This has always been a special time of the year for me. I grew up in a family that loved to cook and the holidays meant cook, cook, cook. The feasts started with Thanksgiving and didn’t end until the day after New Year’s Day.

I remember one Christmas, after my parents had moved from Southern California to Paso Robles, that mother had baked eight different pies because she wanted to be sure that everyone could find their favorite. This was the woman who won the Idler’s Apple Pie Contest in 1995, so of course, there was a prize-winning apple pie on the menu that day, along with the roasted turkey and “a  million” wonderful side dishes.

Since pies are such a part of “Americana,” I’m dedicating this column to pie and will share a few of my favorites:

Apple-Cranberry Pie

Ingredients:

Getting through this together, Atascadero

1 c. sugar, divided

1 t. cinnamon, divided

1/3 c. water

2 T. all-purpose flour

1 t. orange zest

4 Golden Delicious apples, cored, peeled and sliced

1 ½ c. fresh cranberries

2 9-inch pie crusts

1 egg white, beaten

Optional: vanilla ice cream or whipped topping

Directions:

Combine one teaspoon sugar and 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon; set aside. Combine remaining sugar and cinnamon, water, flour and zest in a large saucepan; stir in apples and cranberries. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes or until cranberries burst, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat; cool. Arrange one crust in a 9” pie plate. Spoon apple mixture into crust; top with remaining crust. Trim and flute edges; cut vents in crust. Brush crust with egg white; sprinkle with reserved sugar-cinnamon mixture. Cover edges of crust with aluminum foil. Bake at 375 degrees for 25 minutes; remove foil and bake an additional 20 to 25 minutes, until crust is golden and filling is bubbly. Serve warm, with scoops of vanilla ice cream if desired. Serves 6 to 8.

Raisin Pie

Ingredients:

Pastry for 2 crust 9-inch pie

1 ½ c. raisins

¼ c. lemon juice

3 T. flour

1 c. sugar-cinnamon

1 c. boiling water

1 T. butter

Few grains salt

Directions:

Combine sugar, flour, and salt. Add boiling water slowly, stirring constantly. Cook over hot water until thick and clear. Add raisins, lemon juice, and butter. Mix thoroughly. Pour into pastry-lined pie tin. Cover with top crust. Bake in hot oven (425 degrees) about 25 minutes.

Cranberry Banana Pie

Ingredients:

Pastry for 2 crust pie (one crust for lattice-work0

1 ½ c. cranberries

2-3 bananas (not over-ripe)

1 cup sugar

Directions:

Wash cranberries. Remove stems. Combine cranberries and sugar in medium saucepan. Cover. Cook slowly until fruit is tender and clear. Cool. Line pie pan with 1 pie crust. Cover bottom with thinly sliced bananas. Pour cranberry sauce over bananas. Cover with strips of pastry from second pie crust to form a lattice. Bake in hot oven (425 degrees) 15 minutes.

Cocoa Pecan Pie

Ingredients:

Pastry for 1 nine-inch pie

1 cup sugar

1/3 cup cocoa

¼ cup flour

½ teaspoon salt

3 eggs, well beaten

¾ cup dark corn syrup

¾ cup light cream

¼ cup melted butter

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup pecan halves

Directions:

Combine the sugar, cocoa, flour and salt in small bowl; set aside. Combine the eggs, dark corn syrup, cream, melted butter and vanilla in large mixing bowl; add the dry ingredients, stirring til smooth. Stir in pecan halves. Pour into 9-inch pastry lined pan. Bake at 325 degrees for 60 to 70 minutes until center is firm to the touch. Cool. Serves 6-8 

I recently found this recipe for a Pecan Streusel. It was part of a recipe for a Persimmon pie. However, I think it would be fun to make it and serve it as a garnish on the Cocoa Pecan Pie, or a pumpkin pie. Just prepare it and be creative!

Pecan Streusel

Ingredients:

¼ cup plus 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 Tablespoons packed light brown sugar

2 Tablespoons granulated sugar

¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

Pinch freshly grated or ground nutmeg

Pinch kosher salt

¼ cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature and cut into 4 pieces

2 Tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons roughly chopped pecans

Directions:

To prepare the Pecan Streusel, whisk together flour, sugars, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt in a bowl. Using your fingers, rub butter ito dry ingredients until mixture is crumbly and forms large, moist clumps. Add pecans and work into clumps until incorporated. Refrigerate until mixture is very cold and firm, 1 to 2 hours. To use as a garnish, remove from refrigerator and break the cold Streusel into small clumps and sprinkle over the center of a pie that has baked in the oven and is about 20 minutes away from being removed. The oven temperature at that point should be set at 350 degrees, depending on the kind of pie.

You can also place the streusel clumps on a pie tin and put them in a 350-degree oven and bake them for 20-25 minutes, stirring once during that time.

Enjoy!