This recipe comes from my dear Aunt Sarah.
You should not attempt to make them before learning more about her first. They will taste so much better with Sarah’s memory by your side.
You could say that Sarah was never a pretty woman, but even at 100 she radiated warmth of spirit. She was fiercely independent with strong cheekbones and not afraid to work. She had boundless energy and could match just about anyone in the cotton field. Just don’t ask her to grab eggs from under a chicken’s behind—she had a fear of feathers. She was the oldest and had three brothers under her.
Most of the time, Sarah, feathers or no feathers, ruled the roost. She never married or had children, but there were a slew of us nieces and nephews that loved her to pieces. She was a kind, thoughtful, opinionated country mouse. She was a sharp and witty, and mostly dressed in a collared shirt with a flannel jacket and green scull cap, unless it was super hot. Then it was shorts. I suppose she was a tomboy of sorts. I never once saw her in a dress or in anything girly, until I saw her laid out to rest in a pink suit with a rose corsage. She had her funeral planned 20 years ago and told us it was paid for and her suit was picked out. And sure enough, there she was.
The one thing that we all agree on is that Sarah was Home. The old home place was an actual place. A destination to touch, not unlike going to a special place inside yourself, yet, this place had hot fried apple pies.
The apples came actually from a 100 year old pear-apple tree, with smallish fruit, more in the shape of a pear. Sarah would gather the pear-apples in a bucket and cut them up on the porch. Then she would lay the wedges on a drying screen and put it in the back of the old Plymouth. There the apples would dry quickly in the hot Alabama sun, a perfect dehydrator with the windows rolled up.
Those dried apples would be stored to be reconstituted with a little water, cinnamon and sugar and put into a flat round of rolled out biscuit dough, folded over to make a half moon. A fork would be used to crimp the edges, as well as poke a fork line into the top to let the steam come out. These beloved pies were not fried as they are often called, they are baked. Usually known as “fried apple pies,” I prefer to call these heirlooms, “dried apple pies.”
This Thanksgiving, I will attempt to make a rendition with store-bought dried apples. I can’t live without them. I will one day dry my own apples and even if I do, they will never taste like the pear-apples of Olive Branch in Clay County, Alabama.
3 cups of dried apples
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
2 t cinnamon
dash of clove and nutmeg
Dry your apples in the back of your car in the summer with the windows rolled up.
Put them in a pan with the water and sugar.
Stew until soft. Add the spices.
Let cool before spooning onto the dough.
5 cups of White Lilly all-purpose flour
1 T baking powder
1 T salt
1/2 c mayonnaise
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
Preheat oven to 400 F.
Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl.
Add the mayonnaise and mix together with a spoon then mash with your fingertips.
Make a well in the flour and pour in the buttermilk, stirring to make somewhat of a wet dough. Adjust with a dab more buttermilk if need be.
Turn on to a floured surface or your grandmothers “biscuit cloth.” Knead a bit. Roll out dough to about a half an inch.
Flour a glass that has a 2 to 3 inch opening. Cut out as many circles as you can. Roll them flat out thin.
Put your cooled apple mixture to one side of the circle and fold over the dough to make a half moon.
Take a fork and press down all around the curve of the moon. Fork prick the top twice.
Lay out on an uncreased baking sheet. Bake at 350 F for 12 to 15 minutes.
Eat them warm or store them in a tin for as long as you can resist them!
Author: Peggy Markel
Image: Author’s own
Editor: Katarina Tavčar