I am a pie snob, and I admit this with pride.
We had 14 people coming to our house for the annual Groff 4th of July party this past Saturday night and I woke up that morning with a wretched sore throat that was doing its best to spread its wickedness throughout my body.
I had 3 pies to create because homemade pie at our annual function is now a time-honored tradition. It didn’t matter that I was feeling poorly, those pies needed to come together.
Some people believe pie simply comes from the freezer section of their grocery store.
Some people have never made a real pie, and could give a fig whether or not they ever do, but . . .
I’m willing to bet something of value that a respectable majority of the masses adore a really good piece of homemade pie—which, to my means and methods—means the pie crust has to be a lard-based crust. (Groan if you want, but on this I am immovable.)
I was fortunate to watch and learn from the real experts: my mother, my paternal grandmother and a couple of aunts in busy ordinary family kitchens. It had nothing to do with expensive granite counter tops, or designer light fixtures—or even degrees from prestigious culinary schools with familiar-sounding acronyms.
These women learned their pie tricks out of necessity for feeding families and large work crews.
Back to my sore throat and not feeling in the most “pie-baking” mood Saturday morning.
Because I was feeling awful, I worked slower than I normally do.
I took my time with the process. I rinsed and peeled, and washed and diced and sliced and grated and measured. With the fillings mixed up and waiting in their bowls, I turned my attention to rolling out the bottom crusts, and it hit me.
You are in this moment only. Feels good, doesn’t it?
You are not rushing; thinking about what you’ll do after this.
You don’t do this nearly enough, but you need to.
I took my time rolling out each crust—testing it for uniform thickness, adjusting it a bit here and there, then ever so gently arranging it in its pie plate before repeating that process two more times.
Stirring and scraping the fillings: fresh blueberry with lemon zest, rhubarb (from my garden) mixed with market strawberries spiked up a bit with freshly grated orange zest and just a touch of fresh ground nutmeg–for the second pie, and of course, apple pie for the third. I like to add fresh lemon zest to my apple pies as well because freshly zested citrus makes anything rock to the next level up.
I dabbed on the butter pieces—real butter, of course—and then rolled out the decorative top crusts, once again laying them in place, taking care not to stretch or tear, trimming excess dough, tucking and rolling the edges, before giving them finger-formed edges.
There really is nothing better than working with your hands.
Perhaps you won’t believe me, but I swear my throat wasn’t hurting nearly as badly once those pies went into the oven to bake, and I realized I’d enjoyed my creative time at that dusty flour counter to its maximum potential.
It takes practice at being in the moment, and I have been painfully negligent as of late in my practice of that art.
There are always deadlines to meet, the next interview to locate and set up, the myriad of things that always need doing around the house, the yard, volunteer duties, and so forth. It becomes too easy to live to rush toward that next task or duty or promise—or “always wanted to try that . . .”, and before I know it—I’m not even trying to stand in the moment and enjoy where I am. This simply is not good.
A friend recently asked me some pointers about starting her novel.
I told her to make sure she had a ball writing her first draft, because it may just be the most fun she’ll have with it.
Practicing what we preach can be such hard work, don’t you agree?
Just for grins—here’s my family’s lard pie crust recipe. Just in case you want to try your hand at one.☺
Grandma Z’s Pie Crust
3 cups white flour
1-1/3 cup of lard
3/4 tsp salt
Mix flour and salt together, cutting in the cold lard with pastry cutter until crumbly, then add the following combined mixture:
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp cider vinegar
5 TBLS ice cold water
Mix, by hand, until smooth, shape into a disk before wrapping and chilling in refrigerator for several hours.
A few pointers:
- Be sure the lard is cold.
- I always use a pastry cutter to work the lard into the dry ingredients.
- Be sure the and water mixture, as well, is very cold. (I ice a glass of water first, then measure out my 5 TBLS of water and add the vinegar.)
- Do not overwork the dry ingredients/lard mixture. Just get them worked into a small crumb mixture and then add the wet ingredients.