Pearl [Price] Shepherd circa 1900 in Price’s Fork, Virginia.
Remember that little girl in last week’s post? Here she is all grown up. Ain’t she purty?
In 1899, Pearl Price married Zack Shepherd, who we’ll meet next week, and they had three daughters: Willie Mae, Ethel (my great grandmother), and Claribel. They lived on a small, half-acre farm between Price and Brush Mountains in Virginia. The land was quite fertile and they grew potatoes, corn, beans, cabbage, beets, turnips, and sweet potatoes, among other things. They also had a cow, some pigs, and a small orchard of fruit trees.
As I mentioned before, a lot of my great grandmother’s early recipes aren’t too terribly detailed, including this one:
“My mother [Pearl] used dried sour apples to make fried pies. She cooked the apples, mashed them, and added spice, cloves, and sugar. Next, she took a ball of biscuit dough and rolled it out round. She spread the apple mixture on one half, and folded the other half over it. Then, she fried it to a golden brown. Boy, were they good!”
For most of these sorts of recipes, I’m leaving you to your own devices because that's just the kind of friend I am. Plus, these excerpts are really more about preserving the history than actually replicating the dish. But in this particular case, since I’ve made these fritters a bunch of times and I love them, it’s really the least I can do to share what I did (which I never wrote down so I had to make them again this week, hence my tardiness with the recipe). But don’t get used to it. I plan to revert back to my usual lazy self next week.
Fried Apple Pies
Instead of dried apples, I used fresh tart apples for the filling. The biscuit dough is an adaptation of my Great Aunt Claribel's recipe.
3 tart apples, like Granny Smiths or McIntoshes or both
¼ cup sugar
½ tsp. cinnamon
2 cups flour
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
3 Tbsp. shortening or lard
¾ cup buttermilk (and, perhaps, a tablespoon or two more)
Oil, shortening, or lard for frying
Peel, core, and dice apples. In a small bowl, mix together sugar and spices. Set aside 1 teaspoon of sugar mixture to sprinkle on finished fritters. Add the apples and remaining sugar mixture to a small pot. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until the apples start to release their juices. Cover, reduce heat to low, and cook until softened, stirring occasionally, about 10-12 minutes (you may need to add a bit of water during the cooking process if it gets too dry). Let cool.
In a medium-sized bowl, sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Rub shortening into dry ingredients with your hands until pieces are smaller than pea-sized. Add buttermilk and fluff with a fork to combine. If dough is too dry to hold together, add a bit more buttermilk. Bring dough together with hands and knead a few times until cohesive. Break off pieces about golf-ball-sized and roll out into circles with a rolling pin. Place apple filling in the middle of the dough circle (a bit off-center), then fold over one side and seal, pressing edges together with your fingers and crimping with a fork.
Heat oil, shortening, or lard until hot (375°F if you want to get technical about it). Fry until golden brown on each side and drain on paper towels. Sprinkle with reserved spiced sugar immediately, and eat as hot as you can manage.
Makes at least 1 dozen.
Pearl [Price] Shepherd
Price’s Fork, Virginia
1879 – 196?
*Real Southerners, feel free to correct my biscuit technique. There’s no substitute for experience.
Next Recipe: Virginia Cured Ham
(Previously: Intro to Appalachia)