The Deliciously Dirty Pages — The art of pie making

This is the latest installment of the feature on JustMelanieW.com to showcase old, tried and true, family favorite recipes handed down through the generations. And where are they found? On the dirtiest, most stained pages of beloved old cookbooks.

These aren’t The White Pages. They aren’t the Yellow Pages. They are the Deliciously Dirty Pages, where good cooking and memories of great cooks are forever preserved.

This writer has a collection of old cookbooks, ranging in age from 40 to 70 years old, which were used by her mother. She kept the cookbooks and has beautiful memories of making those favored recipes, as well as spilling ingredients on the pages.

The theory is the dirtier the page, the better the recipe.

Each Wednesday, JustMelanieW is featuring these culinary wonders, sure to still please because they have been made many times with great success – again, identified by being on the dirtiest pages of these archival hard copy treasures.

We would also love to share your family favorite recipes from your own Deliciously Dirty Pages. Just send them to mel@justmelaniew.com. And if you want to share pictures of the end product, or your family making it, or a picture of the dirty cookbook pages where the recipes were found – please send those my way as well!

Some of our greatest memories come from the kitchen . . . and those Deliciously Dirty Pages.

Today’s recipes: The art of pie making

Growing up, I had the benefit of watching (and eating) the art of pie making. My mom, grandmas, aunts, neighbors . . . they were wonderful pie makers who shared their secrets with one another.

In today’s world, I have the benefit of being around super-baker Eilene Fox, who excels in the world of pie.

I went back through Mom’s recipes, looking for key elements of creating pies which were tried and true. Of course, they were on the well-worn pages where my mother had marked her favorites with an X.

Let’s start at the base – the all important crust.

 

Pie Crust by Joan Stearns

Joan Stearns lived across the road from our District 60 schoolhouse. Her kids went to school there too, so we were often graced by her pies at potlucks. Her recipe for crust was adopted by my mom – I remember this method well, although I’ll confess I haven’t made a pie crust from scratch for many years. But finding this gem of a recipe, which is actually quite simple, I might just bust out the ingredients and get after it.

1 egg

1 tablespoon vinegar

5 tablespoons water

Beat with fork until mixed. Then mis the following until crumbly:

3 cups flour

½ teaspoon salt

1 scant teaspoon baking powder

1 cup lard

Then add to egg mixture, mix well. This makes enough for two double crust pies.

 

Never Fail Meringue by Loretta Tagel

Meringue is an art in itself. While it seems tricky and difficult, many matriarchs in my family relied on this “never fail” approach from Mrs. Tagel who was part of our St. John’s community:

1 tablespoon cornstarch

2 tablespoons cold water

½ cup boiling water

3 egg whites

6 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

Pinch of salt

Blend cornstarch and cold water in saucepan. Add boiling water, cook, stirring until clear and thickened. Let stand until completely cold. With electric beater, at high speed, beat eggs until foamy. Gradually add sugar and beat until stiff but not dry. Turn mixer to low speed, add salt and vanilla. Gradually beat in cold cornstarch mixture. Mix again at high speed and beat well. Spread meringue on cooled pie filling. Bake at 350 degrees about 10 minutes. This meringue cuts beautifully and never gets sticky. If you have a microwave oven (remember this recipe is from the early 1970s), you can cook the cornstarch mixture in there.

 

Pecan Pie by Leona Mueller

Leona Mueller was my grandma and I began my great love with pecan pie when I was a kid, thanks to her and this recipe:

1 cup pecans, cut in thirds

1 9-inch unbaked pie shell

3 eggs

½ cup sugar

1 cup corn syrup, light or dark

1 teaspoon vanilla

¼ teaspoon burnt sugar flavoring

1/8 cup melted butter

1/8 teaspoon salt

Sprinkle nuts on pie shell. Beat the eggs. Stir in the remaining ingredients. Pour over nuts in pie shell. Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 325 degrees and bake about 40 minutes longer.

 

Apple Slices by Carolyn Schindler

This is one of the most beloved recipes we made when I was a kid. It’s sort of a pie and sort of a bar. It’s so easy Mom would let us make it alone when she was out working. And it is one of my favorites of all time. It should be noted this page of the St. John’s recipe book is so stained I’m surprised it hasn’t cracked in half.

Pastry

3 cups flour

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup lard

Put egg yolk in a cup and add milk to make 2/3 cup. Add to flour and lard.

Filling

1 egg, separated

5 cups peeled apples, sliced

2/3 cup cornflakes, crushed

1 cup sugar

Cinnamon to taste

Thin powdered sugar frosting

Roll half of pastry to fit a 10×15-inch baking pan. Cover with cornflakes, apple slices, sugar and cinnamon. Roll rest of pastry to fit and put on top. Then spread beaten egg white plus one tablespoon sugar over top.

Bake 30 minutes at 350 degrees. Frost while slightly warm.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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