Monday, December 6, 2010

Southern Fried Hand Pies

Little fried hand pies made with fresh fruit or dried, your choice of pastry and either pan fried, deep fried or baked. No matter how you prepare them, they are a true Southern Classic!
Little fried hand pies made with fresh fruit or dried, your choice of pastry and either pan fried, deep fried or baked. No matter how you prepare them, they are a true Southern Classic!

Southern Fried Hand Pies

A reader over on the Facebook page asked about these little southern delicacies and we started chatting about everybody's favorites, and of course, impressionable me, decided I had to make some right away! I get cravings thrown on me like that all the time.

Some folks make these using biscuit dough, some canned biscuits, some fresh or store-bought pastry, and one reader even mentioned making them with tortillas! 

By the way, I hear that in North Carolina, they know these as applejacks. I like it!

While I do enjoy them with the biscuit dough as pictured above, I am more in the pie dough pastry school of thought, since I like a hand pie to have the same kind of flaky crust that a regular pie has and love the final texture of the deep fried pastry dough, while the biscuit dough cooked in a skillet is more greasy.

I make homemade pie crusts most of the time, although I love Pillsbury refrigerator crusts too. You just can't beat those for consistent quality and presentation, unlike my homemade pies, which are always far from perfect. I've used boxed Jiffy mixes too, for those times that I'm feeling a bit lazy and don't feel like dragging out the food processor for a homemade crust. They are handy to keep in the pantry, and they produce a mighty fine pie crust with nothing more than the addition of a little ice cold water.

You'll want to roll the dough out nice and thin for these and should get right at a dozen four-inch rounds from one box of Jiffy. Of course, feel free to substitute your own homemade pie crust or a box of Pillsbury - you'll need a two crust recipe - or make up your own homemade biscuit dough. I've included one in the recipe.

Speaking of that... {pulling out the ole soapbox} there are some southerners who will say the only "authentic" Southern hand pies will be made only with biscuit dough and only with dried fruit and only in a skillet. Bless their hearts.

That would be like saying the only way to wash clothes is still with a hand wringer washing machine! Can you imagine?

By the way, I distinctly remember that my grandmother had one of those in the corner of her kitchen, even though more modern washers were certainly available by then. Funny. I can still see that washer in my mind's eye today as if I'm standing right her kitchen, even though my Mama's Mama passed when I was a young child, and her house was lost long ago to Hurricane Camille.


Back in the day, that certainly would have been true of the way our great grandmothers would have made a hand pie. Not only did they not have the funds for the discretionary spending we have today, nor did they have access to convenience products, so yes, of course, they made up their own doughs.

For hand pies that would have been in a pastry form, either flaky, same as when they made their pies, or, more biscuit-like if they liked a thicker texture on their hand pies. What they did not use, however, were rolls of canned biscuits or pie crust found in the refrigerator aisle of their local super-center.

Our great grandmothers also used fresh apples, peaches or other fruit that had been harvested in season, most often from their own or the backyard tree of a neighbor who was willing to share their harvest.

Shocking, I know.

Out of season, our great grandmothers used that very same fruit that had been preserved right there at home, intended for use throughout the season until the next harvest, often dried on sheets of tin or screens out in the hot sun.

What our great grandmothers did not use, however, were little packages of preservative laden and frankly, budget busting, commercial dried fruits like we have on our grocery store shelves today.

Sorry folks, but that just ain't our great grandma's dried fruit.

All that to say, what you do is not wrong, nor any less authentic, and don't let anybody tell you otherwise. Ever. It's your kitchen and whatever you do there, whatever you learned growing up, is right.

Absolutely, you can use a homemade crust or biscuit recipe.

Or, you can use a roll of canned biscuits, a box of pie dough mix, or a refrigerated pie crust.

Or tortillas!

And, you can use freshly cooked fruit, or commercially dried pouches of fruit.

A lot of people love the concentrated sweetness of the fruit and frankly, the memories associated with reconstituting the dried fruit that their mothers or grandmothers may have used when they no longer dried fruit at home.

Bottom line? You should always do what is most meaningful and memorable to you.

Since we mostly aren't drying fruit from our fruit trees these days, and thankfully our year-round availability of fresh fruit is much better in these modern times, I prefer using fresh fruit for hand pies, especially when in season, abundant, and especially locally grown. It just is the best for my body and frankly, I think it tastes best. {tucks away the soapbox}

Here's how to make some tasty fried apple pies. Just scroll on down past all of the pictures to get to the printable recipe, including the full recipe text with measurements and directions.

The first thing to do is stew the apples down in nothing but butter and sugar.

I like to use Granny Smith apples, peeled and cut into chunks, and cook them covered, usually about 15 to 20 minutes or so. Any good firm apple that you like with do. You'll need about 2 cups of chopped apple, so how many will just depend on their size. A medium apple should give you about one cup of chopped.

Then remove from the heat and add in some brown sugar, cinnamon and just a bit of freshly grated nutmeg. If you make peach pies, peel and chop the peaches, and then let them drain in a colander for at least 30 minutes before proceeding.

Give them a good stir, a taste to adjust the sweetness, and set them aside to cool. They should be the consistency of a sort of chunky applesauce. One thing you do not want to do is to try to wrap hot apples in your pastry - it will melt it into a mess. While the apples are cooling, prepare the dough you're using, roll it out nice and thin and cut it into rounds. I usually use a small ramekin that measures 4 inches across to cut mine. A Tervis tumbler works pretty good too.

Once you have all the rounds cut out, sprinkle them lightly with a bit of granulated sugar and refrigerate them until you are ready to assemble the fried pies. Spoon about 1 tablespoon of apple filling onto each round. Depending on the size of your apples, and how large you make your pie circles, you'll probably end up with a bit of apple filling leftover. Just eat that with your oatmeal, on pancakes or mixed in some vanilla yogurt!

Fold them over, press the edges together and then crimp them with the tines of a fork so that they are well sealed. Place them on a plate that has been lightly sprinkled with flour and stick the plate in the fridge for about 10 minutes to chill the pastry.

Pan fry, deep fry or bake them, but fry in batches so you don't overcrowd the pan and cool the oil down. I prefer to deep fry, because for one, I have a good deep fryer, and also because pan frying them absorbs more grease, while deep frying fries them faster with much less grease absorption. By the way, they are also quite good baked.

Deep fried hand pies made with a pie crust dough.

 Drain on a paper towel and sprinkle with granulated sugar as soon as they come out of the fryer, or let them cool slightly and dust lightly with powdered sugar. Try not to devour the entire platter. Not that I would know anything about that.

For more of my classic and favorite southern recipes, visit my page on Pinterest!

Posted by on December 6, 2010

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