I generally focus on the business end of this family business, but today, I’m sharing a personal family moment.

“When [Almanzo] began to eat pie, he wished he had eaten nothing else. He ate a piece of pumpkin pie and a piece of custard pie, and he ate almost a piece of vinegar pie. He tried a piece of mince pie, but could not finish it. He just couldn’t do it. There were berry pies and cream pies and vinegar pies and raisin pies, but he could not eat any more.” — Farmer Boy, Laura Ingalls Wilder

I made a list of 33 things I wanted to accomplish before I turn 33 this summer, and when it came time to tackle making a pie, I turned to my mother-in-law.  I grew up enjoying my own mother’s bread, cinnamon rolls, cookies, crisps and cobblers, but she wasn’t a pie mom.


Corinne Wastell, however, was a State Champion pie baker (she was Entrant No. 10 – see photo above).  So after lunch on on Mother’s Day last Sunday, she pulled out her old recipe card and we baked a pie.  Two pies, actually.  We’re over achievers like that.


Isn’t that cookie jar repurposed to hold flour just the cutest?  Corinne enjoys some vintagey-type storage and decoration items, and I’m totally putting a sticky note with my name on that one in hopes of inheriting it someday.  And, LARD!  Who uses lard anymore except to bake a pie?  Corinne said she found it in the grocery store with the cottage cheese, not with the butter, like we both had sort of expected.


Anyway.  We cut in the butter and lard until we had little peas, being careful not to overwork the dough.  I was pretty confident with this part.  I had plenty of experience with play dough, you know.


Corinne floured up the pastry cloth on its little frame and slipped the sleeve on the rolling pin.  I rolled out the dough for a 9-inch pie pan.  Pro tip from Corinne (or maybe from her Home Ec teacher) – starting in the center of the dough and then lifting your rolling pin up slightly as you work your way to the edge will help create an even-thickness dough.


Then I tried (not so successfully) to get the pie crust into the pie pan without tearing it or poking holes through the tender dough.  Corinne showed me how to patch the holes  – “no one will see the inside,” she reminded me, “and the people who will eat this pie all love you.”  That’s a good mother-in-law right there.


Then time for the cherries.  I am not sure if I’ve ever had tart cherries from a can before  – these were in water not syrup – but they are SO good.  I had to restrain myself from eating too many before they made it in the pie.  We mixed the sugar and juice and cornstarch and heated until thickened, the stirred in the glossy butter and plump cherries.  Mmmm.  So good.


I used a nifty little tool that Corinne had to cut the pretty lattice strips.


But don’t look too closely – I was not good at the weaving part, and the lattice strips kept breaking so I gave up and faked it a bunch.


Then we made an apple pie, because two pies is better than one pie, clearly.  I actually did a pretty good job moving the top crust on this one.


We put them in the oven, and when there was about 30 minutes left, the tornado siren went off.  Not even joking.  A tornado warning vs. my beautiful pies!  What were we going to do?

Marvin, Corinne, Chad and I all went down to the basement and watched the news as the storm moved closer.  And closer.  Straight line winds and rain-wrapped tornados in the area prompted us to move into an interior bedroom, so I dashed upstairs, and with 10 minutes left on the oven timer, I turned off the oven (but left the pies in), ran back downstairs, drank more wine (so glad Marvin remembered the wine!), and hoped for the best.  20 minutes later, the storm had passed and I went up to check on my pies.

Overall, I think they would have been better baked at the proper temperature for the full time, but considering their low-temp long hangout, they sure were good.  And pretty.


I’m so thankful for the time that Corinne spent with me, and I feel good enough about making pie crust that I’ll try it again sometime soon.

Above:  Totally the best part about pie making, amiright?
Below:  The woman who gave life to the man I love.  She has a pretty special place in my heart.

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(A version of this post first appeared on Anna’s personal blog, teamwastell.com)