When Maria Ann Smith and her husband Thomas emigrated from England to Australia in 1839, she may not have realised that the simple act of buying a small orchard and cultivating the fruit would turn into a lasting legacy.
Maria and Thomas had a large family and she was a prominent figure in the Eastwood district, an outlying suburb of Sydney. As she aged, she became known as Granny Smith. While preparing food, Granny Smith often used French crab apples grown in Tasmania, in her cooking. When she had finished, she would through the cores and seeds of the apples out of her kitchen window.
Granny Smith. Courtesy Wikipedia.
When she saw seedlings starting to appear, Granny Smith allowed the tree to grow. The fruit that was born from it, she described as having 'all the appearances of a cooking apple'. This tree became the parent of a variety of apple claimed to be the finest that could be grown. A crisp, slight tart flavour, holding exceptional storage qualities, allowed her to sell them at the local market.
It was only a couple of years later, after discovering the delicious green apple, that Granny Smith died in 1870, but her work in cultivating this unusual fruit did not go forgotten.
Local planter, Edward Gallard attempted to market the fruit locally, but it was not well received until 1890, exhibited as 'Smith's seedling' at an Agricultural and Horticultural Show. It won the prize for cooking apples. In the following years, the Australian government promoted the apple and it was adopted in many areas, including overseas. What helped its international fame was the fact it could be picked from March and stored until November.
Final burial place for Thomas and Maria (aka Granny) Smith, at St Anne's, Ryde. Courtesy Robyn Smith
After World War One, Granny Smith apples were exported in huge quantities and by 1975, 40 per cent of Australia's apple crop was Granny Smiths.
A Granny Smith festival is held annually in the Eastwood district to celebrate the advent of the popular apple. Both Thomas and Maria are buried in St Anne's church yard at Ryde.
Granny Smith apple pie
For the Pie Crust:
2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour, more as needed
1 teaspoon fine salt
1 cup shortening
6 to 10 tablespoons cold water
For the Apple Pie Filling:
6 cups peeled, cored, and sliced Granny Smith, or other tart apples
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 ounce (1 tablespoon) cold unsalted butter
For the Top Crust:
1 to 2 tablespoons milk, for brushing on the pie
Coarse sugar, optional
Vanilla ice cream, for serving, optional
Courtesy: Cara Cormack, The Spruce
Make the Crust
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour and salt. Place this bowl in the refrigerator, along with the measured shortening and 10 tablespoons of water. Chill all of these ingredients for at least 1 hour before proceeding.
Remove the flour mixture and shortening from the refrigerator. Cut the shortening into the flour either using a pastry blender, 2 knives in a scissor fashion, or a food processor. The shortening should be the size of peas
Remove the water from the refrigerator and add 6 tablespoons to the flour-shortening mixture. Process or mix until the mixture forms a ball. If necessary, add more water 1 tablespoon at a time until the dough holds together. If the dough becomes too wet, add a little flour a bit at a time until a smooth dough results.
Divide the pie pastry in half, making 2 discs. Wrap each in plastic and refrigerate.
Flour your work surface and the rolling pin. Have a small bowl of flour on the counter in case more is needed. Just remember, too much flour will make a tough pie crust pastry. Overworking the dough also will make it tough.
Remove 1 disc of pastry from the fridge and place a 9-inch pie plate on the counter. Rolling from the center of the pastry out toward the edges, make a circle 2 inches wider than the pie plate when inverted.
Roll the dough onto the rolling pin. Unfurl it over the pie plate and pat it into the pan. Trim the edge so it is even with the pie plate rim.
Make the Filling
Gather the ingredients. Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat to 425 F.
Place the apple slices in a large bowl. Add the lemon juice and toss to coat. In a medium bowl, combine the brown sugar, flour, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Add to the apples and toss to coat.
Pour the apple mixture into the pie shell. Cut the butter into small squares and scatter them over the apples.
Assemble and Bake the Pie
Remove the second disc of dough from the refrigerator and roll it in the same way as the first. Lay it over the apples; the top should have a 3/4-inch overhang. Seal the top crust to the bottom crust by folding the overhanging dough under the edge of the bottom crust. Flute the edges as desired. Cut slits into the top to vent the steam.
Use a pastry brush to paint the top crust with the milk. Sprinkle the sugar over the top, if using. Bake the pie for 15 minutes.
Remove from the oven and cover the outside edge of the crust with foil to prevent it from burning.
Return to the oven and finish baking the pie for another 25 to 30 minutes or until the crust is golden brown and the juices are bubbling. Test the tenderness of the apples by inserting a slender, sharp knife through the steam hole. If the pie is browning too quickly, loosely cover the top with aluminum foil and bake until done.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool for at least 20 minutes on a wire rack to serve the pie warm. For the best looking slices, let the pie cool completely on a wire rack before cutting.
Top with a scoop of ice cream, if desired, and enjoy.
'Granny Smith history', Rolleston on Dove Parish Council, accessed 11th May, 2023, https://rollestonondovepc.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/4.-Granny-Smith-History.jan18.pdf
'Granny Smith', Wikipedia, accessed 12th May, 2023, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Granny_Smith
'Granny Smith', The Mercury, Saturday, 31 December, 1932, Page 8
Pellegrinelli, Carroll, 'Granny Smith Apple Pie', The Spruce Eats, accessed 12th May, 2023, https://www.thespruceeats.com/granny-smith-apple-pie-recipe-304281