Fried Pies

A chuck wagon cook is often severely limited as to availability of ingredients. Still he needs to be able to assuage the appetite of hungry cowboys, some of whom have a powerful sweet tooth! Usually dried fruit, or canned fruit (they used to be called “airtights”) flour, sugar, salt,shortening, and, oh yes, water, are frequently all you have to work with. That and your imagination. Our friend Charlie taught me this one, which he had learned from his mother, when he was growing up in the Texas Panhandle during the dustbowl days.

A chuck box on the wagon under a dining fly.

A Dutch oven is filled with 2 inches of oil and put over enough coals to bring the temperature to 350°F, or hot enough that a piece of dough dropped in it turns golden brown in a minute and a half. It’s about the same as for chicken fried steak, but that’s another story.

Mix 2 cups of flour, a teaspoon of salt and a teaspoon of sugar in a bowl. Cut in a half cup of shortening until it is crumbly, then add about half a cup of water, and work it with a fork at least enough so it balls up and is not too sticky. Roll it flat and thin, then using a one gallon can that’s been opened with a can opener as a giant biscuit cutter, cut out round pieces of dough. While  this has been going on you have been simmering dried apricots in water with sugar, and maybe a little cinnamon. Now place a tablespoon of fruit in the middle of the dough. Fold the dough over to make a half moon and moisten the edges, crimping them together with the fork. Drop each pie into the hot oil.  They should fry to a golden brown in a minute and a half or so. Take them out with the slotted spoon, and drain them on paper towels. You can sprinkle a little sugar on them if you want to. They can also be baked in the oven at 400 degrees if you want to make them low fat. They are a bit drier that way though.

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