One of the challenges of being half a blogging couple is that we discuss ideas, and then the first person scheduled to write in a week tends to use up those ideas. You wake, thinking idly of the post that is due the following day, only to discover that the other person has written not just about the suggestions you gave her, but also about everything you have cooked for the past week and were planning to cook during the coming week. I don’t think of this as a bad thing, per se, since the reduced options force me to improvise and, on occasion, be creative.
As summer turned to autumn and our CSA box wound down, we received several pounds of pears over the course of a few weeks. These were placed in the kitchen and migrated to the back of the refrigerator, behind meat and bread and the first winter beers of the season. I’d worried about the pears since a co-worker told me last week that pears don’t keep long. How long is long, I asked? Not long he said, lowering his head and looking at me from under his eyebrows. That’s a good way to indicate to someone that he is looking at a fridge full of rotting fruit without being so rude as to say so.
I came home with 12 hours left until the next work day would spell the end of my blogging time, and my eyes fell on a recipe that I had considered for a few weeks. It just happened to be on the kitchen counter, among a pile of other recipes. Well, I had left it there a couple of days ago, thinking I would get around to making the recipe before all of the pears went to waste.
One of the recipes from our produce CSA box was Oly’s Swedish Apple or Asian Pear Pie.
Oly is a storied character among Scandinavian-Americans, similar to Paul Bunyan and John Henry but without the great heroics. I suspect that the pie recipe was named for Oly in honor of the Oly and Lena stories, and chosen by the CSA farm in honor of the many Scandinavians who populated the Pacific Northwest during the past 150 years. Ballard, where we reside, is an unofficial colony of Sweden, visited by Sweden’s monarchs during the American bicentennial. The Butter Bitch can even claim a smidgen of Scandinavian heritage.
My favorite Oly story occurs when Oly is on his death bed. The doctor has informed his wife, Lena, that Oly does not have long to live, and she sets about to prepare for the wake after his funeral. Her preparations include a Swedish apple pie, Oly’s favorite. The smell of the cooling pie wafts to the upstairs bedroom where Oly waits to meet his maker. Stirred by happy memories and a tremendous longing for one last piece of pie, Oly pulls himself from his death bed. Slowly, wheezing in great pain, he descends the stairs, gripping the rails to support his fragile body, until he has reached the kitchen and approaches the pie with one hand stretched out. And Lena slaps away his hand. “Oly! That is for the guests!” she admonishes him.
To my delight, the pears still were in good condition and the Butter Bitch was out with friends, leaving me home alone to cook and blog.
I decided to mix Bosc and Asian pears, a variation on the recipe. Take the pears – 5 according to the recipe, but 6 filled the pan nicely – and peel, core and slice. Place the pears in a pie pan. Mix 1 tablespoon sugar, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, and “some” nutmeg, then sprinkle half the mixture over the pears. Try to sprinkle evenly, but don’t lament if some sections receive more spice than others.
In a sauce pan, melt a stick of butter and then remove the pan from the heat. Stir in 1 cup of flour, the zest from a whole lemon, and 3/4 cup of brown sugar. Mix together but don’t beat the mixture or you will have paste. Stir in 2 beaten eggs and fold everything together. Folding is an odd art, so I direct you to the Joy of Cooking. Pour the flour-sugar-egg mixture over the pears and sprinkle with the remainder of the cinnamon-nutmeg spicing. Bake at 350 degrees for 50-60 minutes, or until the pie top is firm and brown.
The pie, as you may have noticed, is a little more like a crisp than a pie. I don’t know that I would crawl from my death bed for the pie, but I did walk to the kitchen for seconds. The flavor was mild, sweet, and a little savory, not light enough for summer nor heavy enough for the depths of winter. This is a very good autumn pie, with enough sugar to keep your mind from the darkness of early-starting evenings.
I must admit that I used more than 3/4 of a cup of sugar, and three eggs, since they were small, and that – looking at the recipe’s title – it probably is an “Asian Pear Pie or Oly’s Swedish Apple.” But I don’t think Oly would mind.