Pie Therapy

Recipes and ruminations on pie.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Not Loving Lard

My pie hobby has led me to ask many a fellow pie maker about their pies, especially crusts. Once when speaking to my grandmother (Tutu is what I call her), she told me about her standard pies. Then she recounted this pie party that she went to where the hostess' crust was the best she had ever tasted. Tutu asked the hostess her secret, but the hostess wouldn't give it up. Tutu suspected it was lard. She said when shortening came into being, people just used it; lard was on the decline in popularity.

My M-I-L also has fond memories of lard, as do others. So I decided to dig into the lard mystique. I asked my pig farmer at the farmer's market about it. He said he brings lard, but I would have to render it. Hmm boiling pig fat, not something that sounds too appetizing. My husband renders duck fat for confit, and although I love confit, the process is gross and stinks up the house (usually my M-I-L luckily.

So, I discussed this with my mom and she sent me some recipes and articles on lard. She then ended up buying 10lbs of the stuff from a farmer in PA. (She lives in WA state). So, she then ended up bringing some to DC on her latest trip.

I decided to tackle lard. None of my pie books really went into lard. So, I decided to just replace the fat amount with lard. Both my moms and my crust recipes require the same amount of fat. So, it was
  • 1 1/2 c flour
  • 1/2 c lard
  • 1 t salt
  • 5 - 7 T of water
I also decided that because lard was likely more like shortening the amount of water wasn't going to be as critical as it is with butter. Then I dug in. First off, it smelled like pig fat. Cutting it in, mixing it, rolling it - it all smelled meaty to me. While I am not a vegitarian, I was for 7 years, and I still don't cook meat. And as a teenager, when I lived in England which had particularly smelly and gruesome butchers, I refused to go into the shops because of the smell. In all fairness, you could say I am sensitive.

Then we made my mom's apple pie recipe with farmer's market apples. She doesn't measure anything, but it goes something like this. Cut a whole lot of apples, like 6 into slices. Pile them into a pie dish. Sprinkle a cinnamon sugar recipe (my guess 1 cup to 1 T) over the apples as they go in. Thenk sprinkle the whole mound with a streusel topping of butter and sugar (my guess 1/4c and 1 c).

We cooked it at 350 for almost 2 hours. I think the temp could have been raised to 400 and the cooking time to one hour.

The result, it was not my favorite pie. I could still taste pig fat. The rest of the family said I was crazy. But it also wasn't that flaky or better textured. I will try it again as mom left 2 of those lbs with me, and maybe mixed with butter. Although after this experience, I am not really loving lard.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Concord Grape Pie - Where it all began

My whole pie fascination started just under a year ago. I had a bunch of Concord Grapes. And, I wanted to try my friend's fabulous tart recipe but it had too many steps and involved marcarpone, which I didn't have. And it required that you pit each grape, which is an incredibly labourious and acidic task.

So, I found this recipe on Cooks.com. I made it once, then twice, then three times. We had a lot of people through the house over the two weeks. My husband kept complaining that he wasn't getting enough. So, I kept making more.

It is sweet and tart and crunch and super yummy. This time around we couldn't even wait until it cooled to eat some. It is really one of the best pies there is.

1 1/2 lbs. (4 c.) Concord grapes
1 c. sugar
1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1 1/2 tbsp. butter, melted
1 unbaked 9 inch pastry shell
Crumb Topping

Slip skins from grapes; set skins aside. Bring pulp to boiling; reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes. Press pulp through sieve to remove seeds. Add skins to pulp. Combine sugar, flour and salt.

Add lemon juice, butter and grape pulp. Pour into unbaked pastry shell.

1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/4 c. sugar
6 T butter

Cut butter until crumbly. Sprinkle over pie. Bake in hot oven (400) about 40 minutes.