Like everyone else aware of the dangers posed by large family gatherings in a pandemic year, we are celebrating a no-travel Thanksgiving.
Normally, we would have traveled by now, staying a few nights in Washington DC before going on to stay with our daughter’s family. This early arrangement had two benefits: (1) We avoided the crowds and last-minute fare hikes; (2) We got three days of vacation in which to visit museums, stroll around our beautiful capital, and sample some good food.
Then I would spend Wednesday making pies with my granddaughters, teaching them how to make crust, assemble fillings, and bake until done. They love learning new cooking skills. I love teaching them. And we all have a good time working together.
On Thanksgiving Day, my son-in-law, the family cook, would put together the big meal while my daughter and I walked the dog and did some reading. I would spend more time with my granddaughters, just talking and maybe looking at pictures.
We would spend the rest of the weekend hanging out, going to see a museum show or maybe take in a movie. Then we would come back home on Saturday night to, again, avoid the rush.
Not this year.
The No-Travel Thanksgiving
In any other no-travel circumstances, we might have gone out to eat in a nice restaurant. Not this year.
We made that experiment one year back when I was working and had little time. The four of us, my parents, and my husband’s mother went out for a lovely Thanksgiving dinner in a fine restaurant. The food was excellent and we had a nice time.
But then we came home to a house where the kitchen was cold. No wonderful cooking smells filled the air. We had no turkey from which to make sandwiches, pot pie, or soup. The refrigerator held no yummy leftovers on which to snack or make another dinner. No pie temped us from the pantry. We tried it; I didn’t like it at all.
The 2020 Tiny Table
In 2020, the year of the no-travel Thanksgiving, we are staying home and spending the day by ourselves. Instead of a turkey, I will make a turkey breast with a few sides. And pie, of course.
I am not the only one. In Monday’s trip to the market I saw chillers piled with enormous turkeys. How many people will buy them? For the first time, I saw many fresh turkey breasts in the poultry section. Those will sell.
Every time I thought about alternatives, such as inviting in the neighbors, I ran up against the social distancing issue. Wherever I turned, the virus was there, taunting me to ignore it at our risk.
Not this no-travel year.
We will eat our tiny table turkey and have our tiny table, no-travel Thanksgiving and stay healthy for next year’s family gathering.
Making the Best of It
But we will make the best of it. Our granddaughters have asked that I Facetime with them while they make the pies. Now I have that to look forward to. It may not be the same, but it will be fun.
I also sent my son-in-law my recipe for apple pie so he can make it, per the girls’ request, “just like Grandma’s.” Last year I brought down one of my pastry sheets so they can roll the crust out on that. And I taught them how to make turnovers from leftover crust and whatever jelly or jam is in the fridge.
Our tiny table Thanksgiving may not be as happy as in previous years. Still, we have a lot to be thankful for. In a no-travel pandemic year, when people are lined up a food banks and shelters, we will eat well, and do well, and stay healthy. I hope you do, too.
THE BOSTON GLOBE COOKBOOK / KING ARTHUR BAKING APPLE PIE RECIPE
NOTE: For my apple pie, I use the tried-and-true Boston Globe recipe combined with some elements of the King Arthur Baking recipe. For simplicity, I have combined the two in the recipe below.
The best tip is to use a variety of apples with different levels of crispness and sweetness. Here’s the list of best pie apples from KAF. I keep a bottle of their Boiled Cider on hand for added intensity of apple flavor. They also offer lots of recipes that use the rest of the bottle.
Make this recipe with the crust of your choice, using your preferred shortening.. If you need step-by-step instructions, try these from a Salem baker.
Step One: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. This step is important. The oven must be hot when you put the pie in. Don’t worry if it reaches this temperature before you finish the pie. This is okay.
- ¾ to 1 cup sugar
- 1 to 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch (optional)
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon allspice
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ cup boiled cider
- 2 teaspoons vanilla (optional)
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- Pastry for 2-crust, 9-inch pie
- 8 cups (or more) sliced peeled apples
- 2 tablespoons butter, diced
Making the Pie:
- Mix sugar, flour, cornstarch, salt and spices and set aside.
- Combine the sliced apples and lemon juice in a large bowl
(The lemon juice keeps the apples from turning brown)
- Sprinkle half the sugar mixture into the pie crust stir to coat them. Add the boiled cider and stir.
- Lightly grease a 9” pie pan that’s at least 2” deep. This makes serving the finished pie easier.
- Set in the bottom crust and trim the edges so they overlap the rim of the pan by 1”
- Spoon in the apple slices and top with remaining sugar mixture.
- Dot with the diced butter
- Roll out the remaining pastry to an 11″ circle. Carefully place the pastry over the apples. Bring the overhanging bottom crust up and over the top crust, pinching to seal the two and making a decorative crimp. Prick the crust all over with a fork, to allow steam to escape.
- For extra crunch and shine, brush the top crust with milk (or an egg white beaten with 1 tablespoon of water), and sprinkle with coarse sparkling sugar. (Don’t worry if you skip this step. The pie will still be delicious.)
Baking the Pie:
- Place the pie in the refrigerator for 10 minutes to firm up the crust while the oven finishes heating. (You can use this time to do some kitchen clean-up and get ahead of the job.)
- Place the pie on a parchment-lined baking sheet. (This catches any spilled juice so your oven doesn’t get all icky.) Set it on the middle rack of the oven.
- Bake the pie for 20 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 375°F and bake for 40 minutes more, until you see the filling bubbling inside the pie (and perhaps dripping onto the parchment). Check the pie after half an hour of baking time, and cover the edges with foil or a pie shield to keep them from browning too quickly, if necessary.
- Cool the pie completely before slicing — really. Cutting any fruit pie that’s still warm is a messy business. The filling continues to thicken as the pie cools, and if you cut it too soon it will run out all over the place. It’s better to bake the pie in advance, cool it completely, then warm each slice as needed after it’s been cut.
- Store any leftover pie—assuming you have any—lightly covered, at room temperature for several days. Freeze for longer storage.