Autumn Update: All Roads Lead to Pie

The Wednesday market is shrinking - a sure sign that the descent into winter is underway.  Even though Wednesday's market shutters up after December, it's comforting to know that the stalwart Saturday market goes all the way through, come rain, come snow, come dead of night, which is what time they seem to set up in the winter.  And I'm looking forward to seeing who's there on the coldest Saturdays this year, along with the hard-core folks like Farmer John of Our Family Farm with his eggs, and Wasem Fruit Farm with their apples. 

Until then, I like that autumn brings some farmers to the market that we don't get to see so often, like Annie and Paul of Community Farm.  And fall brings produce we don't see so often too. The fleeting foods of autumn aren't celebrated like spring's triumphant scepters of asparagus or summer's golden orb'd peaches, but the the purple crowned rutabaga and the gnarled celeriac are just as lovely in their rooty way.  And just as brief.   

Also known as swedes, I bought a yellow-fleshed rutabaga with the intention of making up some pasties. Rutabagas are a defining element of this Cornish-inspired Michigan meat pie. But judging from last year,  strange as it seems with those linebackers of the vegetable world, rutabagas are just as short-lived as the delicate apricot.  So if you want your meat pies with rutabaga, get 'em quick.  

And speaking of pie, did you catch the Antique Apple Museum at the market? Amadeaus Scott's exhibit on cider, applesauce and apple pie over the past few weeks was so much fun to see. Her collection of antique rolling pins and early 1900s plat maps and cider jugs brought back an entirely different Ann Arbor. In her "history meets performance art" effort to create a dialog around the role of this emblematic fruit, she spent one market day handing out slices of pie made with apples from abandoned trees.  It reminded me that we have so few ways of experiencing the past, but taste is a direct avenue we rarely consider.  I guess that's another reason to be enamored of pie. 

Further along the pie theme,  I had a surprise pie encounter this week.  I was minding my own business last Wednesday when I noticed Zingerman's chef Rodger Bowser beckoning as he trundled by with 3 crates of apples on a dolly. I walked over and noticed there was a gorgeous sugar-encrusted pie sparkling on top of all those apples. Rodger asked casually if I'd tasted Nemeth's pies yet. "It's the best pie I've ever paid money for," says he.  That is news I can use!  There's no better reconnaissance mission than pie-reconnaissance.  

Apparently, Jeff Nemeth just started bringing apple pies to market that his wife Lauren bakes with an all-butter crust. Jeff's grandparents own Nemeth Orchards, so it would appear that they have a good supply of fruit.  I learned that Nemeth fils recently installed a commercial kitchen at home and he and his wife are just getting started on the pie-making venture. Jeff says that soon they'll be bringing pumpkin along with the apple pies to market, but he couldn't say what else they'd be making in the near future. I encouraged him to consider small, single serving pies that might be good for eating on the spot, before you get home and have to explain yourself to someone for example. 

I have to say that Jeff is a lucky man because Mrs. Nemeth is making some fine-looking pies.  They certainly come with a stellar recommendation.  And in my mind, one thing this world could actually use is more homemade pie. 

Here's my latest contribution to the local pie world. 

Michigan Apple Pie

3 C. Westwind Milling flour (I used 1 C. all-purpose, 1 C. spelt (Jennings Bros.), 1 C. whole wheat)
1 T. Pioneer sugar
1/2 t. salt
8 oz. Calder butter (very cold, cut into pieces)
7-8 T. Ann Arbor ice water
Whir dry ingredients in the food processor. Put pieces of butter on top and pulse until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Add ice water,  1 T. at a time, pulsing after each addition, until mixture holds together when you pinch it. Press dough into 2-3 disks. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes. 

Apple filling:
6-8 C. Wolfe Orchard apples (use at least 3 different varieties including Northern Spy, peeled, cored, and sliced)
3/4 C. Pioneer sugar
1/4 C. Westwind Milling flour
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. nutmeg
1 t. ginger
Mix all ingredients in a large bowl until apples are evenly covered.

To bake:
Roll out dough on a well-floured board. (I use a pastry cloth and rolling pin sock to prevent sticking) Line large (at least 9") pie pan with dough.  Put in apples. Cover with another crust. Cut vents in the top crust, sprinkle with sugar. Bake at 425º for 15 minutes, then at 350º for 45 minutes, until crust is browned and apples are soft and bubbling in the middle.

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