Of Groaning Sideboards and Apple Pan Dowdy

One November, when my husband and I were still fresh-faced newlyweds, we traveled from Oregon to Missouri to spend Thanksgiving with my sister and her family. At the time, they lived next door to her in-laws (Southern transplants!) and I was so excited to introduce them to my new husband.

 My sister’s mother-in-law, Arlene, is every bit the true Southern belle. And as we gathered together at their home to celebrate this day of thanks we knew we were in for a culinary treat. But, nothing could have prepared us for the moment when we turned the corner into their dining room and feasted our eyes on the sideboard.

Every kind of dessert and you could ever dream of or imagine graced the top of it and it was in that very moment that I understood and appreciated the phrase “groaning sideboard”.

green apples in bowl from atthepicketfence.com

 My wonderful born and bred in the Pacific NW husband had a look on his face that gave me a glimpse of what he must have looked like as a child coming down the stairs on Christmas morning. His eyes were practically bulging out of his head and I know he saw the turkey and trimmings as merely things to be “gotten through” so that he could then turn his attention to the glorious treats that awaited him.

apple peels from atthepicketfence.com

 So, it only made sense that when I realized I had apples I needed to use up (thanks to my daughter’s apple orchard field trip!) I would turn to the woman who knows how to do dessert like nobody else.

I didn’t just want to make an apple pie, or apple turnovers or apple muffins. I wanted something a bit different. Sweet but not too sweet. Maybe with a little bit of ‘bite’ to it.

I had a sneaking suspicion that I would find what I was looking for in one of Miss Arlene’s cookbooks!

Arlene's Hospitality Collection cookbook

And of course, I did!

apple-pan-dowdy-dessert from atthepicketfence.com

Arlene's Apple Pan Dowdy

Arlene's Apple Pan Dowdy


  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed 7-8 tart green apples, sliced, peeled and cored
  • 1 round T all-purpose flour 1/2 c. raisens
  • 1 T ground cinnamon 1/2 c. walnuts, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cloves Pie pastry
  • 1/4 tsp. fresh grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 c. molasses


  • Preheat oven to 400. Butter a 2 inch deep 1 1/2 quart baking dish. Mix sugar, flour and spices in large bowl. Add molasses and stir to form paste. Add apples, raisins and nuts and toss well. Pack mixture into baking dish. Roll enough pastry 1/8 inch thick to cover mixture. Drape over dish. Bake until crust is golden brown (about 35-40 minutes).
  • Serve with a dollop of whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

It was just the right amount of sweet mixed with the richness of the molasses and layers of spices which made the whole house smell divine.

Apple-pan-dowdy-dessert from At the Picket Fence

My dining room isn’t big enough for a true sideboard. A little narrow table doesn’t quite qualify.

But, that’s ok because I don’t think that I would ever be able to compete with the wonder that was Arlene’s “groaning” Southern sideboard…and the hospitality that came along with it!


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  1. A lovely story, beautiful photography and a recipe I have added to my collection to have this Thanksgiving. I may just have to give it a trial run before then! Thank you, Vanessa!

  2. I’ve never heard of this before, it looks scrumptious. And the fact that it has a a special meaning and history makes it even better! Those are the best kind of recipes.
    Cheryl at Snaps of Ginger recently posted..Recent Purchases or How I shop sales, coupon codes, and promo codesMy Profile

  3. Vanessa,

    You go girl!!!!! Amazing photography and great recipe!

    Thanks for the inspiration and the southern hospitality.

    Happy day!
    Thistle recently posted..The Weekend That WasMy Profile

  4. wow, looks great, I printed your recipe, thank you!!!

    Teardrop Cutting Boards

  5. Oh happy day indeed! This looks AMAZING. Pinned, of course, and saving this one for my Thanksgiving list!! Yum! xo
    Claire @ A Little Claireification recently posted..Applesauce Spice Cake with Caramel ToppingMy Profile

  6. Carol Reddin says:

    You are absolutely, totally correct Vanessa! Meals at “Arlene’s” have always been fabulous and filled with good old Southern hospitality!

  7. oh looks so yummy! pinning!
    Bonnie @ Uncommon Designs recently posted..Even More Pumpkin Recipes for Those Who Love Pumpkin…My Profile

  8. Vanessa – oh my, this looks just so delicious! We love apples and this recipe is going on my must-try list! Thank you so much for sharing your recipe and pinning this beauty! Hope you had a great weekend and happy Monday!
    Cindy Eikenberg recently posted..Help Us! Moss PumpkinMy Profile

  9. I can’t wait to try this amazingness! …and the story is wonderful!
    What a pleasant way to start the day reading it and enjoying your beautiful blog!
    Cynthia recently posted..Card Catalogue Restoration… From: A Little CLAIREification!!My Profile

  10. My girls love apple picking – and everyone has to smile when they say apple pan dowdy!
    Kelly @ Eclectically Vintage recently posted..Halloween House TourMy Profile

  11. yum yum…that dollop is perfect!!
    Julie recently posted..North Face Girls Winter Jacket & Old Navy Peacoat For SaleMy Profile

  12. Love the story…and the sentiment of “getting through” the turkey and trimmings sounds so familiar! And I love that Arlene has her own cookbook {of course she does!!}. Thank you for sharing. This looks delicious!

  13. Oh that looks sooo good! I’ve never heard of a “dowdy” before, hmmmm! What a great story too, very special.


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