Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Secrets of a Pie Maker

I come from a long line of famous pie makers.  Not too long ago I heard a story about my Grandma Jo.  She died before I was born, so I never knew her.  Sure, my mom told me stories, but I don't know a ton about her.  Recently I heard that when there was a potluck in Walla Walla (where my mom grew up) everyone would fight over Jo's pies.

My mom grew up on a wheat ranch outside of Walla Walla, Washington.  I love to hear stories about ranch.  Some of my favorite stories are about my mom cooking for the men during harvest.  My mom can COOK and that is where she learned.  They had to get up at 4 am so they could get a huge breakfast (from scratch) on the table for the men before they went out to the fields to work.  As soon as breakfast was over, they would clean up and start lunch so they could take it out to the men at noon.  Then they started the baking.  They would make all sorts of pies for dinner and then the dinner prep would begin.  The men would come in from the fields dirty and tired and devour all of the delicious foods that had been lovingly prepared during the day.  After dinner, the women would clean it all up finish around 8-9 and collapse into bed, just to begin again the next day.  Can you imagine?  How hot must that kitchen have been?  My uncle who worked in the fields used to make more money than my mom and aunt who worked in the kitchen until my mom pointed out to my grandpa that they worked even LONGER hours than the men.  While the men were kicking back relaxing after dinner, the women were still cleaning up and while the men were getting sleep at 4 am, they were in the kitchen getting breakfast ready.  From then on, my mom made the same amount as my uncle.  Love that story!  I am grateful for my heritage and that my mom is one of the best cooks around.  I learned from the best and I enjoy cooking and baking for my family.  What is my mom's specialty?  Yep.....pie.  Just like her mother before her. 

Guess what?  She passed it on to me.  Growing up, I loved to watch my mom make pie and roll out the dough.  I was so shocked when in high school, I found out that you could BUY pie crusts at the store.  Who would do such a thing?  (Okay I will admit I have used a few store bought pie crusts in my time, but not very often and I always regret it when I do).

When I was first married and making a pie on my own for the first time, there was much weeping and gnashing of teeth.  Why was my crust so crumbly?  Why couldn't I roll it out?  And on and on.  I gave up for a little while.  Then I asked for some pie lessons.  My mom taught me a few tricks that made the process easy and fun and made DELICIOUS crusts.  I never looked back and have now become famous for my pie crusts.  I don't know how I do it, but they always come out delicious!  I think I must have a little of Grandma Jo by my side as I am making those pies.

What is the favorite and most requested pie?  My blackberry sour cream pie.  My husband loves the blueberry sour cream pie from Marie Calendars, but a few years ago the Marie Calendars that was closest to our house closed down.  Now what were we going to do for birthday celebrations?  I thought I would try to find a good recipe to try to duplicate it.  I couldn't really find one, so I decided to try to find a blackberry pie recipe (Chris' favorite fruit).  And then brilliance struck.  Why not make it blackberry and sour cream.  I found a recipe online and added my homemade crust recipe and tweaked it a bit.  And viola!  Greatness was born.  This is a no fail recipe and everyone LOVES it!  It once went for over $400 at our annual church pie auction.

After much deliberation, I feel I must share this recipe with others.  Please enjoy this recipe and share!  It is a really unique pie and I guarantee you will love it!

For a 10" pie crust (I always make a 10" and put it in a 9" pan because I like crust)
1 1/3 c. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 c. shortening
3-4 Tbsp COLD (as cold as you can get it) water

Put shortening in a bowl and add the dry ingredients on top.  Using a pastry cutter (or fork) mix the shortening into the flour mixture.  It should look like this.

Then one tbsp. at a time, add the cold water and mix with a fork.  Make sure it doesn't get too wet.  It shouldn't stick to your hands too much when you make it into a ball.

Then put some flour on the counter or a non-stick mat.  Put the ball in the middle and make a thick pancake.

Then roll it out into a 10" crust.  It doesn't have to be perfect.  It is about taste, not perfection!

Use a pastry cutter or knife to peel the crust off of the mat and put it into the pie pan.

Then you flute the edges.  This was not one of my best, but I was making dinner and settling some squabbling between the children in the other room at the same time, so I didn't have time to make it awesome looking.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  Yes you read that right.  It starts off really hot and then you turn it down.

Here comes the great part.
Blackberry Sour Cream pie (by Lisa Lord)
4 c. blackberries (I usually use a big container from costco).  I also sometimes add a few other berries just to sweeten it up a bit.  This time I used 4 lonely strawberries that were about to go bad in the back of my fridge.
1 c. flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1 1/4 c. sugar
1 1/2 c. sour cream (or a little more if it is too hard to work with)

Put blackberries in the shell.

  Mix together the dry ingredients.  Then add the sour cream.  Mix well.  It should be sticky but still spreadable.

Spoon the sour cream mixture onto the top of the pie.
Then spread it out evenly so you can't see the berries any longer.
Then sprinkle some sugar on the top.  I like to use the thick granulated sugar.

Bake UNCOVERED for 10 minutes at 450.  Then reduce the temperature to 350 and bake for another 30 minutes.  I have always cooked it for this long and never changed it.  It is always done after 40 minutes.  No tricks, no guessing, no toothpick test.  Just take it out, let it cool for a bit and then EAT IT!  It is best when it is still warm.

Note.  I have tried this with frozen blackberries and it isn't as good.  Gets too juicy and ruins the bottom crust, so fresh is always best.

This one turned out amazing and was shared with neighbors so that I didn't have any left overs (thankfully, my waistline couldn't handle it).

Thanks for the legacy mom and Grandma Jo.  I guess I will have to teach one of the boys (or their wives) how to make pies to carry on the tradition.

Happy Pie Making!