Apple Pies, Apple Cider: Could a Return to Apple Farming Help Revive Appalachia's Economy?


Here in Appalachia, it’s apple season. And that means apple growers are sending this year’s crop to farmers markets and grocery stores. But the majority of the apples grown here get sent to manufacturers to be used in apple sauce and apple juice. By the way, did you know that Golden Delicious Apples originated right here in West Virginia?  In fact, apples are our state fruit. 


Cider being brewed in bourbon barrels at Hawk Knob cidery

Apples have been a major agricultural industry for the Mountain State. But according to the Department of Agriculture,  the apple industry has decreased in West Virginia since 2010. In particular the Eastern Panhandle, the land that was used to grow apples is experiencing a real estate boom. So in the last few years more and more farmers have been selling their land and getting out of the farming industry. In honor of apple season, we’re going to listen back to an episode that originally aired last September, celebrating Apple-Atcha.  In this episode we talk with Josh Bennett and Will Lewis, founders of Hawk Knob Cider, in Lewisburg West Virginia, about reviving this time-honored drink. 

Lydia Wilson from the show With Good Reason also talked to Albemarle Ciderworks in North Garden, Virginia about the boom in the cider industry. 

Oh, and there’s a new apple cider business in West Virginia, called Swilled Dog Hard Cider, based in Pendleton County. 


Credit courtesy Emily Hilliard
Fig and plum tart

Apples are for more than just cider, and some say that there is nothing more American than apple pie. So we talked to Emily Hilliard, the state folklorist of West Virginia and author of the pie blog Nothing in the House, about what goes into making a traditional apple pie, as well as a fig and goat cheese tart. Emily’s pie crust was also featured in a new cookbook called Victuals: An Appalachian Journey with Recipes

Nothing in the House Pie Crust

This is the standard crust recipe Emily Hilliard uses for most pies that call for a pastry crust. It makes enough for 1 double-crust pie. If you only need a single crust, halve the recipe, or make a full recipe and save half of the dough for a future pie by wrapping it tightly in plastic wrap and storing it the freezer or fridge.

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (or 1 c. all-purpose + 1 c. whole-wheat pastry flour*)
1/2 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 1/2 sticks COLD unsalted butter (12 tablespoons), cut into slices
1/2 beaten large egg, cold (save the other half to brush on top of the crust)
1/4 cup ice-cold water
1/2 tablespoon cold apple cider vinegar (I keep mine in the fridge)

1. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt. Using a pastry cutter or fork and knife, cut in the butter. You want to make sure butter chunks remain, as that’s what makes the crust flaky.

2. In a separate small bowl, whisk together the COLD liquid ingredients (Using cold liquids ensures that your butter will not melt–another crucial detail for a flaky crust!).

3. Pour the liquid mixture into the flour-butter mixture and combine using a wooden spoon. Mix until dough comes together, but is not overly mixed (it should be a little shaggy). Form into a ball, wrap tightly with plastic wrap, and let chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour before rolling out.

*If you use whole wheat pastry flour, you may need to add additional liquid.

Music in this episode was provided by the Hillbilly Gypsies, The Western Ave String Band, Anna and Elizabeth, Dog and Gun​, Ben Townsend, and Andy Agnew Jr.