23 December 2009

Intro to Pie Making

23 December 2009
While thinking of my grandmother one night, I got a strong craving for one of her sweet potato pies. It was stronger than a craving - more like a hankering - and it could not be denied. It must be noted I have no experience making pies. When I was a kid, they just appeared. And since I've been an adult, I've lived too far from my pie-making relatives. It's been years since I've had one of my grandmother's pies. But I have vivid memories of the taste. That was the largest problem in my decision to make pies. Knowing how you want something to taste means you know when it's wrong. It doesn't have to mean you know how to make it right. So I went right the source and called my grandma for her recipe. She was of little help.

First of all, my grandma doesn't just make one pie. She specifically said "oh Danie I don't know how to make just one pie.". I brought myself up to two and even then I could tell my grandma had to reach. I'm one of nine grandchildren you know. And we're all used to getting our own pies. So for two pies, my grandma told me to use sweet potatoes, sugar, butter, milk, eggs and vanilla.

That's a great grocery list but a terrible recipe. I asked for more detail.

Grandma said to use 3 - 4 medium potatoes and 2 - 3 eggs. I was to use a half bottle of vanilla extract, a "stick and a little bit" of butter, and "a half teacup of milk." I told my grandma I feared for the future of these pies. She told me to pray.

I then went out among the ranks. My grandma is the best sweet potato pie maker. Surely her offspring know the tricks. I asked my mom for specifics, but she's not exactly a baker. There was a lot of "um, I think it's..." during our conversation. My mother basically said mix it all up, and when it tastes like you want it to taste, put it in the oven.

My dad asked why I didn't want his recipe. I told him it was because I didn't want his pies, I wanted grandma's pies. Sheesh.

I then called my Aunt Marion. She couldn't remember if she even put eggs in her pies.

Aunt Shelia had some numbers - but they were the highest I'd heard. She said 4 eggs and 2.5 cups of sugar. That seemed like a lot. But she also was the only one who told me which crust to get (Pillsbury) and what temperature was good for baking (325) and to add flour if the mix got too soupy. Also, the pie loses sweetness as it's baked, so Aunt Shelia told me to make the filling a little sweeter than I want the pie. She had lots of helpful information. And armed with that, I got my ingredients together and started baking.

I now see why pie making is reserved for special occasions.