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Grandma's Holiday Apple Pies

December 16, 2016

A hallmark of Christmas is delicious food, and few things have as much power to transport me back in time as the smell of foods from my childhood. My grandmother always provided delectable Portuguese treats during the holidays, and one item, while not Portuguese, was made just for me.


Grandma was a diabetic, which back in the day was a serious life-threatening disease. This didn’t prevent her from spending hours in the kitchen cooking for her family. I recall being in her kitchen, listening to the sounds of clattering pots and pans and watching her create mouthwatering foods. She’d put her grandchildren to work chopping and dicing apples and rolling dough. At Christmas she’d make apple pies as gifts, pies loaded with lard and sugar, but she’d make one pie for herself without sugar or lard.


When I was a portly kid, I tasted a slice of her low calorie pie and found it delicious, more tart and tasty than the overly sweet pies she gave as gifts. When I told her I preferred the sugarless pie, a tradition began where she’d cook a regular pie for our family, always including a smaller, sugar-free pie for her chubby grandson.


My mother, who was never much of a baker,  approved since she was always concerned about my weight and supported any effort to slim me down, which wouldn’t happen until I reached high school when I starved myself and managed to lose weight, keeping it off until I reached college and started grazing on all-you-can-eat dorm food.


Mrs. Chatterbox is a wonderful cook but her specialty isn’t baking; still, over the years she’s tried to duplicate my grandmother’s pies, with uneven success. Some things are best relegated to memory and Grandma’s pies are probably among them. As Grandma aged, arthritis caused her pies to look peculiar, pinched and misshapen, but the taste never changed—the taste of love.





Do you enjoy a special holiday treat unique to your family? 




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my mother would make charlotte russe now and then and it was my favorite dessert. she made me one for my birthday one year.
By: Ellen Abbott on December 16, 2016
My Mom and Dad would cook late into the night several weeks before Christmas to make my Grandmother's Steamed Carrot Pudding-- I loved it and still make it with one difference. I do not use suet- (ick) I use butter (yum)! I'll post it on my blog this week! My Grandmother was a very traditional person when it came to Christmas- this recipe is an old one from England. Have a lovely Christmas! Hope your Mom is doing ok.
By: Kathe W. on December 16, 2016
My grandmother made pies, but the ones I really remember were the ones my great-grandma baked in a wood burning over using "Jugtown" pottery.
By: Sage on December 16, 2016
A lot of foods have unnecessary sugar and other ingredients and would be improved if they were a little more au natural.
By: PT Dilloway on December 16, 2016
Our favorite specialty is hojaldras, a sweet, fried pastry. Grandpa was told to cut down on sugar and white flour, so we don't make them any more, it would tempt him too much.
By: messymimi on December 16, 2016
I just made rock cakes today, haven't done it for years. I should have put more sugar in for them to taste right. Sigh.
By: Jenny on December 16, 2016
Nothing from my childhood. My holiday memories/treats arrived with Jerry. So many baked goods still to look forward to.
By: Mitchell is Moving on December 16, 2016
I think your sugarless pies sound delicious! Apples have enough sugar naturally that it's really not needed. I don't eat them anymore, but I have many friends and family members that count on me making those "Hidden Valley Ranch seasoned oyster crackers" that were all the rage at one time.
By: Kelly on December 16, 2016
I guess my mother's fried chicken and her spaghetti sauce. She was a wonderful cook as I was growing up and then when she aged she refused to cook with fats, salts, sugars and everything tasted awful!!
By: Tabor on December 16, 2016
It sounds better than those loaded with sugar pies!!
By: fishducky on December 16, 2016
Your grandmother's pies sound awesome. My grandma was an excellent cook as well and her pies were the best. However, her speciality was fried chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy. It was amazing.
By: Mr. Shife on December 16, 2016
My mother always made many of the Norwegian treats that her mother had made. I continued to make one of them until it became too difficult for me to stir the dough and put it through a cookie press. Love, Janie
By: Janie Junebug on December 16, 2016
Haven't thought about it in years but you brought back what I use to wait for all year. Walnuts, dipped in melted butter, salted and roasted. We never got more than a handful but they made my season.
By: Arkansas Patti on December 16, 2016
Beautiful piece Stephen. I wrote about this topic too recently. My mom was a pretty good cook, but she was a bake master. Her candy, pies and cakes were legendary. I like the sound of your grandmother's pies too. R
By: Rick Watson on December 16, 2016
There are a number of German treats that are only enjoyed around the holidays. I used to miss them a lot, until Aldi (a German discount grocery store chain) started expanding into the areas wherever we lived at the time. So now I'm able to enjoy German gingerbread cookies and chocolate-covered marzipan and Glühwein again.
By: Pixel Peeper on December 16, 2016
We have discovered Pfeffernusse from Trader Joe's. It's a wonderful spicy cookie coated in powdered sugar and seems to bring back a memory from my childhood. Which is strange since it's a German cookie and the bakers in my family were all Norwegians.
By: Catalyst on December 16, 2016
I don't have anything special. I just like all of it.
By: red Kline on December 16, 2016
I'm not a pie person, but the slim version sounds good. We don't have anything special, but I miss my mom's crescent rolls.
By: Val on December 16, 2016
At Christmastime, we still enjoy Christmas puddings (the very dark and fruity British steamed pudding) made to my mother's recipe. Our family twist is to soak the fruit in lashings of brandy beforehand.
By: Botanist on December 16, 2016
In our family, pies were for Thanksgiving -- Mom always made four of them: and apple, an apple crumb, a mince and a pumpkin. For Christmas she always made plum pudding, which I hated -- What I did love were her Christmas cookies and a savory treat: it's quite famous in the States -- made with breakfast cereals, wheat and rice chex and cheerios with lots of peanuts -- all roasted in the oven in oil and probably butter. I never learned how to make it, but my sisters do. It would come out on Christmas Eve .. Yummmm!
By: The Broad on December 16, 2016
My Irish grandmother had the benefit of an apple orchard with a few different varieties on the farm. Her pies were second to none. She also made an awesome plum pudding. On the French side of my family, my paternal grandmother made tourtière (a mixed meat pie) a popular tradition among French Canadians. Ahh... the memories!
By: Daniel LaFrance on December 16, 2016
My mom used to cook a lot of great things, but one I remember well was her date nut bread. She used empty vegetable cans and the bread always came out with lines in it. I love the bread and nuts, but spit out the dates. (I wasn't much on cuisine in my childhood days)
By: Terri @ Coloring Outside the Lines on December 17, 2016
My Mom would always bake her Southern Jam cake loaded with blackberries and strawberries. She was never a good cook and when I got grown, I took her recipe and made it a little tastier. Still Jam Cake only moisterized (eatible)
By: Oma Linda on December 17, 2016
Marvellous post and so tasty (pun intended)! I loved my grandmother's cooking a lot. Greetings from London.
By: A Cuban In London on December 17, 2016
So many levels of sweetness here. My mom's spaghetti and meatballs are something I could never replicate and miss.
By: Robyn Engel on December 17, 2016
My English grandmother and her sisters made genuine mincemeat pie. Lana has made it for me a couple of times, but she does not care for it. Her specialty is a Christmas Biscotti, chocolate covered orange peels and Chocolate pecan pie. She used to make bourbon balls and they were always a hit at office Christmas parties. In fact I think they helped get the parties rolling. My mother made a hard candy out of anise. Hardly ever see that anymore.
By: Tom Cochrun on December 17, 2016
I sure know what you mean by this post Stephen. I have the recipes for some of my Grandma's baking and I can bake pretty good, but they just never can taste like Grandma's and the memories of her at Christmas time!
By: Bee BB Bee on December 18, 2016

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