Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Advice From a Pie Lady

I am a member of a small country church that is known for it's homemade pies. We cater dinners for community organizations and every "lady" of the parish is always willing to donate a pie or two, or three or four!  We also have a festival in the summer which features a chicken bbq dinner with mashed potatoes, green beans with bacon, applesauce, roll, and - your choice of a slice of homemade pie. 

MOST IMPORTANT PIECE OF ADVICE: If you are baking pies in aluminum pans, you must place a baking sheet in the oven, THEN preheat the oven AND the baking sheet. Bake the pie on the baking sheet. This will prevent an under baked, soggy crust.  

Another word of advice. I have spent untold dollars on rings to prevent your crust edges from over browning. I have never found anything that works better than strips of foil. 

Here is a look at my contributions for this summer festival (2 cherry, 2 blueberry, the rest apple since we have apple trees). The American Flags are marking the flavor for the "Pie Ladies" in our "Pie Room" (which is an actual room constructed in our new kitchen for pies - walls of narrow shelves to separate all the pies by flavor to assure an equal distribution of flavors to the pie tables.) 
The Official Pie Ladies can eye a pie, decide how many slices will be "just right" and then easily cut into 6 or 8 perfect pieces. I have even seen them cut a pie into 7 or 9 slices, by eye. What a talent!

My talent is pie crusts. When I first joined the church, I experimented with homemade crust recipes; sometimes used store bought frozen pie crust or graham cracker crust or even those Jiffy pie crust mixes that made crusts one at a time. I eventually must have found a good recipe because one of my daycare mothers from the early 1980's rediscovered me on Facebook and shared that she still uses the pie crust recipe I gave her, which she has named after me! I have no clue what this recipe is and I am too embarrassed to ask her. 

A few years ago I was working at a local farm equipment store and we received our monthly copy of the Ohio Farm Bureau's magazine. I flipped to the recipe section and found my perfect and favorite pie crust recipe. 

Not only does this recipe provide a perfect, flaky crust, it makes a mass quantity all at once! And extras can be frozen. It is so easy to handle, too - kind of like play dough! 

To begin - you need the largest bowl in the world. I use a very old Tupperware "Fix and Mix" bowl from the 70's. It is a tight fit, but works. 
 An alternative would be a roaster liner. If you used a foil one, you could reuse it for Thanksgiving. 
Glad to see whatever was on my kitchen tv was rated "G"!

Meanwhile - here is the link to the recipe I am using: 

And now back to Plenty of Pie Crust

In your very large bowl, mix a 5 lb bag of flour with 1 teaspoon salt. 

Then cut in 1 3 pound can of shortening. I use a pastry cutter (pictured above) - it works pretty slick. Mine is metal with a rubber handle. It is mixed when the mixture resembles crumbs. 

Now - in a separate bowl (or 4 cup measuring cup), mix 3 1/2 cups of milk with 3 1/2 teaspoons of vinegar. Make a hole in your flour mixture and pour it in. 

You will now have to mix with your hands. It will be a gosh awful sticky mess. You can't stop until it is mixed. You will know it is mixed when it is no longer a gosh awful sticky mess and forms a ball. At that point it will come off your hands and fingers, too.. 

To recap the ingredients - (1) 5 pound bag of flour, (1) 3 pound can of shortening, (1) teaspoon of salt, 1 1/2 cups of milk and 1 1/2 teaspoons of vinegar. You will also need about 2 cups of flour for rolling purposes. 

Next I cut about 15 sheets of wax paper about 2-4 inches large than my pie pans.  Layer them on the counter (this is great for those of us with a small kitchen. 
Sprinkle flour on each sheet and roll a hand full of the dough into a circle. After the first one, you can judge how much you need. The recipe says it makes 15 crusts, but I usually get more. 

At this point you can use as many crusts as you want (remember most pies are "two-crust". Or you can make them ahead. You can refrigerate for a day or two, or freeze for up to 3 months. This way your family will not have to eat 8 pies at once! To freeze:
Just fold in half, then 

And then in half again!

Two crusts should fit in a quart sized zip lock bag or you can put several in a gallon bag for a holiday baking spree. 
These crusts aren't just for fruit pies, either. They work great for pot pies, too. 

Just thaw over night in the refrigerator and then put on the counter until room temperature. You can finger seal any fold marks or re-roll into a rectangle to cover a 9 x 13 pot pie! 

Miss Merry