Blue Ribbon Pie

For those that read my Father’s Day Facebook post and wanted to know about making pie, here’s what I know.

Pies are as much about technique and touch as they are about recipes. The best thing is to practice. A bit unrealistic, I know, unless you’re on a farm or in a bush camp where there’s a steady pie eating crowd. But once you have your pie making reason, give yourself lots of time, put on some good music, and think about the people who will eat it.

As it happens, I learned to make pie from a farm girl when we were bush camp cooks together. You can’t be a camp cook and not make pie; it’s the rules. Here is what I learned from her and from doing. Sometimes my pies are blue ribbon, sometimes not.

Pastry: I use the recipe from the back of the Tenderflake box. It’s lard and it works. If you don’t like lard, use shortening or butter but you’re on your own. I don’t know anything about either. My niece knows shortening, something she learned from her pie baking grandmother. Some grandmothers can be good pie learning sources.

Filling: Use a 1950 or 1960s cookbook. Pie isn’t a health food so don’t try to make it one; just go classic, which is what you’ll get from these cookbooks. White flour, white sugar. However, they did like things sweeter back then and unless you do too, knock the sugar back by a third. There’s always ice-cream if too tart.

I use flour to thicken the juices because I don’t care for the gel consistency that tapioca gives – it reminds me of store bought pies and canned fillings. Some fruits, like rhubarb and blueberries, are more juicy than others so thickening is a balance (and practice) to get right. It’s easy to end up with too much juice but that’s better than too dry.

Top Crust: Before going into the oven, brush plain milk over the top so it browns and sprinkle with sugar to make it glisten.

Pie Pan: I use glass because glass browns the bottom crust best.

Always serve pie at room temperature or warm. Pastry hates microwaves so don’t reheat there. Use the oven. 225F for 20-25 minutes should take the chill off a cold pie and flake up the crust.

Pie from scratch is man food. Women like it fine but men love it. Do your own survey; you’ll see. It’s the dessert of choice, over cake, cookies, bars, puddings, and certainly over anything that says low-fat.