Have Green Tomatoes, Make Pie

There
are never any leftovers of this flavorful pie at Mrs. Rowe’s Restaurant and
Bakery Staunton, Va. Customers look forward to it—such a short season—with its
robust spice and vinegar flavors,
perfectly mingled with an underlying sweetness. The flavors unfold with every
bite. 
Long-time regular customers know to get to the restaurant early enough
to enjoy a slice.  If the green tomato season
slips by, try tomatillos instead. This pie also works as a side dish with pork chops, chicken or veggie burgers.

(If
you’d like another way to use your green tomatoes, check out my other blog for
a sandwich spread recipe.)

 Makes
two 10-inch pies.

Makes
12 cups of mincemeat

2
recipes pie crust (You will need a top and bottom crust for both pies.)

Ingredients

3
pounds green tomatoes (or tomatillos) 

3 1/2
pounds apples

2
pounds brown sugar

2
pounds seedless raisins

1
tablespoon salt

2 ½
tablespoons cinnamon

2
teaspoons ground allspice

1
tablespoon nutmeg

3
tablespoons lemon juice

1 1/4
cups vinegar

Grind
the tomatoes though a food chopper. Add
salt and let stand for one hour. Drain
the tomatoes and add water, enough to cover. Bring to a boil and cook for five
minutes. Drain. Pare,
core, and chop the apples until very fine. Add
the tomatoes and other ingredients. Mix thoroughly. Bring
to a boiling point and simmer for one hour. Stir frequently to keep from
burning on bottom of the pan. Cool. This will take about 3 hours at room
temperature. This
will keep in refrigerator or will freeze well.

Preheat
oven to 425°F. 

Fill
the unbaked pie shell with mincemeat (approximately 5 cups).   Cover with top crust and seal
edges.

Bake
at 425°F for 15 minutes.

Reduce
temperature to 350°F and continue to bake for 35 minutes.

Cool
for 2 hours at room temperature before serving.

Betty Bryan’s Heavenly Coconut Cream Pie

My mother-in-law, Betty Bryan, is a fantastic cook and baker—and like a lot of good cooks, she doesn't really cook or bake by using recipes. So with that introduction, I'd like to tell you about her coconut cream pie and give you her exact recipe, but I can't. Let's just say it's as exact as I can make it for now, after talking with her briefly. But let me just tell you that whatever experimenting you manage with this pie, it will be worth it in the end. It's a much more soothing, less sweet,  and softer-on-the-palate version of coconut than say Mrs. Rowe's Coconut Cream–itself an iconic pie known to travelers across the country. Betty's pie is made with (non-instant) vanilla pudding and coconut flakes, which is a heavenly combination. 
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This "recipe" makes 3 pies. (Regular size, not deep dish.)

Preheat oven to 400.

Prebake your pie crust. 

2 big packages of Jello vanilla pudding (follow the instruction, except for the eggs, which you will add)

5-8 Eggs for meringue (use Mrs. Rowe's weepless meringue, click here)

Take your egg yolks and stir them into the pudding as it cooks.

A hand full (seriously) or about a cup of coconut flakes also gets stirred into the pudding as it cooks.

You also want to save some coconut for sprinkling on top of the pie before it goes into the oven.

The pudding needs to cool to room temperature, then pour it into the prebaked pie crusts. Place your meringue on top, sprinkle the coconut. Bake it in the oven for about 15 minutes.

"You really need to watch it because ovens are so different and you don't want it to burn," Betty says. Truer words were never spoken.

Happy National Blueberry Pie Day

Today is National Blueberry Pie Day! In honor of such an "esteemed" day, I'm posting the blueberry pie recipe in my book "Mrs. Rowe's Little Book of Southern Pie."  The
blueberry pie is the most expensive whole pie at Mrs. Rowe's Restaurant and Bakery, selling
for
$12.95 each. Most of the whole pies sell for under $10. The cost of
blueberries
has gotten so high that the restaurant was forced to raise its prices.
You can
still get a slice of the deep-blue pie, though, for the regular price of 
$2.75 per slice.

Mrs. Rowe's Blueberry Pie

Makes
one 9-inch pie

Your favorite piecrust

3 pints of blueberries,
cleaned and stems removed (thawed
and drained if frozen)


2
tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice


1/4
cup all-purpose flour (for thickening)


1/2
cup sugar


3/4
teaspoon ground cinnamon

2
tablespoons butter, unsalted, cut into small pieces


Egg
wash ingredients:


1 egg

1
tablespoon milk


Prepare
the crust.

If
you have made the dough, on a lightly floured work surface, roll out
half of
the dough to 1/8-inch-thick circle, about 13 inches in diameter.
Drape
the dough over a 9-inch pie pan and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.

If
you have purchased frozen prerolled circles, allow them to defrost and
place
one of the circles on and in the pie pan.


Whisk
the egg and milk together to make an egg wash and set aside.

Combine
the blueberries, flour, cinnamon, lemon juice, and sugar and place in
the
chilled bottom crust of the pie pan.
Dot
the top with butter pieces.
Roll
out the remaining dough to the same size and thickness.
Brush
the rim of the crust with the egg wash, place the other piece of dough
on top,
trim to 1/2 inch over the edge of the pan, and crimp the edges with a
fork or
your fingers.

Transfer
the pie to the refrigerator to chill until firm, about 30 minutes.
Heat
oven to 425°F.

Remove
the pie from the refrigerator.
Brush
the top with egg wash.
Score
the pie on the top with two perpendicular cuts (so steam can escape
while
cooking). Bake for 20 minutes at 425°F.

Reduce
the heat to 350°F and bake for 30 to 40 minutes more or until juices are
bubbling. Let cool before serving.

Happy National Pi Day

Another reason to celebrate pie? Or pi? This from the American Pie Council (yes, I'm a member, are you?): the date March 14 (or
3.14) gives cause to celebrate pie, or rather Pi (Π)
, yet again.
Used to denote the ratio of the
circumference of a circle to its diameter, Pi is the perfect symbol to
represent nice, big round pies of all
flavors. Given the width of a piping hot apple pie, one could use Pi,
3.14, to
figure out just how big the pie really is and how many friends it could
feed!  In honor of this infinitely useful number, the APC has
released a few of its own fascinating pie facts to chew on:


·      

1 in 5
– Number
of Americans who have eaten an entire pie by themselves.


·      

90 percent

Number of Americans who agree that a slice of pie represents one of the
simple
pleasures in life.


·      

231
– Number of
varieties of Apple Pie. 


·      
6 million
Number of American men ages 35-54 who have eaten the last piece of
pie-and
denied it.


·      
1/3 – Number of
Americans who have eaten pie in bed.


·      
27 percent
Number of Americans who believes chocolate pie is the most romantic pie
to
share with someone special.


·      
113 million – Number
of Americans who have eaten pie for breakfast.


·      

36 million
-Number of Americans who identify Apple Pie as their favorite.

·      
7 percent
Number of Americans who have passed off a store-bought pie as homemade.

A Chef’s Sweet Memories

Here's a couple of wonderful stories from Chef William Poole, owner of WEN Chocolates (http://www.wenchocolates.com) in Denver, Colorado.

I guess the greatest inspiration I  had growing up were my grandparents; both being of Czech descent. As a child, I remember that they baked constantly; there was always something to eat, Grandpa's cinnamon rolls, kolache, but what I remember most were my Grandmother's pies-pumpkin, mincemeat, pecan and cherry. I am told that when I was very little, I wouldn't ask for a chair to be placed next to the counter…I demanded(!) one. I was always given a piece of dough to work with, and I would work it until it was gray, and still asked for it to be baked off into pie-dough cookies, or a small pie for myself. Those tastes and smells from my childhood help me today-I know when I've got the spices and aromatics correct in my baking when I am "transported" to that special kitchen. To quote Truman Capote, "if some wizard would like to make me a present, let him give me a bottle filled with the voices of that kitchen, the haaa and the fires whispering, a bottle brimming with its buttery sugar bakery smells." – from The Grass Harp

A few years ago, I worked aboard the American Orient Express as pastry chef. The train had pulled into Flagstaff, Arizona for the day, and I had contacted my mother, who lives in Phoenix, to have her meet me for the day, and I was to give her a five course dinner aboard the train with the passengers, before we took off for our final stop, Albuquerque, New Mexico. After four beautiful courses of 5 Star cuisine, and prior to her "real" desserts, I had the server present her with a dessert plate filled with coarse sugar-topped pie-dough cookies, very simply presented on a doily. The other passengers wanted to know where they could get some, because they were so good, they made her cry.

Thanks, Chef!

Think of Pie, Think of Me

I LOVE that people are sending me pie stories. Here's a wonderful touching story from Ben, who lives in the same area as I do. His daughter dances with my older daughter. And his wife Kelley is one cool mama and good friend.

"When my mom was little, my grandfather would bring home a pie every
single day from work, even though he worked as an accountant for g.e.,
my mom thought he worked in a bakery for the longest time. This could
have something to do with the fact that he told her he baked the pies,
but I always thought that was funny. Anyway, he passed away earlier
this year, and I helped out with carrying out some of the mundane but
difficult tasks of the business of funerals, one of which was to go out
to the cemetery to pay the fee for the burial. On the way out to
Fishersville, I was thinking about what I remembered about my very cool
grandfather, and his love of pies kept coming up, so after going by the
cemetery, I went to Mrs. Rowe's and got some pies for my family. it was
so nice to have the very real pies to go with the very real memories."

Thank you, Ben.

If you have a pie story to share, please send it to me at molliebryan@comcast.net

The Zen of Slicing Pie

Cutting pie in the restaurant business involves more than a steady hand and a good eye. At Mrs.Rowe's Restaurant and Bakery, employees need to prove themselves before being trained to cut the pie. Here are some pie slicing tips from owner and general manager, Mike DiGrassie,  that you can use at home:

  • Don’t give in to the temptation to cut into a warm pie. It will taste good, but will be a mess.
  • Use a blunt-tip serrated knife.
  • Keep the knife hot. (The restaurant keeps their knife in a jar of hot water.)
  • Place the knife back in the jar of hot water after each cut.
  • If cutting a meringue pie, slice through the meringue first. Then go back, using your meringue cuts as guides, and slice through the filling and crust.
  • Make sure you slice through the crust, or the pie will tear when you try to scoop it out.
  • Cut the pie in half, turn it, cut it in half again, then cut each quarter once more for eight slices. For six slices, cut the pie in half, turn it; make your next cut at quarter-angle. (If you are looking down on the pie, the cuts now make an X). Then cut through the center of your two largest slices.

Fresh Maple Syrup from Highland County, Va.

Many people from outside of the area are surprised to learn that Virginia has fine maple syrup. I don’t think it’s anything against my adopted home state, I just think people tend to think of Vermont when they think of states and the sweet stuff.

For two weekends in March, Highland County hosts a Maple Syrup Festival that I’ve been hearing about for years and still have not quite made it to—well, at least not to the festival proper.  This past weekend my family and I went to an open house at a friend’s house in the county and then we wandered off to a sugar camp and loaded up on maple donuts, candy, and fresh maple syrup.

Once you’ve had syrup fresh, it’s really hard to go back to drizzling the grocery store stuff onto your pancakes. And do be careful of what you’re eating—a lot of it is corn syrup that’s maple flavored. Call me naïve, but I didn’t realize this until writing the MRS. ROWE’S LITTLE BOOK OF SOUTHERN PIES, the maple syrup conversation came up with my recipe tester, Kate Antea, because we include a recipe for Monterey Maple Syrup Pie in the book. We wanted to salute this culture-pristine area of Virginia that often called Virginia’s “Little Switzerland.” (Mike had this old recipe for it and I have to tell you it’s a pie for people who love sweet pie.) Monterey is in Highland County and is one of the little towns that hosts crafters, cloggers, Bluegrass bands, and food vendors as part of the festival. It’s so remote and mountainous that parts of the area have only just gotten the internet. DSCF3199

We chose not to go and see the cloggers and the crafters and instead visited with the locals and a
wonderful gathering of people, who also happen to play Irish music and Bluegrass.  In between sets, we talked about fiddlers, gourds, and history. The conversation can’t get better than that…can it?

The drive is not for sissies or those of us who get carsick. The only way to Highland County is through the mountains. You cross three of them to be exact—and each of them seems to be twistier than the previous. It makes for incredible scenery, but my stomach is still recovering, two days later.

But there’s simply nothing like walking through a forest and seeing all those buckets on the trees collecting the maple syrup. The smell of it as it boils down is also worth the drive. Walk into the “boiling” room, and you will be met with a delicious steamy maple scent. DSCF3188

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