All American Pie

I think that everyone loves pie. It is the quintessential American dessert. It also happens to be my favorite breakfast food. How about a slice of apple pie with a hunk of Vermont cheddar on the side—what a compliment to a good cup of coffee in the a.m.

There are many reasons for the popularity of pie. It lends itself to a wide variety of fillings, especially summer fruits and berries. Pie is also easy to transport to potluck parties and picnics. Another reason pie is so popular is that depending on how you go about it it’s actually very easy to make. Some people pride themselves on light, flaky crusts that require a lot of technique and a delicate touch. J.K. Adams has a pie-making contest in their Dorset store from time to time, and folks like Cindy Logan of the Red Fox and the Fox Stop in Bondville have won prizes for their flaky crusted pies. On the fourth of July in Wardsboro the local ladies bake pies for sale as part of the parade and celebration. These pies are so popular you have to get there early to have a chance of buying one. I even have a friend whose daughter asked that pies be served at her wedding reception instead of the usual cake.

This column concentrates on summer fruit pies which, in my opinion, are the best of the best. I have included recipes for pastry crusts and other crusts in case you do not have a favorite recipe of your own. You may lighten the load by buying a premade or ready-to-mix crust. You can also buy prepared graham cracker crusts. Why not make your own crusts and either roll them out and put them in the pie pan and freeze for future use or roll them up and freeze or refrigerate for future use. Whatever you do, be sure to be at the ready when the ripe fruit comes in. For a nice presentation, use latticed tops or designs in the top crust. Don’t neglect sides either—cheese, ice cream, frozen yogurt or whipped cream add special goodness to your pie. By the way, did you know that pie à la mode was invented by our neighbors in Cambridge, New York? Or so they claim … so gather those peaches and berries while they’re at perfection, and bake a pie for supper this summer. You can’t go wrong with these recipes.

Apple Rhubarb Pie
(A big Vermont favorite)

1½ Pounds rhubarb cut into ½ inch pieces
2½ Cups sliced apple
½ Cup strawberry jam
½ to ¾ Cups sugar

31/2 TBS quick cooking tapioca
2 TBS butter

2 Cups all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp salt
2/3 Cup Crisco or lard
1/2 Cup cold milk

For pastry: stir flour and salt together, cut in shortening till mixture resembles coarse corn meal. Add milk and blend with fork. Form into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap or wax paper and put in refrigerator till ready to use.

Mix rhubarb, apple, jam, sugar and tapioca together.

Roll out two crusts. Fit one into a 9 inch pie pan leaving a little dough to overhang the edges, pour in rhubarb mixture, dot with butter and fit second half of pastry on top, seal and flute the edges. Pierce top with a fork/knife or cut out a design.

Bake at 425 degrees for about 40 minutes.

Bartlett Pear Pie
(Can be made with other types of pears) 

6 Cups sliced, peeled and cored Bartlett pears (ripe but firm)
1/2 Cup light cream
2/3 Cup sugar
2 TBS quick cooking tapioca
1/8 tsp cloves
1/8 tsp salt
1 TBS butter

2 Cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 tsp each baking powder and salt
4 taps sugar
2/3 Cup shortening (lard or butter or a combo)
2 Egg yolks
1/2 tsp vanilla

For pastry: Sift the flour, baking powder, salt and 4 taps sugar into a bowl. Cut in shortening until it is in fine crumbs. Beat together the egg yolks, vanilla and cream, add to flour mixture and stir to make a soft dough. Wrap and chill about 30 minutes or overnight.

Combine pears, sugar, tapioca, cloves and salt. Let stand about 15 minutes.

Roll out about 2/3 of the dough on a floured board and fit into a deep 9-inch pie pan leaving a little dough to overhand the edges. Fill with pear mixture, dot with butter. Roll out remaining dough and cut into 1/2 inch wide strips. Arrange over pie in a lattice pattern. Flute edges.

Bake in a 375-degree oven for 1 hour.

Mom’s Blueberry Pie
(It is so easy and good for you) 

1 Quart blueberries picked over, washed and drained
3/4 Cups sugar
2 taps cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 TBS lemon juice
2 TBS tapioca
2 TBS butter

2 Cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 Cup lard or butter or a combo, cut into cubes
1/3 Cup ice water

For pastry: Place flour in a bowl and mix with sugar, salt and baking powder. Cut in shortening until mixture resembles coarse corn meal. Add ice water a TBS at a time till dough clings together. Form into a ball, wrap in plastic or wax paper and refrigerate for at least an hour.

Mix all ingredients together except butter. Be careful not to mash berries.

Roll out 1/2 of the pastry and fit into a 9-inch pie pan with a little overhanging the edges. Pour in berry mixture. Roll out second 1/2 of the pastry and fit over top fluting the edges. Make holes in the top or a design.

Bake in a 425 degree oven for 40 minutes or till golden.


Ginger Peach Pie
(Can be made two ways) 

10 Fresh peaches peeled, pitted and sliced into quarters
1 Lemon’s juice in a bowl of cold water
1/3 Cup flour
3/4 Cup white sugar and 1/4 Cup brown sugar
1/4 Cup butter
1/2 tsp ginger

1/2 Cup Chopped almonds
1/2 tsp almond extract

(Double for a two crust pie)
11/4 Cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 Cup butter, chilled and diced
1/4 Cup ice water

For pastry: Combine flour and salt. Cut in butter till mixture resembles coarse corn meal. Add ice water a TBS at a time till dough forms a ball. Wrap in plastic or wax paper and chill for at least an hour.

Peel, pit and slice peaches into quarters and drop into lemon water to keep from turning brown.

Drain peaches thoroughly and mix with flour, sugars and ginger. For a two-crust pie, roll out 2/3 of dough and fit onto a 9-inch pie pan. Pour in peach mixture. Top with butter bits. Fit with second crust that has been made into strips to form a lattice. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes till golden.

For a one-crust pie, roll out all of dough and fit into a 9-inch pie pan and let dough over hang the edges. Pour in Peach mixture that has the almond extract added to it. Top with butter bits and almonds. Fold under pie dough edges and flute.

Bake in a 375 degree oven for 45 minutes till golden.


Strawberry Sunday Pie
(A little change on the pie crust) 

1 Quart vanilla ice cream
1 Pound fresh strawberries, cleaned and sliced
3/4 Cup sugar
2 TBS tapioca

11/4 Cups ginger snaps, crushed
1 TBS sugar
1/3 Cup melted butter

3 Egg whites
6 TBS sugar
Dash of cream of tartar and salt

Make a crust of the ginger, sugar and butter and press into a 9-inch pie pan. Chill several hours.

Pack firm ice cream into pie crust cover with berries that have been mixed with sugar and tapioca.

For Meringue: Beat egg whites with salt and cream of tartar till stiff, add sugar gradually and beat till glossy. Spoon over berries sealing edges.

Bake 3 to 5 minutes at 475 degrees till meringue is browned and serve immediately.


Frozen Lemon Pie
(Always fresh and in season) 

1 tsp grated lemon peel
¼ Cup lemon juice
3 Egg yolks
½ Cup sugar
3 Egg whites
3 TBS sugar
1 Cup heavy cream
1 (Nine inch) graham cracker crust

For Graham Cracker Crust: Combine 1½ Cups finely ground graham crackers, 1/3 Cup sugar and 6 TBS melted butter. Press into a 9-inch pie pan. Bake at 375 degrees for about 7 minutes. Cool then chill for an hour or more.

Combine in top of a double boiler the lemon peel, lemon juice, egg yolks and sugar. Cook, gently stirring, until slightly thickened—about 12 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Beat egg whites until they hold soft peaks, gradually beat in sugar and beat till glossy.

Whip heavy cream. Fold together the cooled lemon mixture and the egg whites and whipped cream. Spoon into graham cracker crust and freeze till firm. May be garnished with thin or candied lemon slices and/or mint. ◊

Barbara Little is a cookbook author from Bondville and a regular columnist for STRATTON MAGAZINE