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Nothin’ Says Lovin’ Like A Warm Fried Pie

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Unless you make them yourself or know someone who does, it's not easy to find a good fried pie (frequently pronounced FRAHD PAH in Texas). Commercial bakers and purveyors of fast food have taken these delicious little fruit-filled pies and turned them into something barely recognizable. A commercially made fried pie is likely to be more hollow than filled, and then the filling, though artificially bright, will be so over-sweet that, blindfolded, you'd be hard pressed to know what flavor you're eating.

The idea of filling a circle of pastry with meat, fruit or what have you, folding it over and cooking it is to be found among numerous national cuisines, the pierogi in Polish cooking and the empanada in Mexican, for example. Fried pies are found in most any state, but they have been a staple in the southern United States for generations.

A true comfort food, homemade fried pies have so much to recommend them: They are wonderful, hot or cold. They can be easily eaten out of hand, so I guess that makes them a true convenience food in these on-the-go times in which we live. And they are so versatile because they can be filled with your favorite fillings.

When I think of fried pies, though, I remember my mother making them on a cold winter's day in a cozy, warm kitchen, preparing the fillings with dried fruit. Our recipes, below, include the pastry and two such fillings, Apricot and Apple Cherry, with suggestions as to how you can use your imagination to invent more fillings of your own.

Pastry for fried pies is not as delicate as conventional pie dough. You don't have to be concerned about over-working it. After all, it needs to be durable enough to hold up during the rolling, pinching and crimping necessary to put the pie together, as well as contain the filling throughout the frying process. This pastry recipe is enough to make 12 5- to 6-inch pies.

Pastry for Fried Pies

  • 3 cups All-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • ¾ cup Crisco or other good vegetable shortening
  • 1 Egg, lightly beaten
  • ¼ cup Cold water
  • 1 teaspoon Vinegar (preferably white vinegar)
Mix together the flour and salt. Cut in the shortening with a pastry blender, fork, your hands, or whatever method works best for you, until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir together the beaten egg with the water and sprinkle over flour mixture. Sprinkle in the vinegar, mixing lightly, until ingredients are well combined. Form the dough into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least one hour.

The Filling

This is where you can get creative. Although the basic recipe is listed, please note that, for each cup of dried fruit, you need at least a half-cup and probably more of water, and 2 tablespoons of sugar. I mention this because, if you make a dozen pies, you may want to mix up the flavors. Using the proportions in this recipe, for example, I made six Apricot and six Apple/Cherry by using approximately 1-½ cups of dried apricots and 1 cup of apples and 1/3 cup of dried cherries. Of course, I cooked the apricots separate from the apples and cherries.
  • 3 cups Dried fruit (apricots, peaches, apples)
  • 1-½ cups water
  • 6 tablespoons Sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon Cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon Ground Allspice
In a nonreactive pan on very low heat, simmer the dried fruit in the water for 30 to 45 minutes, or until very tender. Add water if necessary to prevent scorching. Allow to cool; mash fruit slightly. Stir in the sugar and spices. This step of the preparation may be done in advance and refrigerated; however, warm up the fruit (microwave is fine) enough to take the chill off and make it workable before filling your pies.

Putting It All Together

Remove the pastry from the refrigerator and cut it into four equal pieces. You can then cut each of the four pieces into three equal pieces, leaving you with 12 golf-ball-size dough balls. On a lightly floured surface, roll each ball into a 5- to 6-inch circle. Your circles don't have to be perfect, and ragged edges are okay.

Put about 2 generous tablespoons of filling onto one side of the circle of dough. Seal the pie by wetting the inside edge of the dough with water (use your finger) and then fold over the dough, making the familiar half-moon shaped pie. Make sure the edges of the dough are even, and press and crimp to insure a good seal. You can use a fork to give you a bit of a decorative edge if you like. You can also correct the more ragged edges during this step because the dough is pliable. Just make sure the filling is sealed in and that any holes in the dough are crimped.

Frying

I used two methods, and both were good. I got out my Fry-Daddy. (I've had it 20 years, and it just won't wear out, darn it.) After I let it heat the oil, I carefully lowered the pies into the oil, one at a time, and each one cooked remarkably fast. They turned a nice even golden brown in 3 or 4 minutes. You don't have to worry about cooking the filling -- it's already cooked. The frying process is merely cooking the dough.

The second method I used was panfrying, rather than deep frying. I fried the other half of the pies in about a half inch of oil in an electric frying pan on which I set the temperature at 375 degrees F. These took longer to brown and, of course, I had to turn them, but the end result was every bit as good. Whatever the frying method, be sure your oil is very fresh. You don't want your pies to take on the flavor of last week's onion rings. I sprinkled the hot fried pies with confectioner's sugar, but cinnamon sugar would be good, too.

These little pies are so good. The day I made them, the people who said "I'll just have one," had at least two. I admit that this was the first time I had made fried pies, outside of being my mother's kitchen helper many years ago. The process was certainly not difficult and could even be construed as fun, especially if you have a helper. The really fun part, though, is watching them disappear. Make a batch for your Valentines. They'll love you for it.

This fried pies recipe is also in our cookbook.

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