February 7, 1867
For many women I know, one of the most iconic figures of our childhood was the feisty little pioneer girl who set out into the great frontier with her family from the big woods of Wisconsin, heading across the frozen Mississippi River in their covered wagon with high hopes and their faithful bulldog, Jack. Laura Ingalls Wilder served as our heroine and our champion, working hard to make ends meet, struggling to hold back when her sharp tongue threatened to get the best of her, and teaching us some of the greatest moral lessons of our lives. Laura taught us to be kind, to be grateful, to be resourceful, and above all, to find the silver linings that surround us each and every day, despite the circumstances.
Born in the small town of Pepin, Wisconsin on February 7, 1867, Laura and her family’s adventures spanned Missouri, Kansas, and Minnesota, finally setting in the Dakota Territory where Laura became a teacher at the age of 15, and met and married the love of her life, Almanzo Wilder.
After many financial, emotional, and physical setbacks in the Dakotas, the young Wilder family relocated to Mansfield, Missouri, naming their newly acquired undeveloped property Rocky Ridge Farm. It was here that Laura would pen her famous Little House on the Prairie series, bringing to life Pa’s fiddle, Ma’s lessons in gracious living, Mary’s scarlet fever, Nellie Oleson’s constant tests of Laura’s patience, and Mr. Edwards braving the elements and high waters to bring gifts from Santa Claus on Christmas Eve.
Laura’s childhood was an example to all of us; her adult life, though not as widely chatted about, could serve the same purpose. Laura was politically active (as well as opinionated and vocal), served as an advocate for many regional farm associations, and was an astute businesswoman, handling the affairs for their poultry, dairy farm, and apple orchard. Laura was considered a regional expert on farm life, publishing articles in the Ruralist with titles like “As a Farm Woman Thinks.” Periodically, she was forced to publish her articles under her husband’s name, as the content included farming advice that would be “better received man to man.”
Laura’s farm kitchen cooking evolved throughout the years, beginning with the handed down verbal recipes Ma shared in the prairie years, working into dinner table specialities from the early editions of The Joy of Cooking.
This apple pie, created by my mother’s best friend (a pioneer girl at heart), would have surely been a favorite of Almanzo’s (he was always on board for a good dessert, especially pie). Laura could have used the Ben Davis and Missouri Pippin apples from her orchard on Rocky Ridge Farm, but I use the Granny Smith brought straight from Michigan farms and delivered to our local produce section at the supermarket.
Apple Pie for the Golden Years
1 – 9″ deep dish pie shell
3/4 cup sugar
2 T flour
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup sour cream
4 cups sliced, peeled apples
In a large bowl, cream together sugar, flour, vanilla, egg, and sour cream. Fold in the apples and pour into the pie shell. Bake for 20 minutes in a 400 degree oven.
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup flour
1/4 cup butter
Mix together; sprinkle over the pie and bake 20-30 minutes longer.