This story was cut from the original manuscript of the book MRS. ROWE'S LITTLE BOOK OF SOUTHERN PIE. I'm happy to share it here, along with the fabulous pie recipe—which did make it into the cookbook.
Wearing Your Work
It’s 9:30 in the morning at Mrs. Rowe’s Restaurant and Cynthia Craig
looks tired. Her eyes have circles under them and her hands are red and rough
from scrubbing them. She is coming off her shift of stirring, kneading,
patting, twisting, and sliding huge pans in and out of the huge ovens at Mrs.
Rowe’s Restaurant and Bakery. She dons an apron over her red t-shirt and jeans.
She smiles. “You definitely wear your work home when you’re a baker. The
meringue gets everywhere. So does the chocolate pie filling.”
Cynthia starts her
shift at 2 a.m. She loves her job—she tried working at another local restaurant
and didn’t like it. She admits that some days are better than others, though.
Around the holidays, for example, she sometimes puts in 14-hour shifts. And,
even after 20 years of baking, she still makes mistakes. “I’ve burned cookies
and pie shells. I’ve messed up the spoon bread. Just the other day, for some
reason the lemon filling for the pie just wouldn’t get thick. I added more
cornstarch and then it was like rubber.” She laughs.
Cynthia loves the creative challenge of her work. “I like the
sense of pride here. We are all told that we shouldn’t serve something we
wouldn’t want to eat. I think that comes straight from Mrs. Rowe.”
It’s an attitude that permeates the kitchen, and Mrs. Rowe’s
owner-son, Mike DiGrassie carries on with the same work ethic.
Cynthia’s most vivid memories of the matriarch of the restaurant
center on Mrs. Rowe and Karl Craig, another baker, making mincemeat pie. “She
oversaw it all and would keep a close watch on the apples. If there were any apples
left over from her batch, I used them for my Granny Smith apple pie.”
Mrs. Rowe encouraged frugality with the food and the restaurant
still does not waste produce in the kitchen. Cynthia took the opportunity the
leftover apples offered to make her mark with her own recipe. Customers look
forward to it every year during the apple harvest season.
Granny Smith Apple Pie
If you like your apples sour, cut the sugar to
Makes one 9-inch pie
6 cups peeled and sliced Granny Smith or other
tart apples (about 2 pounds)
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
3 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 tablespoon butter, cut into bits
tablespoon milk, warmed
Preheat oven to 425°F.
Put the bottom crust in a pie pan.
Peel and quarter the apples.
Toss with lemon juice.
Mix sugar, flour, and spices in a small bowl.
Add to apples and toss to coat apples
Spoon the mixture into crust.
Dot with butter.
Place the top crust over apples.
Flute the edges of the piecrust.
Mix the warm milk with the teaspoon of sugar and
brush over top crust. Pierce a
couple of holes to vent steam.
Bake at 425°F for 15 minutes, then reduce heat
to 350°F and bake another 30-40 minutes until crust is golden brown and the
fruit is tender.
Check the pie about halfway through for over
browning on edges of crust. Cover
edges with pie shields or foil if needed.
Cool before slicing.