January 14, 2019
By Arthur H. Gunther III
(also on Facebook)
My grandmother in Spring Valley, N.Y., was a wonderful apple pie maker. In September particularly, she and my grandfather would take a country drive on meandering roads to Pomona where the Concklins offered a new crop of apples so fresh that the skin would still snap when you bit into them. If my brother or I were with them, there would also be the free apple from the bushel basket slid way back on a wooden floor trod since who knows when. Some cider, too, with your own glass jug refilled on the spot.
The ride back to the village was always calm, serene, with nearing-fall wafts of turned-color leaves, little traffic, the 1950 Plymouth hugging turns on McNamara Road, my grandparents quietly talking as Craig and I sat in the back, swallowed up by old-fashioned big seats.
Back home, my grandfather would take some of the apples, washed first in the old kitchen sink, out to his garage, the one with a wooden floor with its own history of long use, oil dripped from cars, planks heated by summer sun. A special smell that is recalled forever, a key to memories.
Gramps would carefully peel the apples in a manner that would make an army sergeant on KP watch proud. Very little waste, his special knife — always kept in the garage — separating the skin as he twisted the apple, one long peel dripping into a basket, the contents later fed to the birds.
My grandmother, this nana of German heritage, would take the apples, add sugars and spice and whatever secrets from the old country that were passed on and mound the fruit in her own crust, a bit of sweetness added to make it have a slight butter-cookie taste.
It wasn’t long before the pies baked, the fragrance so inviting and reassuring that a youngster felt very safe and happy. A window shelf for cooling awaited, and we did too. It seemed an endless one.
Combined with ice cream and coffee for the adults, we all dug with satisfaction into the finished product on a late-summer afternoon in my old hometown.
The writer is a retired newspaperman. email@example.com