Lesson 612 – Let the flock eat pie

Well this post is going to be a little off topic, but not by much because I’ve found that those who are interested in keeping chickens are usually those who are also interested in good, healthy food. Consider this a chicken/flock feeding post.

Last week I ran into a friend of mine (Hi Judy) at a bookstore and she was buying a beautiful pie cookbook. Her mother, who had always made the holiday pies was not able to make them anymore and my friend was preparing to pick up the mantle.

She’s never made a pie from scratch she confessed to me. In order to be ready to provide pies for the holidays, she was going to start practicing now.

I knew her embarrassment because I also (I can hear the gasps already) have never made a pie from scratch. I’ve always used that refrigerator pie crust (which might explain why I’m not so keen on pie.)

This weekend, Judy posted a picture of her first beautiful pie. It was literally inspiring. There is just something so very artful about making a pie. It creates such warmth and care for those who eat it.

So I’m on a mission. I’m going to make a pie from scratch.

I’ve done some research (hey, once a journalist, always a journalist) and according to Rosie’s All-butter Fresh Cream Sugar Packed Baking Book (world’s greatest name for a cookbook) – not only do you need cold butter (Judy has read that you should put it in the freezer) but you should also use an ice cube in your liquids until the moment you need them at which point you remove the ice cube.

See? It’s stuff like that that totally intimidates me. Ice cubes? Freezer butter?

But my friend has inspired me, so in tribute to her efforts, I’ll make a pie.

We are going into the apple season around here so I just might use that as my first try (we’re not even going to mention chicken pot pie during this discussion.) I’ll post pictures of my attempts (even if they don’t look artful.)

My question to all you pie makers out there – any tips? Any bits of advice?

Any words of encouragement?

I understand you need one of these.



Filed under All things chickens, Holidays, Life Lessons, Recipes, The Family

15 responses to “Lesson 612 – Let the flock eat pie

  1. I never baked a pie from scratch as well. I bake a lot though. Muffins and cake. Must try pie. Good luck!

  2. I will be following this closely! My first pie I used a mixture of butter and shortening. It turned out pretty good, but did not taste like my mothers. I suspect she used all shortening as butter was not used much when I was growing up. I’ll keep you posted on my next attempt.

  3. Lucy

    I like a mix of butter & shortening for flavor & flakiness but (believe it or not) butter-flavored-shortening makes a really flaky crust with good flavor. I never would have believed it until I tried it. Good luck on your journey. I’ll be following too. What kind of pie(s) will you be making? We really like an apple/cranberry in our house. Come to think of it, there’s not many pies we don’t like around here!

    • Wendy Thomas

      Now there’s an idea. I love cranberries mixed in just about anything (I also like rhubarb – I think it’s the tartness)

      Apples and cranberries could be a lovely first try. I’ll keep you posted.


  4. Jenn

    I love making pie from scratch! Making a good crust takes a lot of practice, but its worth it once you’ve got it down. You’ll never use store bought crusts again!

    * try several recipes until you find one that works for you. My personal favorite: http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2007/11/cooks-illustrated-foolproof-pie-dough-recipe.html

    * when you make a crust, put everything- even the bowls & utensils in the freezer for an hour or so to chill. The idea is to keep the fats (shortening & butter) cold while you’re working with them.

    *refrigerating the finished dough IS important. The fats need to chill again.

    * if you have a food processor, you dont need the pastry knife. The processor will do the job in half the time with MUCH less handling (important! too much handling = a tough, chewy crust). Just make sure the blade gets chilled before you use it.

    * Roll the dough out as quickly as possible (again, without handling it more than necessary) on waxed paper. Then, when its time to put it on the pie plate, all you have to do is put the pie plate face down over the crust, pick up the whole thing, flip it over & peel off the waxed paper.

    Have fun!!!

    BTW- My husband loves strawberry rhubarb pie, and I created a jalapeno strawberry pie recipe (based on the jam recipe) this summer that turned out better than I’d hoped.

    • Wendy Thomas


      Thanks for the information. All good stuff. You’re giving me more confidence.

      I went to the link provided, do you really use vodka in your crust? What is the purpose of that? Does it just burn off quickly?

      Please tell me that you can’t taste alcohol in the crust, right?


  5. Patti

    I read the vodka tip in Cook’s Illustrated. Can’t remember the scientific explanation. I too am intimidated by a pie crust. I would love to master it and bread, using butter, or good lard if I can find it. No Cisco for me. I will be following further posts closely for any helpful hints. BTW, I so enjoy your writing. My girls just started laying. They are 18 weeks old…4 of them. They began laying on Wed. 4 eggs have taken diggers off the roost, but we have collected 9 so far. It’s pretty exciting,

    • Wendy Thomas


      Thank you for your kind words.

      I am going to use the Vodka recipe (why not right? If I’m going to do this, I’m going to do it BIG) We’ll try to make a pie this weekend and everyone will see a photo whether it comes out fine or not.

      Congrats on your eggs, what a feeling, right?


  6. We are pie experts, or rather my mom is. I have started making the crusts, but normally I do the filling and she does the crust. Her secret? Crisco shortening (regular), a little salt, and enough water to mix. Cutting in the shortening, then mixing the water in tablespoon by tablespoon till you have a not sticky dough. No ice, no cold utensils, no chilling the dough. It does take trial and error to learn the correct texture, which is everything in all baking, and so often left out of instructions! I’ll get a blog post up on it soon, or email me for the exact recipe. It’s never fail, and amazingly good :), flaky, not overpowering, and tender.

    • Wendy Thomas


      Seriously, you don’t chill anything??!! Okay, that’s a recipe I’ll have to try. I’ll be in touch. (and thanks for the encouragement, when this is all said and done, I’m pretty sure I’m going to think it was silly of me to be intimidated by a crust)


  7. Lucy

    Here’s one of my absolute favorite food bloggers post on pie & pie crust. It’s just lovely and makes pie-baking seem so do-able and full of love: http://joythebaker.com/2011/08/peach-blueberry-pie/. She has a wonderful writing “voice”. I’ve made this very pie and crust and it turned out to be one of the best I’ve ever made — even with the vinegar. (Is your head swimming yet with all of these tips?). Best of luck!

  8. My mother made the world’s best pies. I always used to feel sorry for my friends because their mother’s pies were ugly and tasteless.
    That said, you do not need any special equipment; your own two hands are enough.
    My mother always used lard, to which you may have objections. It has a higher melting point that cow’s fat and that contributes to the flakiness of the crust (I suppose that is why the butter is to be frozen, but it would be more difficult to handle). Shortening does not make as flavorful or flakey crust as lard does.
    You can break up the fat into smaller pieces and put them in a wide bowl on the flour. Then you mix the flour/salt mixture with the fat by rolling it between your middle and pointer fingers and your thumb. “the money sign” Use both hands. When it is mixed in enough, you will have lumps the size of peas. Then add the chilled water carefully, being careful not to over mix.
    Both my mother and her mother had a special design that they cut into the top crust. It was shaped like ripe heads of wheat.
    My mother had a firm philosophy: “I like my fruit pies sweet. I am not stingy with the sugar. If you are eating pie it is not the time to diet.”
    Her pies were famous, inside and outside the family. Her grandchildren always wanted “birthday pie” which she would, of course, make for them.
    When I made pies, I tried using whole wheat flour but found that it was at the expense of flakiness.

  9. Says Pam, like how you give such a good visual, make the process sound both less intimidating and luxurious (the money symbol, haha)

  10. Jenn

    Yes- I really do put vodka in the pie crust, and no- you cant taste it. The alcohol burns off during baking.

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