Äidin Omenapiirakka - Mum's Apple Pie
The leaves are turning golden and the days are becoming ever more chilly, hinting at the winter to come. But with the cooler months comes delicious, delicious apples! Eat them now, while you can get them fresh, as most apples sold at large chain supermarkets sit in cold storage for up to 10 months before they hit the shelves. That’s why they usually taste like cardboard, and are not really worth eating in my opinion. This year, I have been lucky enough to be gifted apples from my uncle’s farm. They are misshapen, multicoloured and smell like the sun. They will make the perfect apple pie.
At the moment I seem to be having a bit of a love affair with apples. A freshly picked, crunchy, sweet, juicy apple is one of life's simple pleasures, and every time I'm lucky enough to bite into a really good apple, I'm always reminded of my childhood; the smell of mum's omenapiirakka (apple pie) baking in the oven or the sweet scent of warm apples wafting up from the large apple orchards below our childhood home. I loved apples then, and I still love them today. In fact, I think the humble apple is one of my all time favourite fruits. And my second favourite way to enjoy them (my favourite being picked straight from the tree and eaten on the spot) is in a warm apple pie straight from the oven, topped with double cream or some French vanilla ice cream.
This was a staple dessert in our home growing up and I still remember the eager anticipation we all felt as we watched mum make this pie, eyes wide and little hands at the ready. I remember watching mum’s hands deftly form the pastry, slice the apples and add a sprinkling of sugar and cinnamon. It was like watching her perform alchemy in front of our very eyes; for the result of her efforts would be a glorious golden round, with the most wonderful sweet and spicy aroma emanating from it. I remember we would wait in the kitchen, every now and then peering into the oven to determine if the pie was golden enough to take out, too scared to leave in case we missed its emergence from the oven and onto the kitchen counter, where we would then sit and stare at its invitingly buttery and flaky crust, willing it to cool enough so that we could eat it.
I realise now, it is these moments from my past that created the idea that food held a particular kind of magic. I believed it then, and I still believe it today. Probably more than ever. I believe it has a restorative magic that weaves time together, bonds people together and keeps history alive. I love that my mum taught me to make this pie, that I learnt by simply being in her company and watching her in the kitchen, and that a wonderful memory was created in the process. I hope that when my daughter is old enough, she will sit in the kitchen with me and learn to make this pie, like I did, and fall in love with it, so that she, too, will pass it on to her daughter, and take all of us, our history and lives, with her.
Mum’s omenapiirakka is still my go-to recipe for making apple pie. It’s so simple and it never fails to please. I have tried a few other recipes, but they never taste as good. I guess it’s hard to escape the tastes, memories and joy from one’s childhood. All the same, if I’m feeling a bit adventurous, I will add just a drop of vanilla extract or rosewater. Both give this pie a lovely, subtle lift. But I like it best just as it is. In my family, we enjoy this pie after dinner with good strong coffee, just like they do in Finland. Usually we eat it with ice cream, as the coldness perfectly complements the warm apples in the pie. Besides, it's fun to watch little white rivers form in the bowl as the ice cream melts, making the eating of it that much more evocative of a childhood spent growing up surrounded by apple orchards, rivers and warm apple pie.
Love and light!