Monday, February 21, 2011

Hurrah for George Washington

February when I was nine years old was a favorite month. For one thing it came with cherry pie for George Washington’s birthday.
Log cabin motifs were colored and cut to hang on the walls at school to mark Abe Lincoln’s birthday on February 12. It was Groundhog’s Day (Feb. 2) and Valentine’s Day. After the dark days of December, and January’s often numbing cold, February stirred with events and activity.
February 22 the year I was nine was unusually mild. The holiday was celebrated then as George Washington’s Birthday and not the more generic President’s Day (although the holiday sales in the newspapers are the same.)
Dad was home that day. He, my mom and little brother, not yet in school (the term preschooler wasn’t invented yet), decided to have an outdoor picnic.
They roasted slices of hard salami on sticks over a fire. They put the fire-seared salami on bread. Everything tastes good out in the open doing something spontaneous like that.
A winter picnic was practically unheard of, the season being what it is in our parts. When I came home from school and was told of the picnic I could hardly believe it. How lucky they were, I thought.
Later checking, this particular holiday got up to around 50 degrees. Snow was gone. At least it’s conspicuously absent in the photo dad took of the picnic. We owned a fair-sized property and the picnic spot was on a south-facing slope some distance from the house.
My brother has his aviator’s cap on. He’s pictured in it in a lot of the photos in that particular album.
Mom wears an apron under her coat. She's in a dress or skirt. When the decidedly non-picnic attire was pointed out years afterward, while looking through the albums, she commented “We didn't wear pants back then, did we.”
A thermos of coffee is on the ground at the bottom of the photo. I imagine my folks sipping the hot coffee, holding the warm mugs and savoring the February afternoon. The picture is a black and white classic. Photo albums bring everything back.
There was always cherry pie for George Washington’s birthday at our house. Mom was a born pie maker. Her crusts were light and fluffy and her double crust pies were something to behold.
When a juicy cherry middle puddles warmly between two crusts – and a container of vanilla ice cream is in the freezer to top things off – you’re not ever apt to forget who the first president of the United States is. “George Washington,” we might very well have said between bites, “you’re the best.”
Not a pie maker I find I don’t even have mom’s cherry pie recipe in my files. Betty Crocker’s Cookbook, an edition I’ve had since I was married, has the following recipe. The directions are mine. I’ve never been able to read a recipe without wanting to figure out a different way to say it.
Pastry for 8 or 9 inch two-crust pie
2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 teaspoon salt, 2/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons shortening, 4-5 tablespoons cold water. Measure flour and salt into bowl. Cut in shortening thoroughly. Sprinkle in water, 1 tablespoon at a time, mixing until all flour is moistened and dough almost cleans side of bowl. One to 2 teaspoons water can be added if needed.
Divide dough in half and shape into two slightly flattened rounds. Using a rolling pin (floured stockinet-covered rolling pin is advised) roll the first round of dough on lightly floured surface. Roll out two inches larger than inverted pie pan. Fold pastry into quarters, unfold and ease into pan.
Roll out the second ball of dough, setting aside until time to place over filling. Lightly fold in quarters for easy transfer to the assembled pie.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. (This is given as the first step but knowing how long it takes for me to roll out crust this seems like turning on the oven too soon. But go ahead if you want! You’re probably smarter to trust Betty Crocker than me).
Pie Filling for nine-inch double crust pie
Stir together 1 1/3 cups granulated sugar and 1/3 cup all-purpose flour. Mix with 2 l-lb. cans of pitted red tart cherries, drained. Turn into pastry-lined pie pan; sprinkle with 1 teaspoon almond extract and dot with 3 tablespoons butter.
Place top crust over filling and unfold. Trim overhanging edge of pastry 1 inch from rim of pan. Fold and roll top edge under lower edge, pressing on rim to seal; flute. Lastly, cut slits in top crust to let steam escape. Seal the edges together and flute.
Cover edge with 2- to 3-inch strip of aluminum foil to prevent excessive browning. Remove foil last 15 minutes of baking.
Bake 8- and 9-inch pies 35-40 minutes or until crust is brown and juice begins to bubble through slits in crust.

No comments:

Post a Comment