Food for the Soul

An apple a day may or may not keep the doctor away, but it will go a long way toward keeping your table filled with fried apple pies and other Southern favorites bursting with flavor.

Story Jan Swoope | Photographs Sam Gause

A PINCH OF NOSTALGIA
In Patricia Corbett’s kitchen in Vernon, Alabama, the come-hither aroma of apples simmering in their own sweet juices is as regular as Sundays, especially when autumn’s bountiful harvest comes in.

For the Lamar County native, it’s a sentimental reminder of hours beside her mother, learning to cook. Corbett, with her husband, Gary, today lives just 10 miles from that house, where she grew up with four sisters.

“My daddy used to have a big garden and Mother canned a lot,” she said, taking a hot apple plate pie from the oven. Apple-kissed scents of sugar, spice and other things nice wafted through the cozy kitchen.

“When everybody else would go to the field, daddy would leave me at home to help cook because I was too little.”

The lessons took.

“My mother was an excellent cook and now I love cooking,” she shared, dusting flour on waxed paper to make a Corbett family favorite — fried apple pies.

“Her fried pies are the best! She’s like Paula Deen,” drawled Corbett’s grandson, Mason Dykes, a 9-year-old who is never at a loss for words or grins. He peered over a kitchen counter, keeping close tabs on Nana’s progress and waiting for the payoff.

“These are so simple,” Corbett said, opening a can of biscuits, the dough pliable at room temperature. With a rolling pin, she flattened each biscuit into a thin circle.

“I’ve made my own dough before, but using ready-made biscuits tastes good, too.” She likes jumbo size; use regular size biscuits for a more petite version.

A BUSHELFUL OF FLAVOR
Husband Gary is a big fan of apple dishes. He’s partial to the Red Delicious variety. Corbett prefers Golden Delicious. (Galas, she said, are too tart.)

“This fried pie recipe doesn’t use much sugar, so it gets its sweetness from the apples,” she explained, spooning apple filling on dough circles before folding them into half-moons. She handed Mason a fork to crimp some of the soft, doughy edges together.

“I’ve been helping Nana cook since I was big enough to sit up on a counter,” he claimed proudly.

In preheated oil, the plump dough pockets quickly turned a delicate golden brown, an easy dessert that readily answers the query often heard in the Corbett household: “What are we havin’ sweet?”

With a sprinkling of cinnamon or confectioners’ sugar, and maybe a dollop of ice cream, there is something about an old-fashioned fried apple “hand pie” that conjures up snug and homey, Corbett said. Something like family reunions, country picnics and potluck suppers.


EASY FRIED APPLE PIES

1 can jumbo-size biscuits (10 count)
4 to 6 apples (peeled, cored, diced)
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons of oil (plus some in reserve)
Apple pie spice, if desired

• Let biscuits come to room temperature. In a boiler, cook apples in water over medium heat until they are soft and begin breaking apart.
• Sweeten to taste with sugar, adding apple pie spice if desired, to taste. Set aside to cool.
• On a floured surface, roll out individual biscuits evenly into very thin circles.
• Place 1 to 2 tablespoons of the apple mixture in center of each rolled-out biscuit and fold over to form a half moon shape. With a fork, crimp edges together to seal. With fork, pierce a few holes in the top of each pie.
• Heat oil in skillet over medium heat. Fry pie about three or four minutes each side, until golden brown. Add oil as needed. Drain on a paper towel.
• If desired, sprinkle with cinnamon or confectioners’ sugar while still warm, or top with ice cream.


APPLE PLATE PIE

1 (2 count) package of ready-made pie crusts
4 to 6 apples (peeled, cored and sliced)
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 stick butter
1 egg beaten
Apple pie spice

• Let pie shells come to room temperature. Peel, core and slice apples very thin and spread in bottom of first pie crust. (They will mound above the crust but will cook down.)
• Sprinkle sugar and apple pie spice to taste on top of apples. Slice butter in pats over apples, to melt when baking.
• Place second crust upside down on top of apples; with a fork, mash edges together. Cut several vent slits in the top.
• Brush with egg; sprinkle with sugar.
• Bake at 350 degrees for one hour on cookie sheet.