Fried Pies might be the ultimate comfort food for southerners. Especially of… folks of a certain age; though their appeal knows no age, economic barriers or social status. Given the chance to eat a fried pie, the answer is always ‘yes!’
There are variations of fried pies. In other regions they might be called:
- hand pies,
- even empanadas.
The comfort food we know as fried pies are generally filled with a thick filling of dried apples or peaches, though I’ve also seen other types- strawberry, lemon, chocolate and another southern type called Nachitoches Meat Pies from a small town in Louisiana. These variations aren’t what I’m talking about here. Fried pies always conjure up the type our mother’s made from dried fruit-plumped up with water and sugar, then boiled down until as thick as jam.
A tablespoon or so is put inside a small circle of dough, the edges are folded over to make a half moon shape; then they are fried. Not deep fried either… which I personally think would ruin a fried pie! Still, they are fried in about a half inch of oil or shortening even lard. They do especially well fried in a hot iron skillet. * You know, I really should tell you sometime all the reasons we love our iron skillets and fried pies is just one reason!
In my grandmother’s double first cousins’ cookbook- there is an old ‘anonymous’ recipe for fried pies… still the best one I’ve ever come up with so- Here’s how you make real southern Fried Pies!
- 2 cups sifted Plain Flour (All purpose)
- 3 Teaspoons Baking Powder
- 1 Teaspoon Salt
- 1/3 cup Shortening (plus extra for frying)
- 2/3 cup Milk
- Dried Apples or Peaches
Prepare dried fruit for filling. Set aside. Mix first 4 ingredients until like cornmeal, using a pastry cutter. Add milk and mix well. Divide dough into 8-12 parts and shape into balls. Roll or pat on floured surface to make a circle. Fill each circle with a tablespoon or so with dried apples or peaches. Fold dough over filling, seal edges by crimping with a fork. Chill. Fry pies in a heavy iron skillet in hot shortening until golden brown on both sides. Serve warm if possible.
* A word about rehydrating dried peaches or apples- feel free to soak the fruit in water overnight… a few hours will be fine also. Add granular sugar at a ratio of 1/2 cup to 1 cup of fruit, I’ll admit I often add a full cup of sugar to 1 cup of soaked fruit. These fruits are tart when dried. I have added a bit of cinnamon even nutmeg to the fruit, though this isn’t necessary. Simmer the fruit until the mixture is as thick as jam, watching carefully. I often bring the fruit to a bubbling state, cover and bake in a 350 degree oven for about an hour, more if needed. When the fruit has stewed, with a potato masher, press fruit until it is the texture of a thick jam; any excess juice can be drained away, you don’t want to ‘wet’ the dough when filling. Set aside the stewed fruit until the dough is ready. The stewed fruit will keep in the fridge for up to a week. Above are what dried peaches look like. And.. Below are what rehydrated and sugared dried apples look like before mashing.
* A word about the dough- the rule is to never overwork a pastry dough, fried pie dough may be an exception. My grandmother thought milk ‘toughened’ a pie crust dough, yet Milk works very well for fried pies since it will need to hold its shape while frying. And in my grandmother’s day, chilling wasn’t always feasible, yet I find after I fill and crimp the fried pies, chilling helps- therefore that instruction was included in the recipe.
** If you aren’t frying the pies right away, it is best to freeze the uncooked pies on a baking sheet in a single layer, then place carefully in freezer bags until you’re ready to make them. I love to make a double batch, freeze them and then take out however many I plan to fry. They do not need to be thawed before frying! (I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you, that many southern ladies who are expert at making fried pies, use a time saver they use canned biscuits and roll out the individual biscuits into a flat disc, fill with stewed apples or peaches just as in this recipe, and I must say- those are awfully good too!)
Fried Pies … it’s a Southern thing y’all! I’ve never met anyone who didn’t love them! They are warm, filling and delicious! With this nip in the November air, I know I’ll be making up several batches to enjoy as the ultimate comfort food! I hope you’ll try this southern favorite soon!
Love y’all, Camellia
All photographs are obviously mine!