Apple and Pear Pie with Hot Pepper Jelly

I had a bubbly email this week from a Pie Academy member about a recipe of mine that I hadn’t thought of in eons.

This happens periodically. Someone will reach out and mention a recipe, an article, or something else I wrote about years ago, and jog my memory. I always welcome these reminders, unless it’s to point out that I’ve contradicted myself with something I’ve written more recently, leaving me no choice but to reach into my bag of lame excuses and send one along.

Recipe courtesy of Ken Haedrich, dean of The Pie Academy

My correspondent this week was Debbie, I assume from Minnesota because she had just entered one of my pie recipes in the Minnesota State Fair. The category she chose was “creative” apple pies, “creative” being the only guideline the fair officials had offered. (Note to fair officials: I get not wanting to quash the creative impulse by keeping the guidelines all loosey-goosey, but this is how you end up with entries like Raspberry Pesto Pie with Bacon Strip Lattice. Cooked in an Instant Pot. Remember – you have to taste these things.)

Debbie told me that she owns my apple pie cookbook, and when she decided to enter the creative category she promptly dove in and came upon my recipe for Apple and Jalapeño Tailgate Pie – tailgate from our Annapolis days, when my wife and I were Navy football season ticket holders. Debbie thought it qualified as creative, but worried that it might be too gimmicky – I did, too, when I first made the recipe more than a decade ago – until she tried it and was immediately smitten. 

So were the judges. She said she received a fourth place ribbon for the pie, though I’m pretty convinced that was a typo and she meant to say “first” place. Everyone knows how unreliable that silly autocorrect thingy can be.

Pie courtesy of Ken Haedrich, dean of The Pie Academy

I made the pie again this week and I’m more convinced than ever that this is a keeper of a recipe, one worthy of a top seed in your fall pie lineup. About the only change I’ve made to the original is replacing some of the apples with pear slices. I think it makes for a juicier pie with a fuller, more complex flavor. I also had two slightly overripe pears on hand that I had to use up. 

One of the things I think you’ll love most about the pie is the cornmeal streusel topping. The cornmeal gives it a delightful, buttery crunch that’s the perfect foil for the soft filling. Without a doubt, a first-place pie.

Incidentally, there are no fresh jalapeños in the pie, just a tablespoon or two of minced, pickled jalapeño slices. Their acidity works well in the pie. (Go ahead and use fresh if you like.) That, and a good helping of hot pepper jelly. The sweetness in the jelly makes up for the small amount of sugar in the recipe.

I’ll be really surprised if this pie doesn’t grab your fancy. It’s easy to fall into an apple pie rut pretty quickly when the season arrives, and this pie will remedy that real quick. It’s juicy, exotic, and spicy, and leaves your taste buds with a warm afterglow. Like I say, not a one-off wonder, but a recipe you’ll want to come back to time and again. Enjoy.

Pastry Note: If you don’t already have a favorite pie pastry recipe, I recommend the Good Basic Pie Dough, Three-Grain Butter Crust or the Cornmeal Pie Dough

The No-More-Tears Pie Pastry Course

Apple and Pear Pie with Hot Pepper Jelly

Yield 8 - 10 servings

Sounds quirky, but this is one delicious fall pie. The secret? We use hot pepper jelly in place of sugar, giving the pie a spicy, exotic flavor and warmth. You'll love the cornmeal streusel topping, too.

Ingredients

  • Pie pastry for one 9- to 9 1/2-inch deep-dish pie
  • 5 cups peeled, cored and thinly sliced apples
  • 2 cups peeled and cored sliced ripe pears
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup hot pepper jelly (see note below)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons finely minced pickled jalapeño peppers (optional)
  • Cornmeal Streusel
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup fine yellow cornmeal
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces

Instructions

  1. If you haven’t already, prepare the pie dough and refrigerate it for about 1 hour before rolling.
  2. On a sheet of lightly floured wax paper, roll the dough into a 12 1/2 - 13-inch circle. Invert the pastry over a 9 1/2-inch deep-dish pie pan, center it, then peel off the paper. Gently tuck the pastry into the pan without stretching it. Sculpt the overhanging dough into an upstanding ridge and flute, if desired.  Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or place in the freezer for 15 minutes. Arrange one of your oven racks in the lowest position and another one in the middle. Preheat the oven to 375°.
  3. Prepare the filling: combine the apples and pears in a large bowl. Mix the sugar, cornstarch, and cinnamon in a small bowl; stir into the fruit. Put the hot pepper jelly in a glass measuring cup. Warm it in the microwave for 20 to 30 seconds to loosen it up, then stir it into the fruit with the lemon juice and minced peppers, if using. 
  4. Turn the filling into the pie shell and smooth with your hands to even it out. Place on a dark baking sheet - preferably one lined with parchment - and bake on the lowest oven rack for 30 minutes. 
  5. As soon as the pie goes in the oven, make the cornmeal streusel. Combine the flour, cornmeal, sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt in a food processor. Pulse several times, to combine. Add the butter and pulse repeatedly, just until the mixture resembles damp sand that's beginning to clump. Transfer to a bowl, rub gently to even it out, then refrigerate.
  6. When the pie has baked 30 minutes, remove it from the oven and spread the streusel evenly over the top. Place the pie on the center oven rack and bake until you can see thick juice bubbling up through the topping around the edge, another 25 to 35 minutes. Another indication that the pie is done is that the entire top surface will heave up slightly - just lift right up - which is a good indication that the juices have thickened. Transfer the pie to a rack and cool for at least an hour before slicing. 

Note: The brand of hot pepper jelly I like comes from Sweet Heat Jam Company. Not only do they sell a superior product, but they've got a great story and they're doing wonderful work. Check them out at SweetHeatJam.com.