ALMOST by definition, an American is someone who either searches for the perfect apple pie or claims to have found it. I found this perfect apple pie at my future mother-in-law's home. Only after I asked for a third helping did she approve of my marriage to her daughter, my fiancee.CRUST: 2 cups pre-sifted all-purpose flour 1 teaspoon salt 2/3 cup lard, cut up small 8-10 tablespoons ice water FILLING AND ASSEMBLY:
6 or 7 large Rome or Macoun apples, cored, peeled, and cut in 1/2 to 3/4-inch slices 1 1/4 cups sugar 1 teaspoon cinnamon 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg Pinch of salt 2 scant tablespoons butter 1 tablespoon lemon juice
To make crust: Mix flour and salt, then mix in lard with pastry blender or two knives until mixture is the consistency of corn meal. Add water by the spoonful, mixing well. Do not use hands or crust will toughen while mixing. When mixed, shape dough into a ball. Wrap and store in refrigerator while preparing the filling. This is enough for a two-crust, 9-inch pie. Mix sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt. Add mixture to sliced apples and toss lightly. Separate dough into two halves, keeping one in refrigerator. On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough into about a 12-inch round. Center in bottom of a 9-inch pie pan. Layer in half of apple mixture. Cut 1 tablespoon butter in little chunks and scatter on top. Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice. Layer in rest of apples, finish with remainder of butter and lemon juice. Roll out top crust and put on top; seam together top and bottom with fork or fingers to keep juice in. Brush milk over top and ma ke slits with a knife point so steam can escape. Bake in pre-heated 400-degree F. oven 5 minutes, then lower heat to 350 degrees F. and bake 45-60 minutes or until done. Test by poking knife through top slits: Apples should be tender, not mushy. Cool and serve with vanilla ice cream or cheddar cheese slices alongside. Yields 8 to 10 good-sized pieces, serving 3 people who eat like Mr. Montgomery.