It is said that apple pie is as all-American as mom and baseball. I don't know that everyone would agree with that, but it's hard to argue with the pie part. To that end, we decided to celebrate the 4th of July with a social at the bread oven.
Apple was not on the menu that day, but the pies were magnificent just the same. The patch out back was full enough to yield both a strawberry-rhubarb pie and one made from plain rhubarb. Our freezer still contains the last of previous years' adventures in the berry patch, so we had a blueberry pie. And finally, one day, I got a hankering for peaches, and thought about one made with a double whammy of ginger and crystallized ginger, too. Oh my, was that a good combination.
With the help of kids and friends, we rolled out four crusts. Some batches the pastry were made with a
combination of shortening and butter, and one was prepared the old-fashioned way with lard. (Now that I think about it, I should have used bear lard! Nothing else compares for a light and flaky piecrust. Of course, one needs a source for bear lard, in order to do that.We still happen to have a bit in the freezer.) While the oven was firing up, we cut fruit and sweetened it with sugar or maple syrup. One particular combination that we've come to love is blueberry, maple syrup, and a bit of lime juice. I like to thicken the pies with tapioca, as it seems to do a better job for me than does corn starch and flour.
The oven was approximately 475 degrees when the pies went in. I watched them carefully for the first ten minutes, checking for browning, but not blackening. After those ten minutes, I covered them with foil, to prevent the tops from burning. Then I left them alone for about fifty minutes, checking only to see if the bottoms seemed to be getting too dark. I had one in a clear glass pan, so that made it easy.
We gathered at about two p.m., just as the pies were due out of the oven. One by one, I pulled them out, checking for thick juices running over the top crust. Some needed a little more time than others, probably the difference between frozen fruit and fresh. But it wasn't long before the aroma of four baked pies was wafting all around outside.
Paul and our friend Ruth made ice cream to embellish the pie slices. Fresh peach ice cream and cinnamon ice cream were the two choices, and both made for really great combinations with the other flavors. I didn't count how many pieces some people had, but with more than one variety, it's hard to stop at having only one serving. I can't blame them---the feast that my nose was enjoying from all of the scents was pretty incredible.
To top off the afternoon, Paul and our good friend Isak teamed up under the palm trees to play some ukelele tunes. It was simply delightful to see them jamming together from their perch on top of the woodpile. Were it not for the distant rolling thunder, we might have stayed out there all afternoon. Soon enough, the storm was imminent, and the party was over. But with so many successes, we will definitely be doing this again. It feels like we know the right recipes to make some excellent pies again, and to gather a fun bunch of people.