I had saved this recipe from a Good Housekeeping magazine and told Mom I wanted to try it while Aunt Laurie was visiting that fall. I'd been baking alone since I was ten--and I was nineteen at the time--but this pie foiled me. And I didn't make the beautiful leaf-crust pictured below. (How gorgeous is this!)
For me, it was the pie filling that went awry. The pie filling! In the words of Paul Simon, "there were incidents and accidents." And for someone who hadn't yet made many pies, I learned the hard way how not to make this particular one. The recipe now strikes me as straightforward, and surely, if I had actually followed it, the pie would have turned out. It called for the juice of "1 large lemon," but I (apparently hadn't bought or asked for the groceries I needed to make this pie?! Ah, nineteen-year-old Val!) didn't have any lemons so decided I would instead throw in some lemon extract from the back of Mom's baking cupboard. When I use the word "throw" to describe how I "measured" the lemon extract. . .yessssssss. Not knowing anything about the extract-to-real-thing ratio/conversion, I must have used the whole bottle. And I have still never in my life seen Mom use lemon extract for anything, so who knows where the extract had even come from, let alone how very old it was. Only two teaspoons of vanilla extract are mentioned in the recipe, and that I had on-hand, but I am now-infamous for assuming that if a little vanilla-flavor is good, a lot must be great! (That logic became part of my defense soon enough.) Who knows how much of that went into this pie, as well, then. Raisins, I see are in the recipe too, but I highly doubt I used any, since I've never liked them. The pie that went into the oven that afternoon was mostly apples, cranberries, and a huge amount of alcohol-filled extracts. Alcohol bakes-off, it is said, but when probably a bottle and a half of two different flavors are in one pie and that pie is likely already missing one of its called-for fruits, the baker must be prepared for whatever reaction comes.
And just last month when I unwrapped my Christmas presents from Aunt Laurie, I oohed and ahhed over a tiny green bag inside which my name was peeking out on a slip of paper. I tugged out a box of bottled vanilla, momentarily--and naively--thinking she had simply sent me vanilla as a baking supply, since she tends to give me muffin papers, pot holders, and other baking-related gifts at Christmas, but then I read the note that accompanied it. And notice the three-eyed snowman underneath! Comediennes, these two. :)
I've baked enough now to have a better idea of what I can and can't substitute and how much of what I can add or take away from a pie, and last night's was just fine, thank you, and I even added snowflake-shaped pie crust pieces to the edge and to the streusel topping, so there. ;) There is no point telling my mom or aunt, though. The Three-Eye Pie story has become one of their favorite family classics, and they're still just having waaaaay too much with it.