"Jacks", or Fried Pies, are something of a southern tradition. You can find them in several varieties ranging from sweet potato to peach , however apple (I've been told) is the original. They're often found in country stores, small gas stations, and from time even mom and pop restaurants.
Being a northern transplant, the first time I had ever heard of them, was actually from my mother-in-law. She happened to stop at a small country gas station that had some locally made treats on the counter and one of them was Apple Jacks. She picked one up for me to check out (knowing how much I love pies) and wow, the apples, the hint of cinnamon, the flaky crust, and yes...the taste of the lard it was cooked in, pulled together to create a spectacular flavor profile, which totally blew my mind. It was love at first bite.
When the next craving arose, I decided to have a go at making a batch and I figured why not try to make them 100% from scratch (I'm pretty sure the one she bought used pre-made biscuit dough rather than pie crust).
I did a fair amount of research, not just on the pies, but also on which apples to use, how to dry them, and how to prepare them for the pie making process.
After a few attempts, I got it. The pies were tasty, flaky, and mouth watering (so says my daughters).
I've since made them many times over, with nothing but fantastic results. In fact, they have become quite the favorite treat around our house.
I hope you enjoy this very simple, super tasty receipt!
Step 1: What You'll Need...
One of the best things about this recipe, is how few ingredients you actually need to make it. However, preparing those ingredients can be a little time consuming, especially if you are making them 100% from scratch. For that reason, I've also listed a few substitutions you can make, to save yourself some time.
This recipe is written for a 1 cup batch of pie filling, to make it easily adaptable to your desired quantity. I normally make 3-4 cup batches (as shown in the photo's), which nets roughly 25 Small Round Pies (which my daughters love), 50 Small Half Moon Hand Pies, or 12 Traditional Sized Half Moon Pies depending on how you cut the crust. I tend to mix and match to make everyone in the house happy.
1 Apple (I prefer organic Granny Smith and/or Red Delicious Apples)
1 Tablespoon Lemon Juice
1/2 Cup Granulated Sugar
1/4 Cup Brown Sugar
1/4 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
1/2 Teaspoon Corn Starch
1/8 Teaspoon Salt
Pie Crust Dough
1 Cup Dried Apples (Store Bought)
1 Pack Refrigerated Pre-Made Biscuit/Pie Dough (i.e. Pillsbury Grands)
Step 2: Drying the Apples...
The first step in making any form of dried fruit pie, is the drying process. Personally, I have always used the oven to dry my apples (and peppers...and basil, etc...) however, this can be done in a dehydrator or on screen racks outdoors (another southern tradition).
To get started, select the apples you want to use and wash them thoroughly (being sure to remove those annoying stickers). Then, using a mandoline (or a very sharp knife), slice each apple into very thin slices (the thinner the better). Next, in a large bowl, combine the sliced apples and the lemon juice, then fill with water until the apples are covered. Place the bowl into the refrigerator to soak for approximately 2 hours.
When ready, drain the apples slices thoroughly. Then, on parchment paper, lay out even rows of sliced apples and pop them into the oven (I use baking sheets to get them in and out of the oven but dry them directly on the oven racks). Turn on the oven to the lowest setting (I use 170 degrees) and then leave the oven door open a jar to allow for the heat to escape, so the apples can dry rather than cook (I use a pot holder folded up to keep the door a jar).
From time to time, check the apples, flipping them every 30 minutes or so. As they dry, you will notice that the apple slices start to lift off the parchment paper allowing them to be tossed when adjusting them. Finally, after approximately 2 hours the apple slices should be dry and slightly leather like. Some of the thinner slices may crisp up like a chip and that's fine too, as you'll be re-hydrating them soon enough.
Step 3: Making the Pie Crust
I always use the same recipe when I make pie crust, A Healthier Flaky Double Pie Crust w/ Coconut Oil. It has never failed me and has proven to be delicious in both sweet and savory pies.
One note, when I make hand pies, I only use half a batch. This means, you will only need the following, for this recipe...
1 1/4 Cups AP Flour
1 Table Spoon Granulated Sugar
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
4 Table Spoons Coconut Oil (Chilled Until Solid)
6 Tablespoons Butter (Cubed and Chilled)
3-4 Tablespoons of Water
Combine the flour, salt, and sugar in your food processor and process for about 5 seconds. Scatter the solid coconut oil over the top and process again for an additional 10 seconds. Finally scatter the chilled butter over top and pulse about 10 times until it resembles coarse crumbs.
Now, transfer the dry ingredients to a large bowl. Spread 3-4 table spoons of water over the dry mixture and start to work it together using a spoon until the dough pulls together into a ball (you may need to also use your hands).
Finally flatten the dough ball into a disk shape, wrap it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 1 hour.
*If you do not have a food processor, the ingredients can also be combined by hand using a spoon or fork to reach the desired texture.
**Because coconut oil is in a semi liquid state at room temperature, I find it easier to scoop out the 4 table spoons from the container and put it into a bowl prior to chilling (about 1 hour). Afterwards, it works in just like shortening.
Step 4: Rolling Out the Dough...
Once the dough has had time to firm up. Remove it from the refrigerator and allow it to soften for 5-10 minutes. Then on a floured surface, roll the dough into a rough 12-14 inch circle, being careful to maintain even thickness.
Using a 2" cookie cutter (or a 1 cup measuring cup), cut out round shapes and place them on a tin foil lined baking sheet, separating the layers with plastic wrap (for larger pies, I use the lid from a small cooking pot to cut out 6" circles). You may need to reshape the dough and roll it out several times, to maximize the number of rounds you have
Once you have cut out as many circle shapes as possible, place your tin foil lined baking sheet back in to the refrigerator to chill for 10-15 minutes, while you make the filling.
**Never throw away left over crust dough. As long as you can make a roundish shape with it, it can be turned into a pie...Just because it's ugly, doesn't mean it's not going to be tasty.
Step 5: The Pie Filling...(yummy)
For the pie filling, place the dried apples in to a pot of the appropriate size (based on quantity) and fill with equal cups of water and dried apples (1 cup of apples = 1 cup of water). Bring to a boil and simmer until all of the water has been completely absorbed (you'll have to really watch it when the water is close to gone, so the apples don't stick to the pan).
Next combine the re-hydrated apples, sugar (granulated and brown), cornstarch, and salt and bring to a rolling boil. Continue to boil until the sugar/syrup begins to thicken. Once the mixture is thick enough to clump on the end of a spoon, remove from the heat and cool.
Step 6: Making the Pies...
Once the mixture has had time to cool, you are just about ready to make pies. Remove the baking sheet, with the dough rounds on it, from the refrigerator and let them rest on the counter for about 10 minutes. This will help to make them more pliable and much easier to work with.
Next take 4 of the rounds and lay them out on a piece of plastic wrap, on the counter (this will keep them from sticking to the counter top).
For small pies, dollop roughly 1 tablespoon of filling into the middle of 2 x 2" pie crust. Next add a small bit of cold water to the outer edge of the bottom crust . Then take another 2" pie crust and top the other, being sure to pull the edges evenly. Finally using a fork, crimp the edges of the pies to seal them. Repeat until all of the small pie crusts have been used.
For Half Moon Hand Pies, dollop roughly 3 tablespoons of filling into the middle of each 6" pie crust. Next add a small bit of cold water to the outer edge of the crust. Then take one half of the 6" pie crust and fold it over the other half (creating a half moon), being sure to pull the edges evenly. Finally using a fork, crimp the edges of the pies to seal them.
Step 7: Frying the Pies!!!!!
Now that you've spent hours drying the apples, making the pie crust, preparing pie filling, and making pies...it's finally time to fry them!!!
To fry the pies, you can use vegetable oil, coconut oil, or if you really want that down home southern apple jack taste...you can use Lard. Scoop out approximately 3 cups (to start with) and place it into your frying pan/pot of choice (I use a 2.5" x 10" frying pan). Once heated, add oil until you reach the desired level to safely fry the pies, without risk of spilling over.
When ready, add individual pies to the hot oil (try to make sure they stay separated from one another), fry until they begin to float, flip, and fry until they are golden brown on both sides. Remove from the oil and allow them to drain slightly, prior to placing them on a paper towel lined plate, to cool.
The size of your pan will dictate how many pies you can fry at one time. I am able to do 5 small pies or 3 large half moon pies, at a time.
***For a healthier option, these pies can also be baked. Yes, it's changes the texture of the crust and the flavor a bit, but it still makes an awesome pie. Bake at 425 (on the middle rack) for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. When I go this route, I also brush a bit of melted butter on them and sprinkle a bit of brown sugar on top.
Step 8: Time to Enjoy the Pies!!!!
Now that you have labored all day to make just a handful of pies, that you know in your heart of hearts will only last half an hour...ENJOY THEM!!!!
As I said earlier, my daughters prefer the small pies. Personally, I tend to gravitate toward the larger ones. In all cases they are great with ice cream or simply a big ol' cup of milk!
I hope you've enjoyed this Instructable, as much as my daughters enjoyed the pies!!!!
***To store any left over pies, wrap them in the cling wrap of your choice or simply store them in a zip lock bag. They should stay good for a few days on the counter.