I have this desire to recreate some of the recipes that my grandmother made years ago, when she was raising her family. Since she didn’t leave many recipes behind, it’s been a little difficult to do at times.
Unfortunately, by the time I came along, she wasn’t cooking like she did when my mom and her siblings were kids, so there aren’t many things that I remember specifically about her cooking. I did remember her making an apple stack cake one time. Oh, how I loved that cake! Her Apple Betty was to die for. I remember that she used to scorch her green beans a little bit. I’d actually forgotten about that and a couple Thanksgivings ago, while at my aunt and uncle’s house, my aunt accidentally scorched her beans. As soon as I took a bite, the memory came back and I started crying because, even after 15 years, I still miss my mammaw.
Two years ago, my mom’s sisters threw her a surprise 60th birthday party. I decided that, as a thank you, I’d make each of her near-by siblings their favorite dessert from mammaw’s repertoire.
At first, I tackled her apple stack cake. Let me tell you, it’s a day-long process to make one of those (and I made 4 that day). It’s made from dried apples that have been cooked in apple juice and spices to create a dark, flavorful, chucky apple mush. The mush is spread between layers of dense cake seasoned with molasses and spices and cooked in an iron skillet. Then it needs to sit for a few days to allow the apple mush to seep into the cake layers.
I hunted for weeks to find a recipe. I finally found one that mom thought looked like what mammaw would have used. I made the apple mush, and my mom and I developed a mini assembly-line approach to making the cake layers. I made the dough, which is so stiff it has to be patted into the skillets by hand. We used 2 little iron skillets and we had our oven working overtime that day. I think each cake had 8 layers.
Anyway, the cakes were delicious! My mom’s oldest sister said it was pretty close to mammaw’s – it just needed a little more molasses in the cake mix. I called it a success, because there weren’t any crumbs left after a few days.
Next, I made Mammaw’s Apple Betty for my uncle. This one was super-easy, because I had the actual recipe that mammaw used. I think I made it even better, because I used my own home-canned apple sauce for the filling. Let me tell you… if I were stranded on an island, that Apple Betty just might be what I’d want to take with me!
Finally! I was going to make Lemon Meringue Pie!
My other aunt’s favorite was Lemon Meringue Pie. I put this one off for awhile, because I was scared of tackling a pie crust, a pie filling that is supposed to set up like a gel, AND a meringue. Finally, I had to bite the bullet and just do it.
My other issue was that somewhere between the Apple Stack Cake and the Lemon Meringue Pie, I started eating healthier so I would become healthier! Good grief. How was I going to handle this problem?
I researched sugar-free versions of lemon pie and decided that I was either uncomfortable with using a large amount of artificial sweeteners, or I didn’t want to spend a lot of money purchasing other sweetening agents like erythritol and xylitol (which is toxic to dogs).
I just figured I’d make an old-fashioned, full-of-sugar pie….and try to not eat any of it!
Right. That’s going to happen.
While I was gathering the ingredients for the pie (and yes, I cheated on the crust by buying frozen), I remembered that I have some little crème brulee ramekins. Those would be a perfect solution to my problem! A ramekin eliminates the need for a crust, which contributes about 1/3 of the fat and calories to the pie. A small ramekin also provides built-in portion control!
I made two regular pies to share with my mom’s siblings and made 4 little mini-pies for us. They were just about perfect.
Tiny little dishes of heavenly delight!
They were sweet.
They were tart.
The meringue was really good, although the next time, I’ll beat the egg whites a little longer so that it’s a bit stiffer.
They were the perfect size for someone who’s eating healthier, but still wants a little sweetness occasionally.
Think about buying some ramekins for your kitchen. Make sure they are oven-safe and small enough to create the right portion-control for your needs.
Oh, by the way, the pie wasn’t just like mammaw’s, but it was good. I’ll just have to keep trying…and really, I don’t mind!