I guess you’ve heard that there is more than one way to skin a cat. In reference to piecrust, Barbara Austin, one of my readers, sent her piecrust recipe. She got a kick out of my pie snob article. She tried my mother’s recipe, and it was really good, but she has one her daughter-in-law gave her years ago that is really easy. “You can whip out eight or nine single crusts in about two hours. I make a lot of pies; do all the pie baking for the DAV (Disabled American Veterans) bingo night twice a year. We have a rummage/bake sale once a year. I usually made the fruit and nut pies. I try to have 20 or 25 crusts made to fill each day of the sale; make a lot of cocoanut, chocolate and lemon pies.”
She makes her pie filling in the microwave, in Pyrex pitchers. “Much easier than standing and stirring at stove,” Barbara said. “Just scald your milk and add the rest of the ingredients. Microwave on medium heat and stir every few minutes.” She gets meringue powder at the Mennonites’ store north of Buffalo.
Barbara’s piecrust is made by putting 2 large cups of flour (1 cup plus 1 tablespoon) and a pinch of salt in a bowl. Make a well and stir in with a big fork 1/3 cup milk and 2/3 cup vegetable oil. Stir until it forms a ball. Once in a while you need to add a handful or two of flour, if it is sticky. The crust can then be rolled out between two pieces of wax paper and placed in your pie pan.
She has several stencils she bought at the Mennonite store. Some are lattice-like. Her favorites are little cherries or apples. The dough will stick to the stencil, so punch out the holes and carefully place over your fruit filling. Crimp the edges of the two crusts.
My cookbook, “Ozarks Recipes: Momma’s, Mine, and others’ … and maybe a Tale or Two” (available on Amazon), features my mother’s recipe, plus Leta Snyder’s “Big Batch Pie Crust” recipe: 5 pounds flour, 3-pound can shortening and 1 tablespoon salt. Mix until crumbly. Add 1 cup white syrup and 5 cups water. Mix. Put in bags for freezing. I have not tried this recipe, but using white syrup is very interesting.
A crust very similar to Mom’s called for sugar. Right now I can’t remember how much. Mom thought it made the crust a bit tough. My mother-in-law put an egg in her crust. Before writing this article, I looked for her recipe, but I couldn’t find it.
Mom’s recipe calls for apple cider vinegar. I had a fellow explain that the vinegar helps make the crust much flakier. A flaky vinegar piecrust recipe was on the Internet. It called for 2 1/4 cups flour, 1 cup butter, 1 tablespoon sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar, and 6 to 10 tablespoons ice water.
The woman who has “The Pioneer Woman” television program posted her piecrust recipe on the Internet. It calls for 3 cups flour, 1 1/2 cups Crisco, 1 egg, 5 tablespoons cold water, 1 tablespoon white vinegar and 1 teaspoon salt. You are to divide the dough in thirds and place each ball in a large Ziploc bag. Then roll out each ball of dough into a flat circle and freeze. The freezing process tends to make it flakier.
While looking for crust recipes, I came across Mom’s vinegar pie recipe. The finished pie is supposed to taste like a lemon pie: 4 beaten egg yolks, 1 1/2 cups water, 1/3 cup cider vinegar, 3 tablespoons melted butter, 1 1/2 cups sugar, 3 tablespoons cornstarch, 1/2 teaspoon lemon extract and a baked, cooled pie shell.
Combine egg yolks with sugar, vinegar and melted butter in a nonstick saucepan. Mix sugar, cornstarch and flour together, and stir into this mixture, stirring until smooth. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly until the mixture comes to a boil and thickens. Add lemon extract and stir. Pour into the pie shell. Top with meringue.
Green tomato pie is another of Mom’s odd pies: 4 cups green tomato meat, 1 1/2 cups sugar (half white and half brown), 2 tablespoons flour, 1/4 teaspoon salt, a pinch of nutmeg and cinnamon, and 1/3 stick butter. Mix ingredients, including sugars. Put all ingredients into a nonstick saucepan and bring to a boil. Line the pie plate with crust. Place the tomato mixture in the crust and dot with butter. Cover with crust. Bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and continue baking for another 20 minutes or until golden brown.
Daddy was friends with Alvin Smey, an over-the-road trucker. My sister Carol Ann said Alvin hauled groceries for Hood’s Store, among other establishments. A time or two when Alvin had something the grocery store would not accept, he brought it to our house — I remember a 100-pound sack of onions and a huge sack of pineapples. I don’t think we kids had ever tasted pineapple prior to this time, and we tended to eat way too much. My brother Jimmy said it blistered his innards all the way through. I certainly remember it blistering the inside of my mouth.
Jimmy remembered Mom making pies with that pineapple. Carol Ann said that, yes, Mom made custard-type pies with it, and she had to be awfully careful it didn’t curdle the cream. I don’t remember the pies at all, but Carol Ann said they were delicious.
Like I said to begin with, there are several ways to skin a cat — or to make a pie. Happy pie baking!