At Laurel Brook Farm in East Canaan, Connecticut, pies are prized and family lunch is a sacred thing. It’s more than tradition on the fourth-generation farm that brings everyone together at 11:30 am daily for a home-cooked meal of spaghetti and meatballs, toasted cheese sandwiches and soup, or baked chicken and rice, often followed by ice cream and pie.Daily family lunch? Sharing a delicious meal, news, and good company at #LaurelBrookFarm. #FarmLove Click To Tweet
Even after patriarch Robert Jacquier passed away in 2014, his wife Dottie has continued to host lunch. “Ever since I can remember, my grandparents were adamant that we have lunch with them every day,” says Cricket Jacquier, who runs the farm with his brother, Bobby, their dad, Peter, and Bobby’s two sons, Austin and Dalton. “Getting together every day around noon always gave me a chance to ask questions,” Dottie adds with a wink. “It’s for their sake, too; it makes them stop to eat.”
Depending on the day, around the lunch table you might find Peter’s wife, Jean; Cricket’s wife, Jenn, who does the farm’s books and works with the animals, and their teenagers; as well as Bobby’s wife, Teresa, and their daughters, Austin and Dalton’s younger sisters. The young generation all helps out on the farm. With around 25 employees; the 1,000-cow milking herd; 2,700 acres of cropland, and a landscaping compost business, there is always a lot going on to talk about over the meal.
The farm has changed significantly since high school sweethearts Robert and Dottie began farming with 12 cows in 1948. “My grandparents started out with nothing,” Cricket says. “There were some very tough times. My grandfather lost a leg. There was the flood of 1955. But friends pulled together to help and they made it through. They always believed in dairy and in producing a good product. They taught us about always tying it back to the land, to the environment and the soil we deal with every day.”
The crowd that will gather for Thanksgiving later this month will probably reach 30 guests, says Jenn. The gathering starts with their traditional appetizer of Cabot cheddar, pineapple cubes and crackers. After the turkey and all the fixings, there will be pie, of course: Dottie’s apple pie and her famous Blue Hubbard squash pie, the Jacquier version of pumpkin pie.
Making apple pies together with her husband is a treasured memory for Dottie Jacquier. She always made the crust and he peeled the apples, usually Cortland or Northern Spy. Their 60th wedding anniversary celebration featured 150 pies. Her husband followed a New England tradition, enjoying his pie with a slice of cheddar on top. As the saying goes: “Apple pie without cheese is like a hug without the squeeze.”
And if, for some strange reason, there’s any left over the next day, the family has always subscribed to another regional practice: “Pie for breakfast—that was in our marriage vows,” says Dottie, smiling.
There are as many apple pie recipes as there are farms in the co-op. Here are some classics from our recipe archives as well as one direct from Dottie Jacquier of Laurel Brook Farm.
For the crust:
- 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 4 tablespoons cold vegetable shortening, sliced into pats
- 5 tablespoons cold Cabot unsalted butter, sliced into pats
- 1/3 cup warm water
For the filling:
- ½ cup sugar
- 1 heaping teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- About 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- 6 large Cortland apples, peeled and sliced
To finish pie:
- Milk to brush top crust
- Sugar to dust top crust if desired
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, make crust by whisking together flour and salt. Blend in shortening and butter used a pastry blender or fork until mixture is pea-sized crumbles. Sprinkle water over flour mixture and work in with a fork just until all flour is moistened and a pinch comes together between your fingers. (Do not overwork dough.) Gather the dough into 2 balls of equal size. Roll both crusts out on a floured counter or pastry cloth and place bottom crust into a 9-inch pie pan.
In another large bowl, make filling by whisking together sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg with a good sprinkle of flour (this will depend on how juicy the apples are). Add sliced apples to bowl and toss to coat. Pile apples in pie crust, mounding towards center. Top with second pie crust and seal around edges, crimping decoratively. Brush top crust with milk and sprinkle with sugar, if using. With a sharp knife, cut a few vent holes in the top crust.
Bake pie for 15 minutes at 400 degrees. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake for another 15 minutes. Rotate pie for even browning and use a sharp knife to check apple doneness through a vent. (Also make sure all vents are still open.) Bake another 15 minutes or until apples are done and crust is golden. Cool slightly before serving. Serve with slices of sharp Cabot cheddar in honor of Robert Jacquier.
A surprising ingredient in this winning pie crust delivers a tender and easy-to-work-with crust.
The season for pumpkin pie is also coming right up.
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Melissa Pasanen is an award-winning Vermont-based journalist and cookbook author with a focus on food, farming and sustainability. She was the writer for The Cabot Creamery Cookbook (Oxmoor House, 2015).