartoon

Can you believe it’s November already?  That Halloween is behind us and that we’re staring down the barrel of THE HOLIDAYS?  The older I get, the more quickly time passes . . . not a great combo, if you think about it.  But that’s for another post. 

The next major food-oriented holiday is Thanksgiving – are you hosting?  I *love* hosting Thanksgiving dinner, and have been doing it for our family for the past few years, but this year I asked for a pass since I’ve had all these foot issues . . . so my dear sister-in-law agreed to take on the job. 

Over the next several days, I’ll share some of my favorite Turkey-day recipes with you – the ones I make, year after year.  Even if you’re not hosting, chances are you’ve offered to “bring something” to contribute to the meal – come here for ideas, and let me know if you need a specific recipe.  

And if you are hosting, I can share some of my organization and planning strategies, too.  I usually feed 10+ people here, and prepare most of the dishes myself.  That means preparing all that I can in advance, and creating a schedule to plan everything down to the minute – I even label serveware.  Timing is everything, people!  Let me know if you’d like a window into the mind of a truly anal hostess and I’ll share that with you, too.

We’re going to start with dessert – what is Thanksgiving without pies?  I’ve been baking pies for a while now, and have experimented with all kinds of recipes and crusts, and these are my tried-and-true favorites.  These are not for pastry-p*ssies – these crusts contain lard.  If you’re freaked about lard, you can do an all-butter crust, but friends, if you’re a fan of the tender flaky pie crust, then live it up with lard.  I know that some people render their own, but that’s a little hardcore for me – I buy mine at Formaggio Kitchen in Cambridge – just call ahead and make sure they have it.  They render it fresh there and are happy to pack up however much you need.  Keep it in the freezer for long-term storage and you can enjoy some fresh fruit pies once summer comes back our way.

Double Crust Pie Dough

2 ½ c. All-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling dough
2 T. Sugar
1 t. Salt
8 T. Leaf lard, chilled
12 T. (1 ½ sticks) Unsalted butter, chilled, or even frozen
6-8 T. Ice water


Process the flour, sugar and salt in a food processor until combined.  Scatter the lard over the top and process until the mixture has the texture of course sand, about 10 seconds.  Cut the butter into 1/4 –inch pieces and scatter the pieces over the top.  Using short pulses, process the mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs, about 10 pulses.  Transfer to a bowl.

Sprinkle 6 tablespoons of the ice water over the mixture.  Stir and press the dough together, using a stiff rubber spatula, until the dough starts to stick together.  If the dough doesn’t come together, stir in the remaining water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until it does.

Divide the dough into two even pieces and flatten each one into a 4-inch disk.  Wrap the disks tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.  Let the chilled dough soften slightly at room temperature before rolling it out and fitting it into a pie plate.

This recipe makes enough for one 9-inch double crust pie.  The dough disks can be refrigerated for up to 2 days, or frozen for up to 2 months.  Let the frozen dough thaw on the counter until malleable before rolling.

Sarah’s Mile-High Apple Pie

2 ½ lbs. McIntosh apples, peeled, cored and sliced ¼-inch thick
2 ½ lbs. Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and sliced ¼-inch thick
½ c. plus 1 T. Granulated sugar
¼ c. packed Light brown sugar
2 T. Fresh lemon juice
½ t. Grated lemon zest
¼ t. Salt
¼ t. Nutmeg
¼ t. Cinnamon
1 Egg white, lightly beaten


Toss the apples, ½ c. of the granulated sugar, brown sugar, zest, salt and cinnamon together in a large bowl.  Transfer the apples to a Dutch oven, cover, and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the apples are tender when poked with a fork but still hold their shape, about 15 minutes.  Transfer the apples and their juice to a rimmed baking sheet and let cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes.  Adjust oven rack to the lowest position and place a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet on the rack.  Heat the oven to 425 degrees.  Drain the cooled apples through a colander, reserving ¼ cup of the juice.  Stir the lemon juice into the reserved ¼ cup of apple juice.

Spread the apples into a dough-lined pie plate, mounding them slightly in the middle, and drizzle with the lemon juice mixture.  Top with the other pie crust and fold and crimp the edges.  Cut 4 vent holes in the top.  Brush the crust with the egg white and sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon of sugar.

Place the pie on the heated baking sheet and bake until the crust is golden, about 25 minutes.  Reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees, rotate the baking sheet, and continue to bake until the juices are bubbling and the crust is deep golden brown, 25-30 minutes longer.  Let the pie cool on a wire rack until the filling has set, about 2 hours.  Serve warm or at room temperature. 

Did You Know??

Are you wondering – “why in the heck does she cook the filling?”  Yeah, it adds an extra step, but if you do this, you’ll be rewarded with a pie packed with apples all the way to the top crust – no gaps!

If you want to make cute vents in your top crust, use a small cookie cutter (or if you're all-that, do a free-form design) after you roll your crust but before you top your pie.  I have some tiny hearts I often use, but there are some cute cutters on the market - like these from Williams-Sonoma.

You can assemble your apple pie, then wrap it carefully in plastic wrap, then in aluminum foil, then freeze it ‘til you’re ready to bake.  Oh yeah, baby!  You can freeze unbaked fruit pies, pull ‘em out when it’s time to bake, and add about 30 minutes to the baking time depending on how deep the filling is. It actually works out great because the bottom crust starts baking before the filling thaws, giving it a chance to get crisp and brown.  Don't try this with custard pies like pumpkin, though - the filling will get weird.

Stay tuned for more Thanksgiving recipes (including 2 more pies - yes, I usually have 3 types on the table!), and remember, I take requests.