Monday, January 31, 2011

Michael Hurley Illustrates the Piebird

After I heard back from Michael Hurley about my post on his pie-themed songs and art, I asked him if he might be interested in contributing a post to the blog. He sent in this photo he took in Richmond, Virginia, circa 1995:

and included this note:
hi Emily,
here's a pic for the pie blog. it illustrates the use of the piebird, a ceramic inserted in the pie which spouts the juices as a venting function. we used to do pies with these piebirds and here is one cooling from the oven.
He said that he ordered them from a Tennessee general store catalog, and was glad that I was a piebird keeper. I must admit, though I own two pie birds, a black bird (like the one pictured at right) and a sparrow, I've never actually used them in a pie, always thinking that I'd rather keep in the steam and juice as much as possible. I think the bottom of my oven has suffered as a result; I might need to try my piebird soon...

Sunday, January 30, 2011

It's An Old New England Custom...

...To eat pie for breakfast. Tay from Winooski, Vermont sent in these photos from the Rotary Pie For Breakfast at the Cambridge Winter Fest in the Lamoille Valley of Vermont. Here's what she had to say:
It was delicious, I had elderberry/apple, raspberry, pizza, and part of a slice of peanut butter pie.
Thanks for the photos Tay and for keeping the tradition alive!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Mincemeat Pie by Julie Shepherd-Powell

I was put in touch with Julie via my friend Lora, after she came back from her New Year's celebration, raving about Julie's mincemeat pie. Several people have asked me when I would start posting about meat pies, but I don't eat meat, so I thought this the perfect opportunity to bring in an expert. I asked Julie if she would be interested in writing a post about it here, and she graciously agreed.

A little about Julie Shepherd-Powell...she is a mom, wife, home cook, banjo player, flat-footer, and PhD student galore from North Carolina, currently living in Nonesuch, KY. Her and her family's ultimate goal is to become homesteaders in the mountains of Virginia and open a business called Happy Hog Lard featuring organic, free range, lovable pork, and, of course, lard.
Here's what she has to say about mincemeat pie...

Mincemeat Pie: How did I ever live without you?

I never gave mincemeat, or mincemeat pie, much thought until a couple of years ago when I was browsing through my King Arthur Flour 20th Anniversary cookbook that my mother-in-law had picked up for me at a yard sale. I’m not even sure what I thought mincemeat was before I came across this recipe—perhaps in my subconscious I had linked it to some sort of weird English dish that involved livers and other parts of the animals that were not in favor with my conservatively raised Southern palate. In recent years, though, I’ve expanded my culinary horizon and am always excited to try new, different recipes. And well, I’m a sucker for Christmassy things, especially when it comes to recipes with long traditions, and frankly, I’m a sucker for the old world and like to think people eating these traditional foods for hundreds of years. Maybe Jane Austin herself ate mincemeat, and who doesn’t love a good classic novel set in the English countryside?

So when I first came across this recipe for mincemeat around Christmastime in 2009, I knew I wanted to try it—but I was unable to find the time I needed to do it. So this past year when I came across the recipe for a second time, I decided I would be sure to make room in my busy schedule for it--it takes a few hours to put together (most of it is not “active”), and after cooking the filling, you need to let it set for at least 2 weeks in the fridge to let the flavors meld.

When I speak of mincemeat pie now, I am always trying to convey the amazing sweet, Yuletide goodness that it embodies—it basically combines tons of delicious dried fruits, spices, apple cider, maple syrup, butter (or suet- a type of beef fat that you can get from your butcher with a little advance notice), wine, and yes beef into a delicious filling that melts in your mouth. Made with a rustic cornmeal crust, and topped with a homemade bourbon whipped cream, it’s a tradition that will definitely be part of my family’s holiday cuisine for years to come. And be assured--despite the fact that I have gone on and on about Christmas, this pie is one to try in any of the cooler/cold months—plan ahead, and when you finally bake it and take your first bite, you’ll know why it was worth the wait.

Mincemeat Pie in a Rustic Cornmeal Crust with Bourbon Whipped Cream

The Mincemeat: (Make two weeks in advance)
Note: This recipe makes enough mincemeat for 2 pies, so if you want to make 2, you'll need to make the crust recipe twice

1 pound lean beef
1 quart apple cider
1 cup maple syrup
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon allspice
¼ teaspoon mace
¼ teaspoon cloves
½ cup (1 stick) butter or ¼ pound ground suet (I used butter, see note below about suet*)
½ pound dried currants (1 1/2 cups firmly packed)
½ pound golden raisins (1 1/2 cups firmly packed)
¼ pound fresh cranberries, cut in half (about 2 cups)
grated rind and juice of 1 lemon
¼ cup "spirits" (I used wine, but brandy or bourbon would work well too!)

Trim the meat if necessary and dice it into small cubes. Pour the cider into a large saucepan and add the sweeteners and spices. Add the meat and bring this mixture to a boil, then turn down and simmer for about 2 hours, or until the meat is tender. Skim any foam that comes to the top during the first hour of cooking.

After 2 hours, turn off the heat and remove the meat with a slotted spoon. Add the currants, raisins, cranberries and lemon rind and juice to the hot cider/broth mixture. Let these steep while you mince the meat.

Return the meat to the fruit mixture, bring back to a boil and then down to a simmer for about 1/2 hour. Boil off enough liquid so the mixture is thick. Melt and blend in the butter at this point. After the mixture has cooled, add 1/4 cup of "spirits." This adds flavor and helps preserve the mincemeat. Cover and store mincemeat in a cool place (the fridge) for 2 or more weeks.

A word about suet: You can find suet, a special kind of beef fat, at your local butcher shop/market. Often he or she just needs to know in advance to put some aside for you when they are butchering beef. Don’t order the suet online—this is the kind that is used for bird feeders—it has other additives and is not safe for human consumption. OKAY, so what to do if you are using suet instead of butter—you will want to “mince” it up WITH the beef—and add it back into the broth/spice mixture when you add the beef back, and of course, skip the butter. Pretty simple. I plan to try it with suet next year.

Rustic Cornmeal Crust: (and preparing/baking the pie)
Makes a single crust for one mincemeat pie, this is a rustic crust—so you only need a single crust per pie

1 ¾ cup flour
1/3 cup sugar
¼ cup cornmeal
¼ teaspoon salt
1 stick butter (cold and cut into ½ inch cubes)
1/3 cup buttermilk

2 tablespoons milk
1 egg white
2 tablespoons turbinado sugar

To prepare pastry, combine flour and next 3 ingredients (through salt) in a food processor; pulse a few times. Add butter to flour mixture; pulse 4-5 times or until mixture resembles coarse meal. With processor on, slowly add buttermilk through food chute; process just until dough forms a ball.** Gently press dough into a 4-inch circle on plastic wrap; cover. Chill in the freezer for 30 minutes, or in the refrigerator for an hour. (Be sure to get the dough VERY chilled, but not so hard you can’t roll it out)

Preheat oven to 350°. Unwrap and place dough on a sheet of parchment paper, sprinkled with flour. Roll dough into a 12 or 13-inch circle. Your dough should be about 1/8 inch thick when rolled out. Place dough and parchment on a baking sheet (this is how it will bake—read on).

Arrange ½ of the mincemeat mixture (enough for one pie) in center of dough, leaving a 2-inch border. Fold edges of dough toward center, pressing gently to seal (dough will only partially cover the mincemeat mixture—try to make sure there are no holes in the edges, or you might have some juice spillage while the pie is baking).

Combine milk and egg white in a small bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Brush dough with milk mixture; sprinkle turbinado sugar evenly over dough. Bake at 350° for 55 minutes- 1 hour or until pastry is golden brown. Let stand 30 minutes; cut into wedges, and serve with Bourbon Whipped Cream (recipe follows).

** Note: If you don't have a food processor, combine flour, sugar, cornmeal, and salt and cut in butter using a pastry knife, until the dough resembles coarse meal. Make a well in the center of the mixture and add buttermilk. Stir until dough forms a ball. Continue with instructions from here!

Bourbon Whipped Cream

1 cup heavy whipping cream
1-2 Tablespoons powdered sugar (to taste)
1 Tablespoon (or more) good-quality Bourbon

In a medium bowl whisk/whip the heavy until soft peaks are just about to form. Beat in bourbon and sugar until soft peaks form. Make sure not to over-beat, or cream will become lumpy and butter-like.

Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge, Julie!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Pie of By-and-By

Michael Hurley is one of my favorite musicians in the world. His songs have that perfect balance of rawness and beauty that makes for real musical honesty that I can't get enough of. He has been putting out records since his release First Songs on Folkways in 1964, but has successfully avoided getting popular (though I'd definitely call him famous, at least among music nerds). Another thing I like about his music is that he often sings about pies (and paints them too). I could go on for quite a while about his music and art, but since this is a pie blog, I'll cut to the chase.

Here is one of his album covers from Wolf Ways released in 1994:

It depicts his werewolf alter-ego, chowing down on what appear to be whoopie pies (?), with some double-crust pies on deck. Here is one of the pie-themed songs (and one of my favorites) on this album, though a different version, this one from his 1998 LP Long Journey:

Check out some more of his pie songs, Water Train and Hoot Owls on Hi-Fi Snock Uptown (1972, and re-issued on Mississippi last year), as well as the rest of his catalog as soon as you get the chance.

Oh that pie, the pie of by-and-by...

Just received this great message from Mr. Hurley himself about this post...

dear Emily;
thanks for having me on the pie blog. I remain a huge fan of pie. it and tea are about the only consumable vices left to my options. a apple, pear, strawberry, blueberry, pies with no sugar but with honey and a whole wheat crust, they can't kill ya in moderation. I go into this most frequented restaurant in portland, an americanized burrito joint, and they always have two pies they are selling slices out of, baked elsewhere, last time it was the ginger/pear, I order my burrito to eat there and get a slice of pie to go for late night when all the restaurants are closed and I'm hungry again.


Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Mystery of Motherlike Pies

My friend Lora recently gave me an old pie tin she found at a junk shop. The tin is a little too rusty to be used for pie baking now, but it makes for a nice kitchen ornament and addition to my collection of pie paraphernalia. Engraved in the tin are the words "Motherlike Pies C.P. CO."

I hadn't heard of the Motherlike Pie company and was curious about what, where, and when it was in operation, so I went to the trusty ol' internet, looking for answers. Some searching for "Motherlike Pies" didn't yield much. All I really got was a snippet of a website I couldn't actually access. It read,
What soldier of Camp Travis will ever forget those motherlike pies with their tooth- some crusts cov- ered with delicious ice cream, or those tarts and ...
Camp Tavis, eh? I did an additional search for Camp Travis, which was apparently a military training camp in San Antonio, Texas during World War I. Many of the men were from Texas and Oklahoma, though once they were shipped out, troops started arriving from other states.

I did another search for "Camp Travis & pies" and found this letter, from a soldier stationed there, writing to his family about his Thanksgiving dinner.

He writes,
Well the big feed is over and I’m back at the stables again, always when I get Guard Duty I can find time to write you a letter. I sure am as full as a tick……..I wasn’t hungry at all only ate 3 turkeys and dressing, 3 cakes, 2 pies, and a few side dishes.
Interesting stuff, though I couldn't find any more information connecting Motherlike Pies with Camp Travis. We know there were pies there (at least on Thanksgiving), but were they Motherlike? Did the government issued pies to be served on miltary bases and training camps?

Please let me know if you have any more information about this... for now it will remain a Motherlike mystery.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Scenes from Pie Kills Cupcake

NPR, newspapers, even Betty Crocker herself all seem to be calling pie "the new cupcake". What?! I suppose that I am wary of "food trends" in general, and though I know they are just saying "cupcakes were hip, but now pie is the in thing," and might even agree that the cupcake obsession has gone a bit over the top, the two treats are very different, aren't mutually exclusive, and sorry, according to the all-knowing Wikipedia, pie is like thousands of years older. In any case, inspired (and amused) by all this hub-bub as well as by the subversive quilt The Sun Sets on Sunbonnet Sue, my friend and talented illustrator Emily Wallace decided to depict scenes of pie killing the cupcake, speculating all the ways this showdown might take place. Here are two. Amazing. Hoping to see some more scenarios of pie offing cupcake soon. In the meantime, try to enjoy both while you can, will ya?

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Christmas Shaker Lemon Pie

Lemon slices macerating

As I previously mentioned, I had an absolutely amazing slice of Shaker lemon pie at Scratch in Durham, North Carolina, so I wanted to try to make it for my family's Christmas dinner at my parent's house in Indiana. I found this recipe from smitten kitchen, and stuck to it fairly closely. Here it is:

Shaker Lemon Pie
adapted from smitten kitchen

Nothing-in-the-House double-crust pie dough (recipe at right)
2 large lemons, preferably Meyers

2 c. sugar

1/4 tsp. salt
4 eggs
4 Tblsp. melted butter

3 Tblsp. all-purpose flour

1 egg white

Turbinado sugar

1. Wash and dry lemons. Finely grate lemon zest into a bowl. Slice lemons as paper thin as you can get them; removing seeds. Add slices to zest and toss with sugar and salt. Cover and set aside at room temperature for 24 hours.

2. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Roll out half the dough and fit it into a 9-inch greased and floured pie plate. Mix the macerated lemon-sugar mixture with eggs, melted butter and flour until combined. Pour in to prepared pie shell.

3. Roll out the remaining dough, drape it over the filling, and flute the edge decoratively. Beat one egg white until frothy and brush over pie crust, then sprinkle with sugar. Cut vents in the crust and bake the pie in the middle of the oven for 25 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 350°F. and bake the pie for 20-25 minutes more, or until the crust is golden. Let the pie cool on a rack and serve at room temperature with a dollop of honey-whipped cream.

Pie pre-baking. My grandma added the lemon crust design!

I ended up forgetting to macerate the lemons overnight, so they only sat for a few hours. This ended up being fine, but I think the rind would be softer if they had sat for the prescribed 24 hours. I also didn't have a mandoline, so my lemon slices were a little thick. This was also okay, but I think the thinner you can get them, the better.

Gracing the Christmas table

My family really loved this pie (as did I!) and called it a new favorite! It also was a great unexpected companion to the chocolate cake made by my aunt.

A wee slice with a dollop of honey whipped cream!

I hope you had lovely holidays, with plenty of delicious pies baked and shared with loved ones!

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Damn Fine Pie

Heather got me this print from Chicago's Slow Industries for Christmas. Smiling coffee and cherry pie-- damn fine!