Fruit Pies and Crisps

I was going back through some of my food photos and found several featuring pies and crisps I’ve made. Typically I make crisps because no matter how I try, I’m not particular good at making pie crust. My friends have tried to teach me how to make it correctly. During one summertime lesson, we made awesome strawberry rhubarb pies but I still can’t readily make crust.

So in order to get pies I have several techniques.

Solution 1: Use vodka instead of water. Where my crust always fails is the stage where I put the water in it to bring it together. I can’t typically get it to stick quick enough if at all. If I use water, the result is terribly tough crust. By using vodka I can work the dough longer and have a better chance of getting successful crust.

Solution 2: Get someone else to make the pie crust. My spouse and father excel at making pie crust and they are both more than willing to do that job if I do all the other pie prep like peeling apples or pitting cherries. The last time I was home I baked two apple pies with apples from the trees on my parent’s property and crust my dad made. He was tickled to have them and my mom as psyched because she didn’t have to make them.

Solution 3: Buy store bought crust. I know, I’m weak but pie with store bought crust is better than no pie at all. If I know I’m going to make pie, I always get store bought crust “just in case”. Particularly if I’m making something that I can’t quickly convert into a crisp.

Sometimes making crisp is your only option. This is particularly true if you’re using frozen fruit that might make for a very, very messy pie. Two years ago my pear tree produced 200+ pears which I had no choice but to peel, core, and freeze. These were so ripe that they nearly well part in my hands. Thus, crisp was really the only option when I used them.

Another option if you think your pie is going to be too soupy is to use instant tapioca to thicken it. There are lots of berry pies where this is the case. Good raspberry or blackberry pie takes this type of thickening.

As does blueberry pie with Maine blueberries. If you don’t want to end up with a gooey mess in your oven, tapioca is a MUST. My grandmother gave me this tip after I made what I refer to as “the apple pie from hell” for Thanksgiving at my in-laws one year. I’d tried to thicken it with flour with disastrous pasty results.

My spouse’s favorite type of pie is cherry and every year we await the Rainier cherries impatiently. While they are super pricey, they make outstanding crisp with great flavor. One of my favorite recipes for this comes from Cooking Light. I’ve got to find a way to make a version of it that he can eat with his diabetes. I’m guessing this will involve Splenda brown sugar and some other tweaks. Hopefully when the Rainier cherries come into season I’ll have perfected the right crisp alternations.

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