Penny Candy & Apple Pie

I spent the better part of the past two weeks traipsing through childhood memories.  I was in Vermont, settling the estate of my aunt – my mother's sister – the last of her generation.  Each summer of my childhood, my family would spend three weeks in Fernwood Cottage on the shores of Lake Rescue in south central Vermont.  The cottage was at the base of Carpenter's Point, Carpenter being my mother's family name.  Our days included many hours swimming in the lake, on boats fishing for perch or hanging out in the Adirondack chairs under a canopy of fragrant hemlock trees, their short and soft needles carpeting the ground below.  It was also a time when we visited Mom's family, played in their yards and picnicked on their decks.

And each year we would make at least one, if not several, pilgrimages to the Vermont Country Store.  The original store is in Weston and there is also one in Rockingham near the Connecticut River a few minutes' drive from my aunt's home.  Today the Country Store in Rockingham is three or four times the size it was when we were young, but it was there we would stock up on family favorites such as maple syrup, corn relish and pickled watermelon rind.  And, for us kids, there was the penny candy counter.  Every imaginable type of penny candy was – and still is – available.  Some favorites include malted milk balls (which came only in one flavor then but now include dark, milk, peanut butter and espresso), licorice "all sorts," licorice bears, candy buttons, Nik-L Nips wax bottles, Smarties and of course maple sugar candy. I bought some of each when I was there last week, hating myself for ingesting all that sugar and loving every second of it.  By far, the original malted milk balls are still the best.  I don't think I ever need to have another Nik-L Nip or strip of candy buttons, though.  But my better half still loves his Smarties, and maple sugar candy is in my blood to stay.

While taking this trip down memory lane, I naturally spent a lot of time thinking about family, in particular my mother who has now been gone 22 years.  As I pored over old family photos found in my aunt's basement, I found several of my mother as a young woman and was overwhelmed with the feeling that I wanted to talk to her again.  To ask her questions about people in the photos and who took them.  And why it was that all the family photos showed the neighbor's house in the background and not theirs.  But that will never happen.  I need to be grateful that I have these photos and memories. 

So it is with my mother foremost in my thoughts that I offer you her recipe for Apple Pie. She was a superb cook and no one could rival her apple pie in my mind, heart or on taste buds.  It is beautifully simple and that is probably why it is so good.  "Leave well enough alone" and "Don't overdo" were two things she often said, both sentiments obvious in this pie.  Her crust was always flaky; she used Crisco whereas I choose to make mine fifty-fifty with Crisco and butter.  The other thing that makes her pie slightly different is that she chose McIntosh apples as opposed to the Granny Smith variety so often used for pies.  Macs were the only apple for our family and the further I am from New England, the harder they are to find.  Happily, I saw some yesterday at the market and the first pie of summer came out of the oven.  Here's to you, Mom!

– David

Apple Pie & Crust

2 2/3 cup flour
pinch salt
8 tablespoons vegetable shortening, chilled and cut into 8 pieces
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 8 pieces
1/2 cup ice water

5-6 medium McIntosh apples – peeled, cored and sliced
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2 tablespoons butter, chilled and cut into 12 small pieces
2 tablespoons milk

To make the crust, put 1 1/3 cups flour and salt in food processor and pulse twice.  Put in 4 tablespoons chilled shortening and 4 tablespoons chilled butter.  Pulse 12 times, or until mixture resembles small peas.  With machine running, add 1/4 cup water and process until it almost forms a ball.  (If using all butter, you can let it form a ball.)  Turn out onto a floured board and pull dough together.  Do not overwork/knead.  Refrigerate for an hour before rolling out.  Repeat with remaining ingredients for top crust.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Toss apple slices with sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg.  Roll out bottom crust and line a 9-inch pie pan.  Put apples in and press down lightly to removed large air pockets.  Dot with butter.  Roll out top crust and place over apples. Trim and crimp edges, then brush with milk.  Pierce the top crust in a decorative pattern to create steam vents.  Place pie on a baking sheet (to catch any drips) and bake 10 minutes.  Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake an additional 40-45 minutes.


  1. Memories are so precious... and so are the recipes that are handed down from generation to generation. Your mom's apple pie sounds delicious. Yours looks fantastic.

  2. Thanks, Magda. This has caused me to go on a pie-baking jag - this weekend will be cherry-berry-peach pie, another of my Mom's favorites! Thanks, as always, for reading!

  3. Apple pie and penny candy hold such nostalgia for me as well - I look forward to trying your Mom's recipe, David!

  4. And with a Crisco crust, you would be dairy-free! Thanks for reading, Rebecca!

  5. I just became extremely nostalgic with those penny candy pictures. so bright and pretty. the pie looks awesome, too!

  6. Thanks, Daisy! I get really nostalgic every time I go there. If I had my camera with me, you would have been able to see the incredible variety of candies (and colors) from all over the world!

  7. I still love Smarties...and I do half Crisco and half butter in my pie crust as well! You do your mom proud as a cook and a son.

  8. Amy - I have been in pie heaven these days - great fruit and Crisco and butter are ALWAYS available!

  9. David, my husband and I have had many discussions about candy from our childhoods. I ate very little candy, but he ate quite a bit and remembers some that I've never even heard of, such as these strips of candy buttons. I'm so glad to have found your photo or I'd never know what the heck he was talking about!

    1. I honestly don't know why we all liked the candy buttons so much, Jean, but they do bring back wonderful memories!


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