Grandma Mary Jo’s Apple Pie

By / Photography By Kirsten Jones Neff & Teya Neff | September 01, 2013


To Prepare Crust

In a large bowl, sift together the flour and salt. Cut the chilled butter and shortening into 1⁄2-inch bits and add to the flour. With a pastry cutter (or two butter knives), work flour, butter and shortening together, adding the ice water little by little, until mixture resembles coarse meal. It is important to not over-mix the pastry. Once it resembles coarse meal, press the pastry together to form a ball. Wrap and chill for at least 1 hour.

Lightly flour a pastry board or kitchen counter. Divide the pastry ball in half and place both halves on the floured surface. Push each piece into a flat round. Using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll out the first piece, turning pastry periodically to prevent it from sticking to surface, until 1⁄8 inch thick. Cut the crust slightly larger than the pie dish you are using and fit into the pie dish, allowing the extra to hang over rim.

To Prepare Filling and Top with Crust

Preheat oven to 450°. Combine all ingredients together in a large bowl and mix well. Pour into the bottom crust that has been placed into the pie dish. Roll out other pastry piece in the same manner as the first and, once it is 1⁄8 inch thick, cut it to a size that will fit over the top of the pie. Trim and use a fork or your fingers to crimp the edges together. Cut two or three slits in the top crust to let out the steam that will occur during baking. Place in the preheated oven and bake for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350° and bake for an additional 30–35 minutes, until the crust is lightly golden.

About this recipe

Sweetness at the Heart of Loss Baking in Honor of My Grandmother

This year my beloved grandmother, Mary Josephine Sjostrom, passed away at the age of 96. She was a gracious, elegant woman who looked like she might have had an easy life, but hadn’t.

She grew up in the “Wild West” (aka New Mexico) in the early 1900s because she and her Southern doctor father had contracted tuberculosis and the family moved to the dry climate to help alleviate the symptoms of the disease. She made it to Stanford University, but got pregnant, married young, then raised four children alone as my grandfather was addicted to work, the racetrack and alcohol.

When we cousins compare notes about Grandmother, we share a memory of someone who, despite troubles, was quietly and gently there for us through skinned knees and teenage angst, always assuring us that things would be OK.

Grandmother was the one who prepared an apple pie for absolutely every family gathering. Her pies were simple, made with Granny Smith apples and a combination shortening and butter crust. They were both tart and deliciously sweet, like her life... like all of our lives.

Soon after she passed away, my daughter and I decided to pay tribute to Grandmother Mary Jo with a mother-daughter pie-baking day and invited some friends to join us. From the traditional to the experimental, from Pippins to Arkansas Blacks, from galettes to glazes, we baked together, in honor of the sweetness at the heart of our loss.


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup (11⁄2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons chilled vegetable shortening
  • 1 cup ice water
  • 6 apples, peeled and sliced (use any apple variety that you prefer, but tart apples work best)
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour (plus additional to flour the surface where the pastry is rolled)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
Build your own subscription bundle.
Pick 3 regions for $60