. . . or Fried Pies for the Commonweal
"Good apple pies are a considerable part of our domestic happiness."
Pie makes people happy. Head for mountain backroads north of Atlanta and you'll find plenty of pie eaters who agree with Jane Austen--only they like theirs fried. And they're happy to share. Since the days settlers travelled through the North Georgia hills during the October and November leaf season--by mule, horse or on foot--folks have stopped to refresh themselves with cold apple cider and fried apple pies, and then tote home a bag or a bushel of apples for drying, preserving, baking and munching.
Fried pies number among Georgia’s time-honored, low-down, country-style autumn food traditions, along with boiled peanuts, apple cider and fried pigskins. Fresh apple cider, true nectar of the gods, was regulated out of existence and many a small apple press closed when expensive pasteurization became required. We can only pray that fried pies do not travel the same route to extinction, but there have been close calls.
THE GREAT GEORGIA FRIED PIE REBELLION
Georgians can get downright ornery when their independence to make and eat fried pies gets messed with. Revolt was in the air. Public outcry was swift, loud and successful. Politicians rightly fear an enraged citizenry. Party lines and opposing ideologies vanished in the rush to do the will of the people.
In less than two weeks Mrs. Watts was invited to the State House of Representatives to watch as a bill was passed to do away with regulation on small operators like her. Members of the legislature stampeded to buy over 200 pies from Mrs. Watts to celebrate their good work. She charmed her way through an interview on public radio, gave gracious thanks for all the support and kept making pies.
Four years later, on September 10, 2010, the Journal ran a follow-up story. Willie, now 67, decided the pie business was getting to be more than she wanted to do. She felt it was time to shut down her pie business for good. An era has ended.
I worry. Fried pastries still remain a fairly common sight by cash registers in convenience stores and small local businesses but they have nothing on a freshly made pie, with the filling still hot. Willie Watts' generation is leaving the field. Who will make the pies if I don't do it and if I don't share how it's done? Who will carry on the tradition?
Why do I love those half-moon pastries so much? They are our heritage and they are handy. Many southern folks remember their mammas and grandmas turning out fried pies by the dozens for church suppers and family gatherings. A fried pie is the perfect walkabout snack, compact and neat, just the right size to eat out of hand. Countless numbers have been tucked into lunch pails and paper sacks over the years. The fried pie tradition is worth preserving.
Old-timey recipes for fried apple pies used dried apples instead of fresh for a good reason. A country wife could dry many of her apples to prolong their storage life, while the rest were packed away in barrels if she had a cool place to keep them. Fresh apples stored well without refrigeration but were still vulnerable to temperature, infestation and decay. Properly stored dried apples avoided the pitfalls of fresh ones and lasted for years. Reconstituted apples were easy anytime for delectable treats. Like fried pies, the tiny pastry able to quell hoards of rowdy public servants into submission.
DO GOOD PIES MAKE GOOD POLITICS?
ABOUT THE RECIPE
"If you want to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe."
Dr. Carl Sagan
Nowadays people are more familiar with the taste of fresh fruit, although the dried apple pie like Willie Watts made still has many adherents. Click here for how to make dried apples and reconstitute them for this recipe, along with some apple lore.
What type of fresh apples to use, you ask? The possibilities don't number in the "billions and billions" but there are plenty enough for all that.
Red Delicious lose flavor when they're cooked so I avoid those. I enjoy a combination, like Fuji and Jonathan to balance sweetness and texture but use what you prefer.
If you're still puzzled click All About Apples and get answers to everything you've ever wondered about the taste, texture, appearance and use of apples, along with links to equivalents, preparation and cooking instructions. These folks aren't fooling around.
I adore cinnamon and cardamom to flavor the filling, but if you like ginger, nutmeg and/or good old apple pie spice, go for it.
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 3 medium apples, cut into 1/4" dice (about 3 cups)
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon, fresh ground if possible
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom, fresh ground if possible
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- 2 cups all purpose flour, plus extra for rolling out
- 3 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 cup vegetable shortening
- 1/2 cup buttermilk or sour milk*
- 1-2 teaspoons cold water, or as needed
- Cooking oil to a depth of 2"
Sift dry ingredients together. Cut in shortening until the mixture resembles meal. Add buttermilk or sour milk until the dough is tender and holds together. Add more flour or milk if needed to achieve the right consistency. Chill for 10 minutes.
*Make sour milk by adding 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice to 1/2 cup milk. Let stand for 10-15 minutes or until milk begins to separate.
AssemblyFlour the work surface. Divide dough into 10 pieces. Turn and dust with flour as needed to avoid sticking. Working with one piece at a time roll out to form a shape large enough to cut a five circle. Repeat with remaining dough pieces and stack them with a dusting of flour between them. Trim and fill the circles one at a time. Use a small saucer or bowl as guide and trim the pastry to size. Place about 2 tablespoons of apple mixture in the center. Moisten edges and fold over to form a half moon shape. Carefully lift onto a floured baking sheet. Repeat until all pies are made. Place pies in the freezer for 10-15 minutes.
While pies chill make the glaze.
- 1/4 cup milk
- 2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- Pinch of salt
Dip pies into glaze one at a time and put on a rack placed over a sheetpan to drain.
Or dust with powdered sugar instead of glaze. Best served hot, but magnificently re-heatable.
and The Universe courtesy of Wikipedia Images
All other texts and images copyright 2010 by Theresa Rice