Camp fosters the cowgirl fantasy. Wake early. Brush down and saddle up. Ride the trails, humming. Then break for breakfast: apple pie with cheddar cheese.
Unclear why the cowgirl takes her pie with cheese. It’s tradition, like tumbleweed, sad songs and big sky. The cowgirl, particularly the part-time, summer-camp cowgirl, doesn’t buck tradition.
Later, she learns that pie with cheese is known in other enclaves. Vermont, for instance. Wisconsin. Cheddar itself. But then, those venues suffer a surplus of cheese. She wonders: Did riders really pack pie? Was the tradition less cowgirl, more fantasy?
Humming, she browns a skillet of apples and wraps them in cheese-salted pastry. The pie is sweet, tart and savory. It tastes of summer mornings, sad songs and open sky.
Cowgirl Apple Pie
1 disk cheddar pastry, see recipe
3 pounds (about 7) apples (a mix of tart, such as Granny Smith, and crisp, such as Gala)
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup whiskey or brandy (or sub 1 tablespoon cider vinegar)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon fine salt
Slice: Peel, core and slice apples v-inch thick.
Soften: Heat butter in a wide skillet over medium-high heat. Slide in apples; cook until softened, about 5 minutes.
Thicken: Add sugar, whiskey, lemon juice, cinnamon and salt. Cook, stirring, until syrup clings to apples, about 5 minutes.
Cover: Scrape cooked apples into a buttered 9-inch cast-iron pan (or a buttered 9-inch pie plate).
Roll: Roll out pastry; trim to a 12-inch circle. Fit pastry over apples, tucking in edges. Snip a vent into the center.
Bake: Set pan on a rimmed baking sheet. Slide into a 375-degree oven and bake until pastry turns golden brown, 35-40 minutes. Cool and enjoy.
Cheddar pastry: In a food processor, pulse until mixed: 1 cup flour, 2 teaspoons sugar, ¼ teaspoon fine salt. Drop in 5 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, 2 tablespoons cold shortening and b cup shredded sharp cheddar. Pulse until mixture looks crumbly. Turn out into a large bowl. Drizzle in about 3 tablespoons cold water, mixing gently with a soft spatula until pastry comes together. Pat into a disk. Wrap and chill 1 hour. Makes one 9-inch pie.