Dutch Apple Pie- from my Grandma’s 1909 diary

I was recently going through some old family papers and found my grandmother’s diary from 1909. The diary wasn’t bound in a fancy book, it was simply 50 loose pages of paper that thankfully stayed in tact after more than 100 years.

Grandma was a farmer’s wife- she and Grandpa lived on a farm in Payne’s Point, Illinois near Rockford. She had a rather hard life, complaining of having to clean the thick grease off the kitchen walls and of the terrible headaches that made her bedridden for days on end. But Grandma played a very important role on her farm, preparing three meals a day for her family and the hungry farmhands who worked at threshing time.

One diary entry describes the amount of food she had to cook for the threshers:

August 11, 1909

Had threshers for dinner. Anna and I worked like dogs all day: 4 Dutch Apple pies, 4 cakes, doughnuts, bread, 4 chickens and 2 kettles of potatoes. Had lots of stuff left, all ready for supper. Had some terrible hot weather the last three weeks, everything dried up and dusty.

One thing that struck me in her food entries was the important role that pie played in her cooking. Pie was a way to provide comfort and happiness to her family and farmhands  at the end of a long day- it also provided a feeling of community and a sense of being home. I can just picture my Grandma’s table over a hundred years ago: spread with chickens, corn cobs, bread, doughnuts, potatoes and vegetables. But it was the pie at the end of the meal that probably sent each person away with a little more happiness.

As Beth Howard says in her book Ms. American Pie:

There is always someone who could use a homemade pie to remind them that life still holds some hope, promise, and a little taste of happiness. And so I get busy baking …

In order to honor the spirit of my grandma’s love of Dutch Apple Pie, I am providing a recipe adapted from Beth Howard’s book. There is nothing better than Dutch Apple pie- if you like apple crisp or apple crumble, you’ll like this pie!

Here are a few helpful hints about making pie:

  • pie is not complicated- if our grandmothers, pilgrims and pioneers could make pies (with no electric stoves or refrigerators available), we can too!
  • don’t be afraid to ‘get you hands dirty’ when making pies- use your bare hands to mold the butter into the flour to make the dough.
  • Be a little flexible and don’t worry about measuring things precisely. If your dough is a little too dry, then try adding a little more cold water, etc.
  • For more tips on pie crust making, refer to my post on Pumpkin Bourbon Pecan Pie.


Dutch Apple Pie
Serves 8
Traditional Apple Pie topped with a cinnamon apple crumble that melts in your mouth!
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For the pie crust
  1. 2 1/2 cups (300 g) white flour
  2. 11 tbsps (150 g) cold butter, cubed
  3. 1 1/2 eggs
  4. 2 - 3 tbsp. cold water
For the pie filling
  1. 7 to 10 Granny Smith apples, peeled and sliced (number of apples depends on the size of your pie)
  2. ½ tsp salt
  3. 1 to 2 tsp cinnamon
  4. ¾ cup sugar
  5. 1 tbsp lemon juice
  6. ¼ cup corn starch
For the crumble topping
  1. 1 cup (120 g) flour
  2. ½ cup (1 stick) butter, chilled and cut into marble-sized chunks
  3. ½ cup brown sugar
  4. ¼ cup pecans, crushed (optional)
To prepare the pie crust
  1. Place flour in large bowl. Add cold butter cubes and rub mixture with palms and finger tips until mixture resembles fine sand. Alternatively, place flour and butter in food processor bowl and pulse until mixture resembles texture of fine sand.
  2. Add 1 1/2 eggs and stir until mixture starts to form a ball. If required, add 2-3 tbsps. of ice cold water and mix until dough hangs together in firm ball shape.
  3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead several times until it forms a firm ball. Wrap in plastic and place in fridge for at least 15 minutes. Roll out the dough with a rolling pin until it measures about 1.5 inches larger than the dimensions of your pie pan. Trim the dough using kitchen scissors so that 1 inch of dough overhangs the pie pan. Tuck the edges of the dough under at the edges and then form into fluted edges. Set the dough aside.
For the pie filling
  1. Peel, core and slice the apples into pieces about 1 inch long. In a large bowl, combine the apples, salt, cinnamon, lemon juice and corn starch.
For the crumble topping
  1. In a separate bowl, rub the chilled butter, flour, brown sugar and crushed pecans (optional) together with your fingers until the texture resembles marbles. (If the butter becomes too soft, the mixture will become like a ‘melted, sticky glob.’ In this case, place the mixture in the fridge for a few minutes until the butter hardens again).
  2. Pour the apple filling into the prepared pie dough until it reaches the rim of the pie pan. Top with the crumble mixture. Bake for 10 minutes at 425 F (220 C) for 10 minutes, then reduce to 375 F (190 C) for another approximate 25 minutes, or until the apples turn soft when inserted with a fork or probe. If the crust starts to burn, cover with foil for the remainder of the baking time. Cool slightly and serve plain or with whipped cream or ice cream.
  1. The crushed pecans are optional but they do add a bit of added texture to the crumble topping.
Adapted from Beth Howard's 'Ms. American Pie' recipe book
Adapted from Beth Howard's 'Ms. American Pie' recipe book
G'day Soufflé

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  • John/Kitchen Riffs
    October 28, 2016 at 10:06 am

    Who doesn’t like pie?! Apple of any kind is wonderful, but Dutch Apple is particularly nice — love its topping. How fun to have your grandmother’s diary!
    John/Kitchen Riffs recently posted…Pumpkin Ravioli with Herbal Butter SauceMy Profile

  • Joanne T Ferguson
    October 28, 2016 at 1:00 pm

    This looks absolutely delicious and love grandma’s recipe! With Thanksgiving coming upon us, this would be perfect to share with friends and family!

  • Kathy @ Beyond the Chicken Coop
    October 30, 2016 at 11:57 pm

    How amazing that you have your grandmother’s diary! What an amazing and difficult time to live in. This pie looks beautiful! Your grandma would be proud….did you make four pies or just one 🙂
    Kathy @ Beyond the Chicken Coop recently posted…One Bowl Fudgy BrowniesMy Profile

  • SeattleDee
    October 31, 2016 at 6:34 am

    The crumble topping with pecans adds a welcome toothsome crunch to this apple pie. Add some chopped, roasted chiles to the filling for a subtle,spicy backnote and I’m in!

  • Karen (Back Road Journal)
    October 31, 2016 at 7:37 am

    How wonderful that you have those papers from your grandmother. I’m sure she would enjoy the pie you made, it looks great.
    Karen (Back Road Journal) recently posted…Mittenwald, One Of Bavaria’s Most Picturesque VillagesMy Profile

  • Denise Browning
    November 1, 2016 at 2:01 pm

    Love old fashioned recipes… Grandma knows better! This looks divine, Fran!

  • Juliana
    November 2, 2016 at 4:49 am

    Wow Fran…I absolutely love this post…amazing being able to read your grandma diary…and the apple pie looks delicious…I would sure love a slice of it…and a big one.
    Have a wonderful week 🙂
    Juliana recently posted…Black Sesame Swirl Pumpkin BreadMy Profile

  • Kim | Low Carb Maven
    November 11, 2016 at 3:24 pm

    I love this story, Fran. How lucky you are to have a small accounting of your grandmother’s life a century ago. Whew, people worked hard back in the days. Food was simpler and nourishing for the body and soul. Thank you for sharing this and the great recipe for apple pie.

  • Michelle
    November 24, 2016 at 9:47 pm

    Pie filling ingredients says corn starch but directions say flour… Which are we supposed to use?

    • Fran
      November 25, 2016 at 1:23 am

      Oops! Thanks for the comment, Michelle. The directions should say to use corn starch, however you could also substitute flour for the corn starch. Corn starch has a finer texture than flour and is less apt to form lumps. Hope your pie turns out well!
      Fran recently posted…Cranberry Nut Bread with Crunchy ToppingMy Profile