Everyone in the county and many outside knew my Grandmother Sallie Rose; some knew her cooking while others knew her quilting. Most people called her Sallie, but to me she was Nanny. I was the most fortunate child around as we lived just a mile from Nanny, and I was allowed to be there all the time.
For some reason, she has been on my mind for about a week now. Maybe it is because we’d just be finishing up with the Summer canning and freezing. Late in the afternoon when all the beans were broken, we might gather at that old picnic table, spoon in hand, to share a local watermelon…of course the salt shaker was there.
When she cooked and canned the fruits, she always made us a treat of fried apple pies! Yes, I have heard them called hand pies…that just means they handled the dough too much—not us.
The filling. You are going to love this recipe! Peel and core fresh fall apples. Slice and chop for the best filling. In a large skillet, melt a glob of fresh butter (at least a ¼ cup). Place the apples into the butter, stir in ½ cup of sugar for every four cups of apples. Add cinnamon and nutmeg (use apple spice mix if you like, 2 tsp for every 4 cups of apples). Cook the apple/sugar mix until the apples are tender. Mix a heaping tbs of cornstarch in a cup of cold water. When the apples are cooked, slowly drizzle cornstarch water (just enough to thicken, you won’t need the whole cup) into the pan until the juices thicken. Remove from heat and completely cool. At this point, you can serve with fresh cream or make an apple crisp or make fried pies. Plus, peaches, blueberries, pears, blackberries, etc. are good, but apple is always a favorite. Nanny also made chocolate fried pies!
The crust. I encourage you to use your favorite pie crust recipe. Nanny always made hers without a recipe, so this is as I remember. Flour, salt, shortening, buttermilk – there were no measurements. Here is my best guess: 4 cups flour, 2 tsp salt, 1 cup cold shortening, 1 cup buttermilk. In a large bowl, mix together flour and salt…be careful not to wear it. Cut in shortening (shortening is best, but cold fresh butter can be used) until mixture is crumbly. Mix in buttermilk and stir until dough forms a ball (you may need a tiny bit less or even more). Place the ball in the icebox (grew up in rural Arkansas…we called it an icebox not a refrigerator) while you get everything else ready to fry pies.
The pan. In a deep frying pan (heavier is better) bring 1 cup of shortening to frying temp (about 350 degrees). OK, some people just use vegetable oil…not us. When you think it is ready, drop a tiny piece of your pie dough in the oil. If it immediately floats and fries…you are ready.
The pie. Roll out dough and cut into 6-inch circles (should make about 18 pies) – just outline a bread place with a sharp knife = 6-inches. Place a fair amount of apples (est 2 tbs) in the center of each dough circle. With water on your finger, outline each circle. Fold the pie in 1/2 and crimp the edges with a floured fork…close well or all the filling will escape. Some people make squares or triangles; others make scalloped fancy pies. Nanny always made ½ moons and so do I at Bloomsbury Inn.
With your oil all set, fry the pies. Depending upon the size of your skillet, you can do 2 or 3 at time. When the first side is golden brown, flip the pie and cook the other side (2-3 mins per side). Remove pies and drain them on paper towels. Oh yes, some people just bake them in the oven…not us.
Two ways to top them. As soon as you remove them from the oil, generously sprinkle them with white or brown sugar. Or, when ready to serve, generously sprinkle with powdered sugar. I have seen them glazed, drizzled with caramel, plain…but sugar is best.
Nanny, your perfect fried pies are still being enjoyed by our family!