My father loves sour cherry pie so much he planted a cherry tree in our back yard when I was a kid. I can still remember how he draped the thing with nets to keep invading birds out…and the hours my twin sister and I spent pitting cherries for pies. Oh, the stains our our school uniforms! But it was worth it since there’s nothing quite like a good sour cherry pie. To make one you’ll need:
1 recipe standard pie crust
4 cups pitted sour cherries
3 tablespoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 cup sugar
generous pinch salt
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
This is what you call a classic American lemon meringue pie: a light, frothy-sweet baked egg foam above, a tart and creamy curd filling below, all heaped up on a delicate crumb (or traditional) pie crust. Not much not to like here in my opinion. Indeed lemon meringue consistently ranks about fifth on the list of the America’s favorite pies. It would probably rank higher if more people made this pie at home, but its reputation for fussiness scares a lot of home bakers away.
That reputation is deserved to some extent. Under-baked meringue toppings often cause weeping, and are quite common as the very center of the pie is hard to fully heat without breaking the lemon custard (which causes another kind of weeping). Large pools of syrup are commonly found in pie plates, either upon cutting or the next day after any leftovers have had a chance to sit. The process below is designed to avoid that problem, and it works very well. However it is something of a dance, so I strongly encourage you to have all of your ingredients and component parts prepared and laid out on the counter before you begin. There’ll be much less confusion that way.
Lemon meringue pie is a basically a citrus curd pie save for the fact that the “curd” is made with a mixture of water and juice (instead of all juice), and it’s thickened with cornstarch. The water provides added volume (and frankly also keeps the flavor of the filling from becoming overwhelming) and the cornstarch provides thickening as well as insurance against curdling in the oven. This recipe — which steals tricks from both Rose Levy Beranbaum and Cook’s Illustrated — combines a deep pie with a break-resistant American-style meringue.
I have to admit, these Melton Mowbray-style pork pies aren’t something you just throw together, but for the serious pork pie enthusiast they are well worth the time and effort. To make them the old-fashioned way you’ll need an old-fashioned piece of equipment called a pie dolly plus some rendered leaf lard, for without good quality lard the side walls of the pie won’t stand up in the oven. Oh yes friends, these pies are baked free-standing, didn’t you know? Forms are for sissies. At least they are in Melton Mowbray.
That said you absolutely can adapt this recipe to more conventional ingredients and equipment. A standard hot water pie crust or even an American-style pie crust can be used along with a muffin tin or other form. They’ll come together in an afternoon. Personally, once I read about this technique I couldn’t resist trying it, even if it took three days. The result was the pork pie of the gods.
A classic pork pie has three components: crust, filling and “jelly” or a gelatin-thickened stock which is poured in through a hole in the top crust while the pie is still warm from the oven. Why the jelly? Because these pies bake for a good 90 minutes. In that time the fresh pork is going to lose some if its moisture. The jelly is a way of putting back some of that moisture, as well as adding extra flavor. Notice my recipe calls for powdered gelatin. If you prefer you can make the stock the traditional way by adding two fresh pork trotters (feet) to the stock. Me, I’d just as soon let the good folks at Knox smell up their kitchen with feet, that’s what I pay them for.
For the Stock
2 pounds pork bones
1 bay leaf
about 20 black peppercorns
1 carrot, diced
1 medium onion, diced
1 celery rib, diced
small bunch fresh parsley
several sprigs fresh thyme
powdered gelatin (one envelope [2 1/4 teaspoons] per 2 cups of stock)
Do you believe pie can expand consciousness? You might after a couple slices of sweet potato pie. It has a creamy, earthy sweetness…and an almost infinite ability to please and comfort. Done right, it’ll change a person. Oh yeah.
Sweet potato pie is one of the glories of Southern cooking. The best ones really taste like sweet potato instead of pumpkin, which happens a result of pumpkin pie spice (ginger, nutmeg, cloves, allspice, etc.). A little nutmeg and some brown sugar are really all you need to bring out the best in the spuds. You’ll need:
1 recipe pie crust for a single-crust pie
about 1 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes cut into chunks
1 cup sugar
2 ounces (1/2 stick) very soft butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 to 2 tablespoons bourbon (optional)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
1 cup milk
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
You know that huge stash of syrups and sugars I had after the sweetener extravaganza? It’s gone now. That’s what a couple treacle tarts and four or five shoo-fly pies will do. At least I won’t be worrying about ants.
Why so much trouble with shoo-fly pie? Because of the crust. As a rule I don’t like pie crusts that aren’t pre-baked. They can have a cereal mouthfeel that results from uncooked flour. They also get wet and sloppy, especially when a pie filling goes in as runny as this one does. True, for some people “wet bottom” shoofly pie is a delicacy. For those folks an unbaked crust is the way to go.
Reader Mike D. generously offers up his grandmother’s recipe for the cause. Thanks Mike!
one 9″ pie crust, unbaked
7.5 ounces (1 1/2 cups) flour
5 ounces (2/3 cup) brown sugar
1 ounce (2 tablespoons) butter or shortening
1 beaten egg
11.5 ounces (1 cup) molasses
6 ounces (¾ cup) boiling water
1 tsp baking soda
Combine the sugar and flour. Rub in shortening to make crumbs. Take out half of crumbs for top layer of pie. Dissolve baking soda in water and add with egg, molasses to remaining crumbs. Mix thoroughly. Pour liquid into unbaked pie-crust. Top with remaining crumbs. Bake 10 minutes at 375°, then 30 minutes more at 300°. Makes one 9” pie.
There are three words I want you to remember when you set out to make either pecan pie or World Famous Kentucky Horse Race Whose Name Rhymes with “Herbie” pie. Those words are: Syrup. Holds. Heat. That concept is critical because just like pumpkin pie, pecan pie and World Famous Kentucky Horse Race Whose Name Rhymes with “Herbie” pie are custards. Overcook the filling and they will curdle. The result? Lumpy-textured slices that weep syrup on the plate.