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December 25, 2014

THE GOURMET TOUCH: Fried pies are a little slice of Southern

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Posted: Tuesday, July 29, 2014 7:57 pm

Turnover or fried pie? For most Southerners, this is not a difficult decision. Fried pie wins by a mile.

My mom made some good fried apple pies from apples that my uncle grew and that my dad dried for her. Her cooking was probably what some would refer to as "simple and homestyle," but it certainly made an impression on the palates of those who ate at our table.

She made the crust for the fried pies using biscuit dough into which she worked a little extra flour to make it more stable for frying. I feel sure that the fat she chose for this Southern treat was lard. Over the years, I changed it to shortening, and it works well — but I must admit that lard makes the best pastry.

Mother's pies did not fry up crispy, and I like a crisp crust. I worked on her recipe for years and finally came up with a fried pie that crunches when you bite into it.

I know that it might seem a little strange, but both Mother and I made the decision to use self-rising flour for the crust. You would think the crust would rise too much, but when it is rolled thin, it is just about perfect.

Mother also made some wonderful fried banana pies. If you would like to try these but are not quite ready to tackle "from scratch" crust, you can make them using a can of refrigerated biscuits.

Over the years, I have tried many different kinds of fried pies, including fried pecan pies, fried coconut pies, fried sweet potato pies and fried chocolate pies. For the chocolate and coconut pies, I simply put a small scoop of ready-made pie filling in the center of the dough and proceed from there.

Although apple seems to be the most popular fried pie, peach runs a close second.  

SOUTHERN FRIED PEACH PIES

Dried fruits are preferred for fried pies because fresh fruit can be too wet to hold together. Look for packages of dried peaches near the raisins. If you can’t find dried peaches, you could substitute dried apples, or a combination of dried apples and dried apricots. To cook, put dried fruit in a saucepan and barely cover with water. Bring to a boil, and let simmer until soft.

For the crust:

  • ⅓ cup shortening
  • 2 cups self-rising flour
  • ⅔ cup milk

Cut the shortening into the flour using a food processor or a pastry blender. Add milk and process until mixture clings together in a ball. Divide the dough into 12 balls about the size of a golf ball (or a little larger, if desired). Roll each portion into a circle about 5 inches in diameter.

For the filling:

  • 3 cups cooked, dried peaches (or other dried fruit)
  • ½ cup sugar (or to taste)
  • 6 tablespoons butter

Combine cooked peaches and sugar. Mix well, mashing to desired consistency. Put equal portions of peaches on ½ of each circle of dough, leaving an edge about ¼ inch wide. Put about ½ tablespoon butter on top of filling. Pull dough over to form a half-moon shape. Seal edges by pressing down with a fork. Be sure that the edges are well sealed because otherwise the filling might seep out. Pierce top of each pie with fork 2 or 3 times. These tiny holes will help prevent a doughy crust. The pies can be fried in about an inch of oil or deep-fried. If you choose the lesser amount of oil, you will need to turn the pies during frying. Drain on absorbent paper when golden brown.

QUICK FRIED BANANA PIES

  • 1 can large refrigerated biscuits (6 per can)
  • 2 medium bananas, sliced thin
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 ½ teaspoons sugar
  • Oil for frying
  • Extra sugar for sprinkling over top of pies

Flatten biscuits into 5- or 6-inch circles. Put 5 or 6 slices of bananas on one side of dough circle. Dot with butter. Sprinkle about ¼ teaspoon sugar over bananas on each pie. Seal well with fork. Pierce top of each pie 2 or 3 times. Heat oil to 375 F. Fry the pies, turning as needed, to brown on both sides. Drain on absorbent paper and sprinkle generously with granulated sugar.

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