My parents own and operate a weekly advertising paper called The Ely Shopper. When I was little the paper would come off the press and need to be folded in half before it was delivered. We didn’t do this mechanically, we had a group of 6 Slovenian ladies, who were all in their 80s, who came in and did this for us. They liked the extra cash they earned but most of all I think they liked the social aspect of standing around the table chatting for a few hours once a week just as much.
They would debate all kinds of things like the best cleaning tips or recipes they liked to make and whose method was better. Standing at my spot at the table and listening to the Ladies, I learned that duck fat makes the best gravy and that unquestionably my Grandma Forsman (who was NOT one of the Ladies) made the best pie crust in town. Grandma also made the best walnut potica in town – one day when I’m brave enough I’ll make some and post the recipe.
Grandma’s pie crust is simple using just lard, flour, salt, and a little water. I did a little research on using lard in pie crust and found out that it’s the least common fat in pie crust after butter and shortening. But it does have the added advantage of the least amount of shrinkage as well as producing the flakiest crust. A quick internet search for pie crust will show you most people prefer butter and using lard has really fallen out of favor with especially from a health perspective but I’m not willing to mess with Grandma’s recipe or go against those 6 feisty Slovenian ladies!
This recipe makes enough for 2 – 2 crust or 4 – 1 crust pies. Here’s what you need:
15 minutes before you start, pop the lard into the freezer.
Start by mixing together three scant cups of flour and a dash of salt.
Next cut the lard into ½ inch or so pieces and drop into the flour and salt mixture.
Now it’s time to cut in the lard. This is the one modern concession I’ve recently made with pie crust. I used to always cut it in by hand using my pastry cutter but when I made pies this Thanksgiving I decided to try using my food processor. About 7-8 pulses is enough to turn the lard into little pea sized pieces throughout the flour. Of course you can definitely cut the lard into the flour by hand using a couple knives or a pastry cutter.
Refrigerate this mixture for at least an hour. At this point you can leave it in the fridge for a couple months or the freezer for up to a year (at least that’s as long as I’ve ever tried and I couldn’t notice a difference).
Now it’s time to start making the pie crust. You’ll need the pie crust mix that’s been chilling in the fridge, water, a small bowl, a tablespoon and a rolling pin.
Liberally flour your counter.
You can tell this recipe came from someone from the ‘old school’ because there are no measurements, I wish I was good enough to just know when enough was enough without measuring the way my Grandma and other of her generation (and those before her could). Start by scooping 2 handfuls of the dough mix into a bowl (I must have smaller hands than Grandma because I need 3 handfuls) and make a well. Add about 3 Tablespoons of water (if you want to try the vodka trick, use ½ vodka and ½ water).
Mix until it just comes together.
Turn out onto a heavily floured surface and flatten slightly. Remember we used scant cups of flour in the beginning so now we don’t have to be afraid to use flour when we roll out the dough.
I like to start by rolling the dough out to maybe 6 inches, sprinkling a little flour on top and then flipping it over. This gives me a chance to make sure it’s not sticking and add more flour to the counter if needed.
Continue rolling the crust out until it measures about 12 inches round (or roughly round) for a 9 inch pie pan.
Transfer your crust to the pan. I have a little trick where I like to fold my pie crust in half and then in half again.
Set the folded crust in the pan and unfold. I find this saves me from tearing the crust. Of course if you tear pie crust, no worries, just patch it up with a little extra piece of dough.
Trim the edges so you have about an inch hanging over the edge of the pie pan. Then fold those edges under. This helps us to build up the edge and get a nice thick crimped crust.
Now you want to crimp the crust. Of course there are several methods to do this from using the tines of a fork, leaving it rustic, folding it over like a Papa Murphy’s stuffed pizza, or using both hands to crimp it. I make a ‘V’ with the tips of my pointer finger and thumb, push that against my other thumb, and then continue around the pie. Please excuse the picture and the blurriness of my hands, I could have really used a third hand here – I’m lucky I got my shot without the camera toppling every time I tried to push the shutter (and that’s even with my handy gorilla mini-tripod I got from my Uncle).
Here’s what the crust looks like with the edges crimped.
Now if you’re going to make a filled pie like pumpkin, stop here and make your filling and bake. Or if you’re going to make a 2 crust pie like apple, you probably should stop before you crimp the crust and crimp after adding the 2nd crust. But if you’re going to make a pie that calls for a pre-baked crust like my fresh strawberry pie or lemon meringue then continue.
You want to start by blind baking the crust. Cut some parchment or aluminum foil and set in the crust. Add a layer of pie weights (or if you don’t have pie weights, rice or beans work well) and bake at 475 degrees just until the crust sets – about 6 minutes.
Remove the pie weights. Here’s what the par baked crust looks like.
Continue baking until golden brown about 5 more minutes. Now keep in mind this pie crust uses lard and won’t get quite as golden as one using butter. Here’s what mine looked like when it was done.
Let the crust cool and fill as directed in your recipe.
Here are some of my favorite pie recipes:
- Fresh Strawberry Pie
- Pumpkin Pie (with fresh baked pumpkin)
- Lemon Meringue Pie (a Forsman family favorite) – coming soon
- Pie Crust Mix:
- 3 c flour
- Pinch salt
- 1 c lard
- Pie Crust:
- 3 handfuls pie crust mix
- 2-3 T water
- Mix together the flour and salt.
- Freeze the lard for 15 minutes, then cut into ½ or so pieces. Cut lard into the flour and salt mixture until you have small pea sized pieces. You can use 2 knives, a pastry cutter, or a food processor (about 5-7 pulses should be enough).
- Refrigerate for at least one hour.
- To make a crust, liberally flour your counter top. Place 2-3 handfuls (depending on the size of your hand) into a small bowl and make a well in the center. Add 2-3 T of water (a T at a time) and mix just until it comes together.
- Roll out, adding flour as needed, until you have a 12 inch rough circle. Fold circle in half and then in half again, transfer to a pie pan and unfold. Trim crust 1 inch from the edge of the pan and fold extra under.
- If making a 2 crust pie, add filling, top with 2nd crust and then crimp edges.
- If making a 1 crust pie, crimp the edges. Fill and bake as directed in recipe.
- To bake a pre-baked pie crust, heat oven to 475 degrees. Crimp edges. Place parchment over the crust and fill with a layer of pie weights – pressing out to the edges. Bake for 6 minutes until crust is set. Remove pie weights and continue baking for 5 minutes more or until lightly golden. Cool before adding filling.