Writing about art, food and changes

Theresa Rice

Theresa Rice
North Georgia Mountains, Georgia, United States
August 24
I write. I paint. I teach. I grow things. I cook. I eat. Louisiana-born and Southern bred, I love people wise enough to be optimistic and generous enough to bring their gifts to the table.


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OCTOBER 17, 2010 2:39PM

The Great Fried Apple Pie Rebellion

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 . . . or Fried Pies for the Commonweal


IMG_0697 fried pies resize

 "Good apple pies are a considerable part of our domestic happiness."

Jane Austen

IMG_0692 pie kitchen 2 resizePie 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.




Georgia-state-capitol-dome crop edit resizeThe tasty little fruit-stuffed pastry became a cause célèbre under the golden dome of the Georgia State Capitol during the spring of 2006. Mrs. Willie Watts, the pie lady of Powder Springs, was shut down by the state department of agriculture for failure to comply with licensing and inspection regulations.
It was of case of good fortune turned bad, then good again. A feature article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution showcased her pies, sold at a rate of about 100 per week for $1.65 apiece. Mrs. Watts, a retired seamstress, provided pastries from her home kitchen to a local restaurant for about twenty years. She used her pie money to buy expensive medications for her husband, Lionel, a heart patient. Some misguided person read the article and contacted the authorities. Mrs. Watts’ home kitchen was closed.

 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. MIMG_0700 cash register crop2 edit resizeembers 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.



Now a plea to apple pie lovers--arise and join the Insurrectionist Fried Apple Pie Movement! Make pies! Whether you are an experienced cook or a novice, try the recipe. See if you don't think these deserve to survive as a homemade treat.
Pies are a force for good. Think about it. Georgia legislators loved them and were motivated enough to get something done on behalf of a nice lady who made them. How often does that happen?
Try sending them to your United States Senators and Representatives. Maybe those guys would get off their duffs and and actually get something done in Congress if they knew they'd get pies. There's already been too much pie-in-the-sky. We might as well try pie-in-the-hand.


 "If you want to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe."

Dr. Carl Sagan


Note: In the interest of brevity, the creation of the universe had been handled elsewhere and is not required for the completion of this recipe. Let us intrepidly proceed to discuss the filling.


The Filling

IMG_0712applestack resize

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.


The Crust

This recipe features a biscuit style crust, like Willie Watts used. Home-made pie crust is also traditional. Try puff pastry or phyllo dough if you are comfortable working with them and have the time. Speedier alternatives include empanada wrappers, eggroll wrappers, canned biscuits and store-bought pie crusts.
Whatever crust you use be sure to seal the pies well. A pot of hot oil with deflated crusts trailing gobs of burning filling can't be very appetizing.
Thoroughly cool the filling and the dough, then chill the pies themselves before frying. They also freeze well uncooked. Thaw before frying. 
If you just can't make yourself put bits of dough stuffed with apple into a panful of oil, bake them at 325 degrees for about 20 minutes or until golden brown. They'll still be worth eating, especially if you use pie crust instead of biscuit.
  • 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
Put butter and brown sugar in a large skillet over medium heat. Stir until bubbly and sugar has melted.
IMG_0779 apples w cornstarch resizeAdd fruit and spices and cook until apples soften, about 5 minutes, depending on your apples. Stir frequently to avoid burning.
Sprinkle cornstarch over the apples. Cook one more minute. Remove from heat and allow to cool.


  • 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"


IMG_0781 work in shortening crop edit resizeSift 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. 



Flour 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 eIMG_0789 brush to seal crop edit resizenough 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.

Glaze (optional)

  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • Pinch of salt
Heat milk in double boiler or in a bowl over boiling water. Add powdered sugar, vanilla and salt. Whisk until smooth and creamy. Turn off the heat.


IMG_0803 crop edit resizeHeat oil in a large skillet over medium heat to 350 degrees. Use a spatula to lift pies and lower them carefully into the hot oil. Cook a minute or two on each side. They brown quickly. Drain onto paper towel when done. 



IMG_0698 fried pies2 resizeDip pies into glaze one at a time and put on a rack placed over a sheetpan to drain.






IMG_0806 dusted pies crop edit resizeOr dust with powdered sugar instead of glaze. Best served hot, but magnificently re-heatable.



 This post and An Apple for Mr. Bellhouse were written as companion pieces. I hope you enjoy them both.


If this doesn't get you in the mood, I just can't say.  Here's "Fried Pie Blues" from Curley Weaver. Curley was a Covington, Georgia boy who recorded this in 1933. He must have had his share of fried pies and I hope he had more joy from them than blues.


 Photographs of the Georgia State Capitol Building
and The Universe courtesy of Wikipedia Images
Video courtesy of YouTube

All other texts and images copyright 2010 by Theresa Rice


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Wow this was good before... music was great..:)
rated with hugs
Fried apple pies with music YES!!!! I can't wait to try this..
Beautiful job on this post, Theresa. I have to warn your readers, though: these fried pies are highly addictive. My late grandmother was raised in several foster homes, but the one that made a huge difference in her life was Mrs. Hill. Apprently, Mrs. Hill was a southern woman with great skill in the kitchen because she taught my grandmother to cook in the down-home tradition. Granny made fried sweet potato pies, rather than apple. They were legendary among my college dorm mates, who waited every month for my popcorn packed box of fried pies to arrive.

I can imagine how addictive they must be - they look sooo inviting! I love the integration of Austen and Sagan quotes, as well as the history in this great post.
I know this sounds sacrilegious, but I believe the apple pies at McDonald's are deep fried which makes them so popular (and good). But I'd rather have yours in a heartbeat! Wonderful post.
Thank you, Miss Linda. Glad you enjoyed, you little cutie you.

Lunchlady 2, I don't want to do away with great strides and I'm absolutely positive you do a great lunchlady job, but back in the day before school cafeterias kids brought these in their lunchboxes. Ahhh.

Hi Lezlie, I'm sure your grandmother's sweet potato pies were spectacular. If the challenge hadn't been for apples, I might have done sweet potato, very traditional, very tasty, and yes, very addictive.

FusunA, hi sweetie. My mind kind of rolls all sorts of references together from wherever it cares to go. Life's more fun that way. :)

Thank Jonathan. Brief and to the point.

OK From the Midwest, we have to talk. Granted McDonald's fried pies had a following. BUT they had to make a crust able to withstand packing, freezing, shipping and minimum wage employees. The tender, flavorful crust on this recipe will bring you to your knees.
I have yet to try a fried apple pie (not counting the ones from McD) and these look fabulous. Long live pies for the people!
I hate that Miss Willie's era has ended, and you're right -- someone needs to step in! The convenience store packaged fried pie has nothing at all in common with real fried pie.
Wow! I love fried pies, and the story of Miss Willie Watts, but I've never dared make them - now I won't have an excuse. Too bad about your first story, but I'm glad I got to see this one!
This is great! I think my favorite part is the caption under the universe picture. Made me laugh out loud. Really though, a great story that I'm ashamed to say I hadn't heard until I read it here (I do live in idea where I was when all this was going on). Loved the story and I love a good fried pie, although I must admit I'm partial to the peach ones...can't beat a peach pie and a frosted orange while sitting in the car at the Varsity on North Street. Yum! :)
A pie in the eye is worth two in the tree.
Wow, what a story and what a post! I don't think I've ever had a fried apple pie, but you make me want to have one right now! Thanks for sharing this!
Great story. I have never had a fried apple pie, so it is something to try. So thank you Theresa.
Miss Lea
Wow! I hope Phil doesn't see this. He adores fried pies. Me too. I may try this. Love the history and Fried Pie Blues.

Marie Kinneer