Hand Pies

Appalachian Food, Trend or Tradition?

So after appearing on the TV show State Plate where my family was featured making traditional Appalachian foods and now that CNN’s Anthony Bourdain  has traveled to West Virginia in his show Explore Parts Unknown, I am a little confused if the food of my home is now trendy or traditional? I wonder what it is that we as people are looking for when we have come back and taken the simple county food that my family eats and made it trendy.

I wonder if our nation has had so much world food exposure that we are looking for something that is truly American, something with traditions and stories that reflect our basic American history. Many Americans have never eaten self butchered meats, home-made breads,home canned fruits and veggies from the garden. So to these people my family and the mountain communities that surround me seem novel. Yet, I view myself and my way of living as traditional to Appalachia and not unique in any way. In reality it is not unique to most  Americans either, just forgotten for a few generations.

Christopher and Cody picking Pumpkins with Paige on the way to pick them up

Christopher and Cody picking pumpkins and Paige on the way with the wagon

Food is just one aspect of a life here that is lived believing you will only be able to count on your family and yourself in an uncertain future. Families still raise gardens to provide valuable nutrition, they hunt, fish and forage as a normal part of the seasons. They can and dry foods for the winter and share the bounty with those they know and love. It is simple and direct to make food from what is growing near by. It saves money and is better for you because it is less likely to have chemicals and pesticides.  It only seems odd or novel to outsiders who would never think of eating wild rabbits or making your own wine from plants that grow like weeds. It also takes skills that many have forgotten over the generations. They say time stands still in the hills, so in this way we are fortunate to have kept the skills alive.

To my surprise, I was recently invited to be part of a historical “Foodways” museum exhibit at the Beverly Heritage Center  in Beverly, West Virginia. I shared some of my families recipes and our way of preparing several items that have been in the family for generations. I even shared some of the cooking tools we use for the display, some being over 60 years old.

BHC cooking display board

As part of the display the Museum created this panel about my family’s food history. It will be on display for the summer placed on a dinner table with 5 other panels. Each one sharing a Appalachian food story and a couple of recipes. Then during opening day Jenny the curator of the project will serve several of the foods that the families have shared with her during the collection process. I hope to make the apple sauce cake for her and the visitors and share some more of my families stories. The exhibit opens June 9th in the lobby of the Beverly Heritage Center in Beverly, West Virginia. 

After my interview with Jenny, I began to reflect on the resent fascination with our rural foods. Our interview reminded me of why country families and mountain communities have such attachments to their food. Food is the link to each other and the communities that they value. As Jenny and I chatted, I found myself saying that it is often times food that brings us all together. It is church dinners and family holidays, birthdays and funerals, fairs and festivals, that whole communities will gather together to share in someones pain or celebration. Our foods are about nourishment, not only of the body but of the soul. We have family time, say Grace, and keep in touch with friends, families all with food. It is these connections with food that is different in the world today. Today’s families rarely sit down at the table to eat a meal together. Holiday meals are not home-made anymore. Never allowing everyone to get involved in the preparations.  Here in Appalachia often we know who butchered the meat, made the beer and wine that we toast with, know the woman who made the jams, jellies and the children who made the cookies sitting on the table our Thanksgiving table.

Today people have no idea what the ingredients are in their food or even how they  are grown or raised. Kids eat in the car and we get milk in plastic bottles. We have lost touch with the joy of our food.

Appalachian food is about being authentic and natural, full of stories and traditions. Sometimes it is fancy and other times it is simple and filling, but it is often more about who you share a meal with then the food on the plate that is important.

Categories: About me, canning, cooking, country cooking, Country life, Dandelions, family traditions, Foraging, Hand Pies, history, hobbies, Holidays, Jam, State Plate TV show, West Virginia, wild food | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Apple Hand Pie or Fried Apple Pies

I love everything apple and will eat apples just about any way that you find them. I love to use wild and free apples when ever I can to make treats for the family but one treat I love more than most is hand pies. Some southern families make these small fried pies with biscuit dough others with smashed Wonder Bread and mine are made with frozen white bread dough. All of them have a freshly made filling, some sweet some savory, and all are fried to a deep golden brown on the stove top while the little ones watch. Hand pies have been made in the South for generations and no one ever turns one down. The pies are eaten hot and served as dessert, breakfast or as an after school snack. Often the fillings for the pies are whatever a southern mother had left over from a family dinner. Apple sauce, peaches, raisins, even savory pies would have left over roast and veggies.

My mother in law would often make then with white bread in a pie maker with home canned pie fillings. The neighbor  kids could smell then 1/2 mile away and knew what she was making and pray she would make them one!

toas-tite-camp-pie-maker

I personally have not invested in a pie maker of any kind although they seem to make great pies and bind the edges together very well… less of the filling leaking out is always a good thing.I just use my fingers to roll the bread dough together. The edges are a little more individual but they rarely leak.

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Filled Apple Hand Pies

So to make my version of an Apple Hand Pie, I start with a frozen bread dough for dinner rolls and place them out to thaw. I also peal, core and dice two or three snake size apples. The apples in these photos are Gala but you can use just about any apple that will not turn to mush when cooked.

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Frozen dinner roll dough 

 

 

fired-apple-pie-filling

Fried diced apples with butter and brown sugar

I dice the apples into a skillet with two teaspoons of butter and cook over med heat for 3 or 4 minutes.Adding brown sugar, cinnamon , and a little water to the hot apples. I let the water cook down until the sauce is thick and sticky. With some apples no water is needed to soften the apples,they provide enough juice to cook down the apples with out scorching.I had to add water to cook them until they were soft around the edges. I let the filling cool while rolling out the dough. Each dinner roll makes about a 5 inch circle with a little tugging and rolling. I put about two table spoons filling on half the pie crust and fold over the warm apple filling. I squeeze the edges together then roll them upward and roll up the edge with a pinch at the end of the pie.

I then fry the pies in hot oil about 325 to 350 degrees just long enough for the pie to float and turn brown on both sides. The dough is thin and gets crispy fast. I make two pies at a time.

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Cooling Apple Hand Pies with cinnamon sugar 

Draining them on paper towels and topping with a dollop of butter and a pinch of cinnamon sugar. Let cool slightly before eating or cutting open to share.

 

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Fried Apple Hand Pies with homemade filling

Recipe for Apple Hand Pies:

One bag of frozen dinner rolls.. I make two per person.

3 small snack size apples per 3 people Gala, Winesap, Red Delicious work well.

3 Tablespoons salted butter.One used to add to cinnoman topping.

2 Tablespoons brown sugar.

1/2 teaspoons cinnamon and a dash of nutmeg.

1/4 cup or less water

Cooking oil for frying

a mixture of cinnamon and sugar for dusting tops of pies

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: Apples, country cooking, Hand Pies, Pie, Uncategorized, wild food | Tags: , , , , , | 6 Comments

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