In the Southern United States, fried fruit pies are synonymous with memories of your grandmother’s kitchen.
When discussing these delicacies with friends who aren’t familiar with them, I have been met with quizzical looks and many questions. A fried pie? As in, you fried an ENTIRE pie? No, these are the cousins of those savory hand pies found in other parts of the country. Other fruits can be used.
Some varieties have a biscuitlike crust, while my mother’s dough is a pastry crust all the way. These delicious treats are filled with the cook’s chosen cooked fruit, folded over in a half-moon shape, crimped with a fork and then fried in a cast-iron skillet. My mother assures me that using a cast-iron skillet is essential.
It’s sometimes challenging to find handwritten recipes for these rustic handheld desserts. When I was growing up, everyone’s mama and grandmama had their own secret recipe. These ladies simply knew how to make them from watching their own mothers.
Whenever our family realized my mother was peeling apples and “cooking them down,” we knew what was in store for us, and the excitement began to build. My mother was gracious enough to share her recipe with me and kind enough to give me permission to share it with all of you.
Southern Fried Apple Pies
The apples need to be prepared ahead of time and refrigerated overnight. The reason for this step is if the apple mixture is warm when it’s put into the pastry, the pastry will tear during the frying process. A nice chilled mixture spooned into the dough will hold together well.
For the filling:
- 4 large Granny Smith apples, peeled and thinly sliced
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2⁄3 cup water
- A dash each of cinnamon and nutmeg
In a cast-iron skillet, add all ingredients and cook apples over medium heat, stirring frequently. Cook until apples are tender. Transfer to a bowl and place in the refrigerator overnight.
To make the pastry:
- 5 to 6 heaping tablespoons self-rising flour
- 1⁄3 cup Crisco shortening
- 4 to 5 tablespoons water or milk
Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl, stirring until well combined and a soft dough forms. On a floured surface, roll out dough to a thickness of about 1/4 inch. Place a small saucer (a coffee cup-sized saucer) onto the dough and, using a sharp knife, cut out the pastry using the saucer as your guide.
Fill the circle with 1 tablespoon of the cold apple mixture. Fold over and crimp edges with a fork to seal completely. Repeat with remaining dough and apples.
Using a large cast-iron skillet, add enough Crisco vegetable oil to have a 1- to 1 1/2-inch depth of oil. Heat over medium-high heat until a bit of the dough dropped into the oil sizzles.
Carefully place a few pies into the hot oil at a time.
As one side browns, carefully turn the pies over to finish cooking the other side. Drain on paper towels. Repeat with remaining pies.