Pie Crust: Grandma’s Family Recipe 62


Yesterday, Ancestors in Aprons posted a pie crust recipe. The perfect pie crust recipe, she calls it. No way, I thought. MY pie crust recipe is the best. When I clicked over, though, I was surprised to see that her recipe—one passed down through the generations—is very similar to my recipe, which came from my grandma.

My grandma made a mean pie crust. Happily, I still have a copy of her recipe. Now you can make it, too! Perfect for your favorite holiday dessert, seasonal apple pie, or even quiche.

Both of the recipes call for an unexpected ingredient: vinegar. I’ve always thought that was the secret to the wonderful flavor of this crust. I’ve modified Grandma’s pie crust recipe a bit—I use butter instead of Crisco—but it’s still our go-to recipe for pie making.

Grandma's pie recipe - I've changed it *slightly. Still the bomb.

Grandma’s Pie Crust

Makes two crusts

  • 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1-1/4 cups butter, chilled
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 teaspoons vinegar (here’s why I use real apple cider vinegar )
  • water

Measure flour and salt into large bowl. Using a pastry blender, cut butter into dry ingredients until you have a fine crumble. Crack egg into measuring cup; add vinegar and then enough water to make 7/8 of a cup, more or less. Use fork to whisk egg mixture together. Pour egg mixture into dry ingredients almost all at once. (I usually hold out about a quarter of a cup.) Mix with the fork, gently gathering the dough from the outside of the bowl. Add the rest of the liquid if necessary. Do not over mix. Alternatively, you can use a stand mixer – just be sure not to over mix.

As soon as the dough comes together, turn it out onto a floured surface. Use your hands to carefully press the dough together—you’re not kneading here, just binding the ingredients together in a solid mass. Divide dough evenly, then roll out on a liberally floured surface. Fold the dough in half for easy lifting, then move into a pie pan. (I just use a simple glass pie pan like this.)

For a single crust pie like pumpkin or lemon merengue, tuck the dough edges under and then crimp all around. For a filled pie, add a generous amount of filling, and top with the second crust. Roll both dough edges under at the rim of the pie pan, and crimp them together. Crimping is an art! Perfect crimping takes years of practice. (My pies are still not as beautiful as my mom’s, but I’ve got her apple pie recipe down pat. You should try it.)

These days, my youngest son is in charge of our holiday pies. Let me tell you, folks. If my teenager can tackle pie crust made from scratch, you can too! No more Mrs. Smith’s frozen pies for you.

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62 thoughts on “Pie Crust: Grandma’s Family Recipe

  • Vera Marie Badertscher

    Isn’t it great that these recipes are so similar? You get 2 crusts out of yours, I get 5 total (2 double, one single, or 5 singles or whatever combo you wish). It looks like you may roll your pastry a little thicker than I do. I have a couple of old community cookbooks with various proportions for this recipe. But I have to admit, that I did NOT inherit this from my forebears. I found it on my own (where? I don’t remember).

    Like you, I generally use butter instead of Crisco, but made my sample with Crisco to be true to at least part of my grandmother’s recipe.

    My mother and grandmother were such good pie bakers that I always felt defeated by the propect of pastry until I found this fool proof recipe.

    I highly recommend the step of putting it in the frig to rest for a while before rolling it out. When you take it out of the refrigerator it will be very stiff, but quickly softens just enough to be very pliable.

    Thanks for taking up the pie challenge!

    • Betty Palmer

      Thank you for the recipe. The vinegar ABSOLUTELY work also when making home make noodles. The best!

    • Lisa

      Can you freeze this pie crust and how would you go about freezing it–as a formed pie crust or just in a ball?

      • Kris Bordessa Post author

        I have frozen it as a ball, but I imagine you could do it as a prepped crust, too. A ball just takes up less space!

        • tallara

          i have frozen the pie crust in a pie dish, I used baking paper underneath the pastry until its frozen, then i fold it over the top, remove from the pie dish and stacked the frozen pie crust with others frozen. that way i can make 5-10 pie crusts and have them in a neat stack (put the stack into a plastic bag or similar).

          When i need a pie crust, i can pick up the top layer/baking paper and put straight into the pie dish, give it a few moments to defrost, pour in the topping and into the oven. not as ‘great’ as freshly made but less time consuming and very quick process from freezer to table

  • Erika in Portland, OR

    I just watched an episode of Good Eats with Alton Brown where he makes the perfect apple pie. He talks about the vinegar aspect and it was something like this: A bit of acid (need not be vinegar, but cider vinegar is traditional for fruit pie pastry) helps relax the gluten formation that would otherwise toughen the pastry. He used applejack in the pastry for his pie instead of cider or vinegar. I have to link you to his recipe – because his pie looked SO delicious.
    http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/good-eats/super-apple-pie-recipe/index.html
    Also, about applejack:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Applejack_%28beverage%29

    • Kris Bordessa Post author

      Interesting! I’d always wondered about the vinegar. It does give the dough a very slight tang, which I like, but interesting to know it serves a higher purpose!

  • Erika in Portland, OR

    Forgot to say that my grandmother’s recipe is also very similar with the vinegar; and I always wondered why until this week (when I watched the aforementioned Good Eats)!

  • Alexandra

    Interesting that you have egg in your grandma’s recipe. I’m really curious to know what the vinegar contributes …

    • Kris Bordessa Post author

      Take note of Erika’s comment, Alexandra! I didn’t know this.

  • Sonia (foodiesleuth)

    I wish I had my grandmother’s pie dough recipe…unfortunately, although my grandmother made lots of confections (peanut butter fudge, divinity, candied grapefruit peels and such) I don’t ever remember her making a pie!

    I will have to try both your version and Vera Marie’s (fridge) and see which I like best…

    Just in time to start practicing for holiday baking…

    Thanks, Kris!

  • April

    Pie crust is one I’m still mastering. I’ll have to try this one. The part I hate is cutting the butter into the flour, so my best tip is use a food processor to do that! So fast and easy.

    • Peg

      There is a reason to cut the fat into the flour…its important not to overmix the crust. The small pebbles of fat melt in the oven creating flakey pockets. Over kneading or processing your crust will cause it to be tough.

  • Vera Marie Badertscher

    April: Glad to hear you have success with a food processor. I always seem to overdo it and get glue instead of pastry, even when I try to be very careful. Sometimes I just have to get my hands into my cooking to make it come out right!

    And thanks for the scientific foundation for why vinegar gives you a terrifically flaky crust. Erika.

    • April

      I only do the butter/flour in the food processor and finish by hand.

  • Lisa

    I can hardly wait to try it. My daughter and I make a lot of pies but all with purchased shells. I’ve been intimidated by pie shells because my great aunt was famous for hers–and all the other relatives left her to it because “pie crusts are so hard to get right.” But it’s worth a shot, right?

    • Kris Bordessa Post author

      Pies have this mystique about them, don’t they?! Sure, rolling your own dough takes a little longer, but I’m not sure where we all got the idea that they’re “hard” to make. (Plus there are always leftover bits to bake with cinnamon and sugar – treats for the chefs.) 😉

  • Jane Boursaw

    Now I’ll have to search through my papers and see if my grandma’s pie crust recipe is similar to yours and Vera’s.

  • Mike S

    How do you measure your flour? Scoop and sweep or spoon into the cup?

  • Carol Le Strange

    Hi there, really have got to try this.
    Only one question, how long in the oven and at what temperature?
    Also, blind or open bake, if making a pie shell only?
    Many thanks for a great site.

    • Kris Bordessa Post author

      About 425 for 20 minutes for blind baking, otherwise just follow the directions for your individual pie. Enjoy!

  • Will

    Do you bake the crust before putting the filling in, say if I was making a pecan pie?

    • Kris Bordessa Post author

      Can you believe I’ve never made a pecan pie? I’d do whatever the pecan pie recipe tells you to do. I’ll put pumpkin into the crust uncooked, but lemon goes into a pre-cooked crust.

      • Will

        I can believe it because I have never made a homemade pie….this will be my first attempt tonight, no pressure there are backup pies at Thanksgiving.

        • Deanna

          When I made pecan pie a week or so ago…you baked the pie crust after filling. It was all in the pie recipe…

  • lisa

    Hello,
    Thanks for the recipe.. I would imagine Lard would have been used before Crisco came into being. I have lots of pie crust recipes.. but will try this on with half butter called for & lard.
    If you want to save a single pie crust, bake it , cool & put in a large paper grocery bag.. mom always folded up the opening & put it on top the frig until she wanted to use it 🙂
    Mom passed May of this year.. so I am doing my best to make “mom’s” pies.

    blessings ,lisa

  • manda

    can you use regular distilled vinegar? I need a good crust asap and don’t have the funds to go to the store………any suggestions?

  • Marianne

    This is my go-to recipe also. It was given to me 30 years ago from an elderly neighbor.

  • Chris

    This is quite similiar to the one I use, too, but mine is 1 lb. of lard instead of butter and 5 1/2 cups of flour. I think I like your recipe better. I’d much rather use butter than lard — we’re trying to get away from the BHT and other chemicals in lard. I’ll try it when my apples are ripe. Thanks for sharing your recipe.

    • Annir

      If you go to a local butcher shop and ask for lard it’s pure and has no chemical or preservative in it. I’ve used that plus butter and it’s great.

  • Lindy@kozynook

    I like to have pastry on hand in case of unexpected company. So, I combine 6 cups of unbleached flour, 1 Tbsp. of Kosher salt and a one lb. can of Crisco. This mixture makes enough for 5 or 6 pies and it will store on the pantry shelf for up to 6 months. When I need a quick crust, I simply add cold water with 1/4 tsp. of apple cider vinegar. Then while I’m making the filling, I place the rolled and formed crust in the freezer. As the saying goes, cold crust plus hot oven equals flaky crust.

  • Analida

    Yes, vinegar is key to keep down the gluten formation. Another option, and one I use at home… vodka! yup I heard about it on a food science show a couple of years ago. The scientists explained in great detail the chemical reaction that takes place during the baking process and why vodka works best, in their opinion.

    • Kris Bordessa Post author

      I’ve heard about using vodka, too!

  • Annette

    I have several pie recipes I use, but in all of them we’ve successfully replaced crisco with palm oil, and sometimes even coconut oil. They’ve all tasted wonderful!

  • Kathy

    Making pies is the only way that I can preserve my very large apple crop – Ive got my husbands father making pies, my kids making pies and Im making pies. http://bit.ly/1Cc276Y

  • TP

    This is the exact same recipe with crisco that my mother taught me years ago. I used to be able to make this without fail. I went a few years without baking. When I picked it up again, and made this crust it would not hold together (tears) after rolling it out. I do not understand what I am doing wrong. I used to just roll it out and wrap it around the rolling pin and put it in the plate. I have attempted it about 4 times. The last time I rolled it between wax paper and it helped, but still came apart when I transferred it. Looked like a two year old made it. I don’t understand what has happened. Have the ingredients that we buy now changed. I have also used the butter flavor Crisco. Would that make a difference. Any advice??

    • Kris Bordessa Post author

      I use butter rather than Crisco, but I can’t imagine the butter flavor would make a difference. Different flour?

    • Annie

      The crisco now has too much oil in it to work on its own. Use half butter half crisco and freeze both , then use processor to mix the dry and the frozen , dump into a bowl and add the wet with the fork method. I’ve also used vodka with success the alcohol cooks off.

  • cindy

    I am guessing that because of the amount of butter in the recipe you don’t have to grease the pie plate? I am new to pie making.

    • Kris Bordessa Post author

      Correct! No need to grease pan. Good luck!

  • coral

    This is a wonderful recipe. My hubby gave it a 9 out of 10. It is super easy to make and makes a great crust for pastires

  • Angi @ SchneiderPeeps

    Can I just say I love reading “oleo” on old recipes? I have no idea what it is, but it’s in most of my granny’s recipes and makes me think of her. Thanks for sharing!

      • Kris Bordessa Post author

        Yes, I believe it was a brand name?

        • pamela sams

          probably blue bonnet or mrs. filberts margarine is what were favorite in grannys time

  • Cindy @ Healing Acres Farm

    Thank you so much for sharing! I had a similar recipe years ago and have lost it. I’m looking forward to making some pie tonight. Merry Christmas to you and yours!

  • Sally

    Kris…..oleo was not a brand name. It was short for oleomargerine which margerine was originally called when it was white and we used to put a capsule of orange something in it to make it the color of butter..

  • helen cousins

    My pie crust is the recipe on the back of Tenderflake lard. I omit the salt and add 1/4 cup of sugar.

  • Ashley

    Hi! I have salted butter. Should I still add additional salt? Or is that only if using unsalted butter?

    Thanks!!

    • Kris Bordessa Post author

      Eek. Sorry; I missed this comment until now. I use salted butter and the salt, but you can certainly skip it.

  • karmini parsan

    Lemon juice can be substituted for vinegar

  • Jean | DelightfulRepast.com

    I often put apple cider vinegar in my pie crust. Grandma was right about that! But, like you, I use butter instead of shortening. I remember the delicious pies my mother-in-law made with her beloved Crisco, but I just can’t bring myself to eat anything with shortening in it now. I love that you have the handwritten recipe.

  • jan pelmulder

    I’ve been baking pies for 70 years and never used an egg. When I was a kid we had and used lard for the fat, now crisco or butter. I I bake the crust before I put in the fillings. Especially if you brush the unbaked crust with some beaten egg white before baking, it will stay crisp. With cream fillings I brush the baked crust with melted chocolate, this keeps the crust from sogging Needless to say, my family likes crisp bottom crusts.

  • Saundra J

    This recipe is very similar to the one my Mother gave me many years ago. She always made the flakiest crusts of anyone I have ever know. She used a metal bowl that was put in the freezer along with the knives she use to cut the butter into the flour. And, she used ice water in the recipe and ice water in the glass rolling pin that was for pie crusts. She always told me that you needed to handle the crust as little as possible, so the butter would stay cold until it went into the oven.

  • Laurie Reese

    The crust was very light and Flaky but bland no flavor what did I do wrong I followed the recipe to the letter but obviously I did something wrong

    • Kris Bordessa Post author

      I find that the vinegar gives it just a bit of tang – did you use that? (Pie crust isn’t terribly flavorful, though.)

  • Sharon Peelow

    My mother’s and grandmothers secret was vinegar too. Their recipe is similar to yours. So glad to see it is being used. Thx

  • Maureen gray

    Who would have thought of vinegar, cant wait to try it. I am a 8oyr old grandma. Thankyou