Better Than Usual Apple Pie in a Cheddar Crust

Thanks to the power of search engines on the internet, it is now possible to learn, whether you care or not, just what is “trending,” that is, what everyone else is looking for, reading about, exploring. And, it being Thanksgiving week, sure enough, someone at the New York Times published the most sought-after holiday recipes by state across the union.

It appears that Maine, like most of New England, is looking up apple pie recipes. So, in case that is what you’re looking for, here is my offering: a charmingly richer apple pie filling in a cheddar crust.

As far as I’m concerned, apple pie is usually less a recipe than a way of doing things, highly variable depending on my ambition, available time, and the apples I have to work with. I have one all-purpose pie crust recipe that I always use. If pie-making asked much more of me than this, I probably wouldn’t bother to make pie. In honor, however, of Thanksgiving, my all-time favorite holiday, I do stir myself to try a little harder, and the recipes that follow make a better than (my) usual apple pie.

The recipe for the pie filling came decades ago from an acquaintance who lived in New York City, and pronounced it the best apple pie ever. Well, I don’t know about best, but it is awfully good. The crust I dreamed up, thinking about that old line, “apple pie without the cheese is like a kiss without a squeeze.”

Why not incorporate the cheese into the pastry? It is easily done, especially if you use a food processor as I do for making pastry, though if you are handy with a pastry cutter it would take only a few moments more to do it manually. I use an extra sharp cheddar, as sharp as I can find, so the cheese flavor is actually discernable.

You’ll notice that the apple filling has an element of apple crisp in it, a streusel-like layer that, were it not covered with pastry, would make a lovely topping all by itself. If you have a sweeter sweet-tooth than I, you may want to add more sugar to the apples, but be sure to taste them before you do that. I don’t peel apples unless they have lots of scabby or gnarly spots; you will want to suit yourself on that point.

Struesel layer is sprinkled over the apples before adding the top layer of pastry.

Determining how many apples you need depends on a lot of variables, like whether you peel or not and how large the apples are. One way of sizing it up is to cut the apples into the pie plate you will use until you judge that you have enough. I used six homegrown apples of all sizes and ended up with eight cups. My advice, if you are new at this business, is not to worry too much about this: slice them up, lay them in and call it good.

Size up how much sliced apple you need by putting them into the pie plate before you line it with pastry.

When I gather with friends on Thanksgiving Day, I will certainly reflect, as you will, too, on what we have to be thankful for. On my very long list will be all of you Bangor Daily News readers who check in here weekly, who respond to my queries, and sometimes send me a note to say you find useful recipes here. I am so grateful for my connection with you. Blessings on you all.

Looking for….braised red cabbage. Reader Susan emailed and said, “I’m looking for a good receipt for braised red cabbage…do you have a favorite? It’s getting to be that season which I love.” I wrote back and said, “I don’t but maybe one of Taste Buds’ readers would,” to which she replied, “Go for it! I’ll keep my eye out also. Maybe I’ll just wing one up from scratch and see how it flies!” So while Susan is winging it out there, maybe one of you has a good recipe to share?

Better Than Usual Apple Pie in a Cheddar Crust
Serves: Makes one nine inch pie
  • Cheddar Pastry
  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 8 tablespoons, or one stick, butter
  • ⅔ cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • ½ cup more or less very cold water
  • Apple Pie Filling
  • 6 to 8 cups apples peeled, optional, cored and sliced
  • ¼ - ½ cup granulated white sugar, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon, or to taste
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg, or to taste
  • Sprinkle of salt
  • ¼ cup, or half a stick, butter
  • ½ to ¾ cups light brown sugar
  • ½ cup flour
  1. To Make Crust
  2. Cut together flour, salt, sugar, and butter until the mixture resembles cornmeal.
  3. Then cut in the cheddar until it is well-distributed.
  4. Add cold water very gradually by dribbling it around the edges of the mixing bowl and tossing the flour, butter and cheese mixture with a spoon or rubber spatula until all the flour is taken up and forms a loose ball of dough.
  5. Knead once or twice, divide into two balls, flatten each and chill for about half an hour for rolling out. Roll out the two disks and use one to line the pie plate, and the other to cover the filling.
  6. To Make Pie Filling
  7. Heat the oven to 375 degrees.
  8. Toss together the sliced apples, white sugar, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.
  9. Line a pie plate with pastry and put the apples in it.
  10. Blend until mixed the butter, brown sugar, and flour and sprinkle over top of the apple filling.
  11. Cover the filling with pastry. Bake for ten minutes in the 375 oven, then reduce the temperature to 350 and bake an additional thirty-five to forty minutes, until crust is golden brown and filling bubbles slightly.


Sandy Oliver

About Sandy Oliver

Sandy Oliver Sandy is a freelance food writer with the column Taste Buds appearing weekly since 2006 in the Bangor Daily News, and regular columns in Maine Boats, Homes, and Harbors magazine and The Working Waterfront. Besides freelance food writing, she is a pioneering food historian beginning her work in 1971 at Mystic Seaport Museum, where she developed a fireplace cooking program in an 1830s house. After moving to Maine in 1988, Sandy wrote, Saltwater Foodways: New Englanders and Their Foods at Sea and Ashore in the 19th Century published in 1995. She is the author of The Food of Colonial and Federal America published in fall of 2005, and Giving Thanks: Thanksgiving History and Recipes from Pilgrims to Pumpkin Pie which she co-authored with Kathleen Curtin. She often speaks to historical organizations and food professional groups around the country, organizes historical dinners, and conducts classes and workshops in food history and in sustainable gardening and cooking. Sandy lives on Islesboro, an island in Penobscot where she gardens, preserves, cooks and teaches sustainable lifeways.