Thanksgiving Memories | Paper Bag Apple Pie Fire

November 23, 2017

Thanksgiving Recipes And Memories

My mom was an outstanding cook. Every single night, when my dad got home from work, we would all sit down at the kitchen table and eat dinner....and I'm talking full on meals. In addition to the main course there was always fresh bread and salad, served on separate plates and at different times. We didn't have a formal upbringing and my mom was not raised as a cook, but back then, it's just how it was done.

She was a homemaker and meal prep was an important part of her job. It was serious business.

Her recipes were gathered from magazines, cookbooks or handed down to her from one of my grandmothers.

She kept them all in an old, food stained marble notebook and there were notes and revisions scribbled in the margins. What worked, what didn't.

She would try to explain her methods to me, but by the time I was a teenager, my interest in all things cooking was nonexistent. I just wanted to eat.

And so I did. Especially during holiday prep. I would sit on the kitchen counter, munching on whatever she was chopping up. Celery for the stuffing, apples for the pies and raw chop meat, as she made meatballs. The chocolate covered cake batter spoons were the best.

E Coli and salmonella concerns weren't a thing back then.

I would listen intently as mom would narrate. You have to make sure you keep stirring it or it will burn. Use even strokes when you baste and make sure you cover the whole crust. Cut the potatoes into very small pieces, they'll cook faster that way. Made sense.

Bake your apple pies in a paper bag.

That one always seemed a little counterintuitive to me...putting a piece of paper into a hot, flame ridden oven...but she'd been making them that way forever. It was normal in our house. She'd take a few extra bags at the grocery store, the week before Thanksgiving, and save them for just this purpose.

And her pies were always amazing, so what did I know.

Well, apparently, I was not the only one who thought that this method was a little suspect. On Thanksgiving Eve, the first year I was dating my husband, he wandered into the kitchen just in time to see a pie go into the paper bag.

It didn't make sense to him either.

Wait, she's going to put the pies in the bags and put paper into the oven? With the flames from the gas stove burning? 

Yup. Does it every year. 

He was adamant. That's wrong. They're going to burn. His mechanical brain could not accept this. What recipe would tell you to set the house on fire?

It works. She's been doing it forever.

My mom tried to explain the reasons behind it, moister apples, crumblier crust, but he wasn't buying it. His grandmother made great pies without turning them into a fire hazard, but we managed to convince him it was all fine and went back to the couch and whatever was on tv.

A little while later, he turned to me and asked me if I smelled something burning.

No. You're being paranoid. Which was not his usual state. My husband is generally unflappable, but that night he was clearly agitated.

No, I smell smoke. At the same time, my mom yelled from the kitchen that the paper bags were indeed on fire.

First time ever.

My husband jumped up. The rest of the evening is kind of blur. We spent last night trying to recall what we did, but neither of us could remember exactly. I'm pretty sure he grabbed the bags and tossed them into the sink while my mom hosed them down.

Her beautiful pies, toasted, waterlogged and ruined.

Baking your apple pies in a paper bag may result in a tastier pie, but it also may result in a fire. Here's our story.

I remember the three of us sitting at the kitchen table trying to figure out what went wrong.

Besides the obvious, of course.

I think that year, because of my husband's presence and my sisters' growing families, my decided to make two apple pies and shove them both in the oven at the same time. One of them must of touched something hot and poof. Fire.

Neither of us dared to say, I told you so.

My mom spent the rest of the night trying to get the burnt paper smell out of the house, while making two more apple pies which she baked without the paper bags.

They were good, but mom was right, the bagged pies were better.

So come Christmas, and for the next few years, they were back in the bag.

One at time.

Baked only when my husband and I were present.

And with a fire extinguisher at the ready.

I don't think those notes are in the margin.

But they should be.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Have you ever heard of the paper bag trick?


Mom's recipes that are not a fire hazard!




46 comments:

  1. What a great story! Nope, I've never heard of baking a pie in a paper bag and I'd be like your husband, not believing it is the right thing to do! My mom was a terrific cook and baker too. I have her tattered and worn notebook of favorite recipes and it's out on my counter today, as I follow her "famous" stuffing recipe. Blessings to you this holiday season and hats off to our moms!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree, Kathy, what a great day to honor our moms and their fabulous recipes. I do treasure her recipes and am so glad I still have them. I bet your stuffing was delicious! So glad you liked my story and thanks for weighing in with your own! Happy Thanksgiving!!

      Delete
  2. Oh no Kim!!!! I have had apple pies made in paper bags and they are delish. I have never tried to cook on that way so I have no words of wisdom on that. Maybe like you said the trick is only baking one at a time. Have a wonderful day.
    Happy Thanksgiving.
    xoxo
    Kris

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I thought it was just my mom who did this. I’ve never attempted it either and after that experience, I don’t think I ever will!! xoxo

      Delete
  3. My mom would cook our turkey in a paper bag! The entire roasting pan with turkey and stuffing would go into a large grocery bag. The skin would always be perfection. Brown and crispy and the meat juicy and flavorful. The trick was to never let the bag touch the heating element. We had an electric oven but not sure that matters.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That is so funny! I have never heard of anyone else's mom who baked in a paper bag! But yes, the pies sound like your mom's turkey...delicious! I agree, that heating element was the issue. We had a gas stove, but I think that one time one of those bags danced a little too close to the flame. Yikes! Thanks for sharing your story!!

      Delete
  4. What a wonderful story and memory! Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Betty. I'm glad you enjoyed my tale. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family, too!! 😊

      Delete
  5. Oh I loved this story! My mother cooked her turkey in a grocery brown paper bag too. One Thanksgiving the turkey bag caught on fire, probably because of the oil splattering on the bag. That was the last year she used the paper bag trick. I was too young to help put it out.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Haha!! I am glad to hear that my mom wasn't the only...um...creative and adventurous holiday chef. I'm also glad to hear that our little cooking fires were extinguished before real damage occurred! Happy Thanksgiving!

      Delete
  6. I have never heard of such a crazy thing! I yell at my husband when he puts his buttered bagel in the oven on a paper plate to melt it. Not sure I will try this one!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Totally crazy, AnnMarie!! That was always my reaction, too, but it’s how I grew up so it was just one of those accepted things. I have never done it myself and will never try it. But it’s a funny holiday memory for sure! Hope it is/was a great Thanksgiving Day!

      Delete
  7. I have never heard of this before! So you really must share the recipe. Does it matter what apple pie recipe you use? You just bake it in a paper bag?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have to dig it out, Jenny! That is one recipe I have never ventured to try. The memories of her pies are so amazing, I haven't wanted to wreck it with my (lack of cooking prowess!)...haha. And yes, you just put the raw pie in the bag, close it up and bake it like you normally would. Just watch that flame and the heating element!

      Delete
  8. Great story!! A neighbor once told me she cooks her turkey in a paper bag all the time. I thought she was joking . . . why would anyone do that? And then I remembered seeing my aunt do something with a loaf of bread and a paper bag in the oven. I think she was either warming or thawing a loaf of homemade bread. I can't really remember now. But I do remember she splashed the bag with water first. I bet your mom's apple pie was perfection. The one's that didn't catch fire I mean. :o)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh the water! I just remembered, I think she did that, too...well, after the fire incident. And yes, they were so good. Almost worth the chance of a little flame. Almost. 😉But not a risk I've ever been brave enough to take!

      Delete
  9. What a coincidence about cooking things on paper bags. My mom in law last night was talking to me and said that she was going to cook the turkey in a paper bag. I had never heard of that before. Well in the end she decided to cook with a tent of aluminum foil. So good to see the recipes you have in the original hand writing. Happy Thanksgiving!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's so funny, Angela, I never knew anyone who had heard about this, but last night I Googled it and apparently it's a bonafide thing. I can't believe it came up in your family last night! Hope it was a great day!

      Delete
  10. No, I've never heard of this. I no longer have a stove, and that really makes me feel safer. I no longer have to worry when I'm out running errands if I turned the stove off. My smart oven turns itself off when something is done. I love your mom stories!
    Brenda

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's a great feature, Brenda. I worry about the stove, too. I need one of those doormats that says, "Did you turn off the stove?" 😉

      Delete
  11. a wonderful story!
    happy turkey and burned pie day darling bean! XO♥

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much, Tammy! I hope your day was wonderful, too. xoxo

      Delete
  12. What a great Thanksgiving memory Kim! I have never heard of the paper bag trick, but I imagine it must be a great trick as long as it doesn't catch on fire, lol! Such wonderful memories with your mother and your childhood! I hope today was a special day for you, with many more wonderful memories made :) Happy Thanksgiving!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Marilyn, it was a lovely day....and yes, I'm with you, fire is not good when baking pies!!

      Delete
  13. Never have heard of the Apple Pie Paper Bag in the Oven Trick.
    But I sure loved the story . . .
    Bet mom loved it too . . .

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. She did, Lynne... I read it to her at the nursing home. Thank you for thinking of her. ♡

      Delete
  14. I've never heard of that way of cooking pies or turkey! Funny story since it ended well! I think I'll stick to the regular way of baking a pie!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank goodness it ended well, but I'm with you Deanna!! No bags for me.

      Delete
  15. My mom never made pies, but one time my uncle was visiting and made some kind of flambe thingy. My dad was petrified and stood by with extinguisher in hand... Great memories!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, we should've had a fire extinguisher for sure!! Sounds like your flambe thingy came out better than our charred pies!

      Delete
  16. Kim, that must have been a sight to see. Your poor mom, she must have felt like she led you astray! I have never heard of doing that, but your mom sounds like my mom, so it must be really good!..Hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving..xxoJudy

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. She was so embarrassed, Judy. She had done it for years and was so confident when she told him it would be fine. But yes, she was an amazing cook, so in the end it was all good!!

      Delete
  17. Hi Kim,
    I always love when you share family stories. :-) No one has tried paper bag baking with anything in my family. I have heard of folks baking turkeys in bags as well.
    Carla

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't recommend it, Carla!! Ha!!

      Delete
  18. Kim this is the first time I've heard of this. I think it was your husband's paranoia that made the poor paper bags catch on fire. ;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And I think my mother would agree with you, Mary!! ☺️

      Delete
  19. Never heard of doing it this way Kim, but I still believe your mom knew what she was doing! I would love to try one of those pies myself!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. She was an amazing baker, Florence...aside from the fire, of course. 😉

      Delete
  20. I've never heard of the paper bag trick, but I did just see someone cooling their apple pie on a paper bag. I wonder if they baked it in the bag too? Interesting. I love old family recipes. I keep saying I'm going to frame some, but still haven't.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I thought you were going to say you saw someone cooling a pie in the window. I wonder if people still do that? It seems quite charming doesn't it?

      Delete
  21. What a great writer you are! I've never heard of the paper bag method...wonder if I should give it a go? I remember how Mom would set the table (and later we would) perfectly at dinner time...so pretty...Thank you for sharing!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much. Writing truly is my favorite craft, so you just made my day!

      Delete
  22. I love the story, Kim, and it is clear to me that your husband jinxed the pies :-) I love hand-me-down recipes, especially those that come with a story. My grandmother was an amazing cook but she never used a cookbook and could never give a proper recipe (not that I was really interested back then). After she died I found a little black notebook filled with what looks like recipes but to this day we've not found anyone who could read that tiny tine handwriting, not even sure about the language as she spoke several.
    Amalia
    xo

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. He totally jinxed them, Amalia…and I’m sure my mom would agree with you! It had never failed before. 😉 And I love your mystery recipe book. You must let us know if you are ever able to decipher the script. Interesting...

      Delete
  23. What a great story. I have never heard of putting a paper bag in the oven but I might have to give it a try...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have never been brave enough to try it in my own home, especially after that harrowing incident, but a lot of people apparently swear by it.

      Delete

Hey~ before you go, let me know what you think! I love comments and respond to them all. Thanks so much for visiting! *Please note that if your comment contains a hyperlink it will not be published.