- 4 Pillsbury 9-inch pie crusts (2 boxes of 2 crusts)
- 2 packages Sun-Maid dried apples, peaches, or apricots (or about 2 cups of dried fruit)
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon (if making apple pies)
- Cooking oil (preferably canola or peanut)
- Put dried fruit in large saucepan with water to cover. Bring to a boil. Cover saucepan, reduce heat, and cook at a lively simmer for 10 minutes or until fruit is soft.
- Drain fruit and mash with a potato masher (or use mixer). Add sugar (and cinnamon, if making apple pies), and mix well with fruit. Cool to room temperature.
- Unroll pie crusts on clean, hard surface. Cut into circles 4 1/2 to 5 inches in diameter. A lid from a cottage cheese container (usually 4 5/8 inches) is perfect for a template. Just press the lid into the dough and run your thumb around the edge, cutting out the circle. Each pie crust will make 4 circles, for a total of 16 pies. (You can combine the leftover scraps of dough and roll them out with a roller, if you wish to make additional pies.)
- Place each circle of pie crust on a clean, hard surface. With the tip of your finger, moisten around the edge of one-half of the circle with water. Put 1/8 cup of fruit filling in the center of the circle. Carefully fold the circle in half, aligning the edges of the halves together. Seal the combined edge, crimping with a fork. Carefully mold the pie with your fingers so that some of the filling is gently pushed out into the corners of the pie. (Otherwise, the first bite of the pie from either end will contain no fruit, only crust.)
- Fry the pies in an iron skillet in a shallow depth of oil, heated to maximum temperature before smoking. In my 10-inch skillet, I use one cup of oil. This is not deep-frying — you just want 1/8 to 1/4 inch of oil in the bottom of the skillet. Different kinds of oils have different smoking temps, so heat your oil until it barely starts to smoke and then lower it just a little. (As you fry the pies, you may need to increase the heat a little at some point, since the pies will gradually lower the temperature of the oil.)
- If your oil is very hot, it will not long to fry the pies. A minute on each side — or even less — should do it. I fry only two pies at a time so that I can tend them carefully, turning them over just as they turn golden brown. It won’t take long, so watch your pies carefully and remove them from the skillet before they burn.
- I always put the pies into the skillet with the flat side downward and fry that side first. Then, when I turn them over onto the more rounded side, I gently press them down with a turner to flatten that side just a little. You must do this gently, however — with very little pressure. Otherwise, you will burst the pies open in the skillet and have a fried mess!
- As your remove the pies from the skillet, place them on a double (or even triple) thickness of paper towels to cool. After a few minutes, turn them over onto fresh towels, so that the top side has a chance to be absorbed. (Ideally, you should turn the pies over onto fresh paper towels every 30 minutes or so for several hours as they cool, but that’s more work than most people are interested in.)
- Makes 12-16 pies, depending on the diameter of the circles that you cut out for the crust.
- The fruit mixture can be made ahead and refrigerated until ready to make pies.
- Obviously, you can make your own from-scratch pie crust dough if you wish. If you can make better pie crust than Pillsbury (I certainly can’t) and you don’t mind the extra work and mess (flour everywhere), then go for it. You’ll have to use lard, of course, if you expect to produce premium pie crust, but if you don’t tell your guests about the lard, they will rave about your crust!
- An electric skillet can be used instead of cast iron. With a large electric skillet, you can easily fry more than two pies at a time. Just be careful not to get too much going on at once. You will burn some of the pies!
- When I make apple pies, I refrigerate the leftover filling and serve it later with a meal. It’s even better than the “fried apples” that most people associate with southern cooking. I put it on the table at room temperature, as if it were a relish. With leftover peach or apricot filling, I use it just like preserves — on toast, etc.
- I don’t know what it is, but there is something special about fried pies. Of all the comfort foods in the world, this is one of the most comfortable. I don’t think a person can eat a fried pie without thinking of their grandmother, or perhaps some other very special person from a bygone generation who used to make fried pies. As a preacher, I have observed that whoever can make fried pies has a special relationship with the congregation of which they are a part!
Thanks to Myra Burgess of Greenwood, Arkansas for the inspiration and basic technique in this recipe