Fried dried-fruit pie is one of those foods that everyone loves to argue about because nobody can find the “real thing” anymore. Michelle remembers her parents debating, decades ago, the merits of pies her dad would bring home from country stores all over Western Kentucky. It seems they were never quite as good as they remembered their mothers making. Then chains like McDonald’s and Popeye’s started offering their own versions, trans-fats took over, and the “real thing” became even harder to recognize.
As keepers of more than a few Southern cookbooks, and recent purchasers of several bags of dried local apples, we decided to pit two great books against one another in a Southern Fried Pie Battle.™ (If we see reports of one of these in Brooklyn, Daisy, we may have to sue.)
Lard and more-or-less the same filling would be used in each recipe. The crucial difference would be the crust. Neal goes with biscuit dough, while Egerton uses pie crust (think a less fatty pâte brisée). While Steve thought he recognized the texture of Egerton’s from college-era visits to Central Kentucky grocery stores, we both agreed Neal’s flaky biscuit crust was better—though, unlike Egerton’s, it definitely needs to be eaten while hot.
We can’t say whether either of our versions was the true “Southern fried pie,” but there is one thing we can be completely sure of: either is much, much closer than Deep Fried Derby Pie®.
FRIED APPLE PIES
- 4 oz. dried apples
- 3 c. water (approximately)
- 1/4 to 1/2 c. sugar, to taste
- 2 TB dark brown sugar
- 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp. ground ginger
- a few grates of fresh nutmeg or a pinch from a jar
- Pinch of salt
- 2 tsp. butter
- Lemon juice to taste
Cook apples in a saucepan in enough water to cover over low heat, covered, for 30-40 minutes until fruit is soft. Drain well in a colander, shaking out remaining water.
Return apples to pan and add remaining ingredients. Warm over low heat and cook off moisture.
Place in a bowl and cool to room temperature, then cool further in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
- 2 c. all-purpose flour
- Heaping 1/2 tsp. salt
- Heaping TB baking powder
- 1/2 tsp. sugar
- 1/2 tsp. baking soda
- 5 TB chilled shortening (we used half butter, half lard)
- 1 c. buttermilk
Sift dry ingredients into a large bowl. Add cold shortening and work into flour with a pastry cutter or your fingers. Add buttermilk and stir with a wooden spoon until the dough forms a ball. Form into a disc, wrap in waxed paper and refrigerate.
(Alternative) Pie Crust:
- 2 c. all-purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/2 c. chilled shortening (we used half butter, half lard)
- 3-4 TB (or more) ice water
Sift flour and salt into a large bowl. Add cold shortening and work into flour with a pastry cutter or your fingers. Add water and stir with a wooden spoon until the dough forms a ball. Form into a disc, wrap in waxed paper and refrigerate.
Using half of dough at a time, roll out onto a floured surface. If using biscuit dough, roll out to about 1/8″ thick. If using pie crust dough, roll out a bit thinner. Cut into rounds. We used a 3-1/2″ round cookie cutter, which is probably about as small as you can go. 5″ or so is more traditional.
Place some filling in the middle of each dough round. For 3-1/2″ rounds, it took a slightly rounded teaspoon. Adjust accordingly if using larger circles. Fold dough over to form a half circle. Press edges together with a fork. Then flip over and press the other side the same way. If still not sticking, flip again and repeat. Place pies on a lightly floured sheet of waxed paper while preparing the remainder.
Fry pies on both sides in a skillet with about 1/4″ of fat (neutral oil, lard or a combination) over medium heat. Drain on a cooling rack set over parchment paper.
As Neal says, “[t]he hand is usually the serving dish, but fried pies may be served on a plate.” If you choose the latter, you can sieve some confectioners sugar over.