Apples have a long history in Massachusetts because the early colonists brought seeds from England to plant in the new world. The first orchard grew on Beacon Hill in Boston in 1623, now the site of the gold-domed State House and streets too crowded for many trees (though the Boston Tree Party is trying to change that). The settlers pressed their apples into cider and made pies with suet-flour crusts.
Pie recipes have evolved over the years, as one that my aunt recently sent from my grandmother, Bertie, demonstrates. As far as I remember, Bertie never baked a traditional apple pie for me or anyone else (banish the image of the grandma with a rolling pin and an apron!) This recipe, which is more like a crisp because it has no crust, reflects a different sensibility. The secret ingredient? Oranges!
Grandma Bertie’s Apple Betty Pie
Makes 1 (9-inch) pie
4 cups sliced apples
1/4 cup orange juice
1 cup sugar [I’d use less next time – it’s really sweet]
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup butter or margarine
1 fresh orange, for garnish
Whole cloves, for garnish
- Mound the apples in a buttered 9-inch pie plate. Sprinkle with orange juice.
- In a bowl, combine the sugar, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Cut in the butter until the mixture is crumbly.
- Scatter the flour mixture over the apples.
- Bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes or until browned.
- Trim with twisted orange slices stuck with cloves. Serve warm with light cream or vanilla ice cream.