As Vivian returns from her Mississippi road trip to the fall harvest, she confronts her long absence from the dinner service at Chef and the Farmer. She travels to an heirloom apple tree collector, Creighton Leigh, the Johnny Appleseed of the Southern apple, who grows 800 varieties in the rolling hills of North Carolina’s Piedmont. Savory and sweet heirloom apples are in grits with cheddar and ham and triple-decker apple pie with a crust made from fresh-rendered lard makes an appearance on the menu. Vivian tries her hand at drying apples and her neighbor schools her on a sweet Southern snack called Applejack. Vivian, Ben, Theo and Flo don boots and shovels to plant their very own Southern apple tree on their Deep Run property.
Vivian’s Cooking Demo
Vivian’s Featured Recipe
Old Timey Applejacks
- For the Filling:
- 2 cups dried apple slices. If the slices are more than 1/4 inch thick, give them a rough chop with your knife.
- 2 cups apple cider
- 2 cups water
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- Zest of 1 lemon, removed with a vegetable peeler
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice
- For the Dough:
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/3 cup lard or shortening
- 2/3 cup hot water
- To Fry and Serve:
- 2 cups lard or shortening
- Rosemary Sugar
- Make the Filling: In a large saute or sauce pan, combine the apples, cider, water, sugar, salt and lemon zest. Bring it up to a boil and cook until the apples have soaked up all the liquid and the pan is nearly dry. Stir in the lemon juice, and transfer the apple filling to the refrigerator to cool before assembling.
- Make the Dough: Mound the flour in the center of a large bowl. Make a little well in the center and drop the lard in the well. Pour about 2/3 of the hot water over the lard, and using your hand, work together the lard and the water until its all sludgy and homogenous.
- Begin working in the flour gently, and bring it together until a soft, tender dough forms. Add the remaining water if need be. Cover the dough with a damp paper towel until you’re ready to make the pies.
- Make the Pies: Pinch off a golf ball sized piece of dough and flour your work surface. Dust the golf ball as well as your rolling pin with a little flour since this dough tends to be pretty wet. Roll the dough into a super thin circle. I’m talking thin like you can just about see through it. Trim up the edges, and stuff the inside with about 2 tablespoons worth of filling. Fold the dough over and crimp the edges with a fork. Store the hand pies on a floured baking sheet until you’re ready to fry.
- Fry and Serve: Heat half the lard in a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Once the oil is shimmering, lay the jacks in a single layer and fry until golden on one side. Flip and fry on the opposite side. You’ll need to fry these in several batches and will probably have to add additional lard.
- Once the applejacks are browned on both sides, drain on paper towels and sprinkle liberally with granulated sugar. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Yield: Makes 12 hand pies