Well not really, but I’m working on it. As we create our prepared foods line at our store, Farmers & Artisans, I decided we needed to start making pies. I spent my high school years watching my mom bake pies for a restaurant – apple, of course, cherry, strawberry-rhubarb, lemon meringue to name a few. She’d stack them in picnic baskets on wooden racks my dad made for her and transported them in the back of our big old station wagon. Mom used Grandma’s lard crust recipe that we swore and still do, makes the most flavorful flakiest crust. Ironically, we only occasionally had pie for dessert at the farm. My dad used to say the only way he could get a piece of pie was to go to the restaurant and buy a slice.
I decided I was going to carry on the family lard crust pie making tradition and sell them in the store. How hard could it be? Well, like everything else it’s all about simple, quality ingredients and good technique. The ingredient part is easy – we grow most of the fruit or get what we don’t have from other local farmers. We render the lard (aka cooking down the pig’s fat) in our large ovens at the store. I’m using flour milled in the Finger Lakes and organic spices, oatmeal and butter. Mom helped me with the crust mixing and edging techniques, and has passed down her favorite recipes. I’m using a dough roller at the store. That takes some practice. Sometimes I feel like Lucille Ball in the candy factory.
I have four pies now - apple, apple-elderberry, Concord grape, and cherry with almond crumb topping. Strawberry and strawberry-rhubarb are next on the list as soon as I can get our delicious local berries in June. I feel this small sense of accomplishment every time I cut my wheat design in the top crust. My grandmother would be proud.
Easy…no way… but so worth the effort.