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Recipe Swap: Pie crusts

I decided to try a new pie crust recipe last August. This new recipe calls for vodka, so I knew it would be marvellous.

Full of enthusiasm to try something new, I headed out to our orchard to get some apples. The tree was literally hanging with ripe fruit, and being the food hoarder that I am, it bothered me to see apples that were starting to fall to the ground below. The timing of apple picking and new pie crust recipe was perfect.

My husband and son came out to help with the picking, or at least I thought they were there to give me a hand. After picking for approximately 10 minutes, I could hear my “help” deteriorating into conversations that sounded like this… “Hey Dad, do you think I can hit you in the head from here?”… “OK move back farther, that was too easy.”… “Oh jeez, do you think I broke the window?”… “Mom, there’s a big spider on your shoulder.”… “Just kidding, relax Mom.”

So began the annual fall preserving season. I really enjoy preserving food that we grow ourselves. There’s nothing quite like pulling an apple pie out of the oven in January, made with fruit from your own trees. Especially an apple pie with vodka crust!

The theory behind adding vodka to your pie pastry is that when you use vodka in place of some of the water, the vodka will evaporate in the oven during baking, leaving your pastry light and flaky. I’m not sure if there’s any truth to this theory, but it sounded like something worth trying.

Environmentally friendly vodka pie crust

Here’s the recipe for vodka pastry:

  • 5-1/2 c. all-purpose flour2 tsp. salt1 lb. lard (I use the Tenderflake brand)1 tbsp. vinegar1 egg, lightly beaten1/3 c. cold water1/3 c. vodka

In a large bowl, mix the flour and salt. Cut in the lard with either a butter knife or a pastry blender until it resembles coarse oatmeal.

In a measuring cup, combine the vinegar and egg. Mix together well, then add 1/3 cup of vodka. Try very hard not to drink the vodka… or at least set aside 1/3 cup before you start baking. It’s sad when you are in the middle of a recipe and suddenly you realize there’s an ingredient missing. It seems even sadder after you’ve been drinking vodka.

Mix together the egg, vinegar, vodka mixture and add 1/3 cup of cold water. Gradually stir the liquid ingredients into the flour/lard mixture. It’s not necessary to add all of the liquid to the dough. If it is clinging together well after only some of the liquid has been added, don’t add any more. If it seems a bit dry after adding all of the liquid, add a little more vodka… or water… but adding vodka seems better.

Form the dough into six small balls, wrap and refrigerate them until you are ready to use. If they are wrapped well, you can also freeze them until you have time to bake later.

There was no need to refrigerate our dough; it was made directly into apple pies. I measured five cups of sliced apples, and added one cup of granulated sugar, two tbsp. of all-purpose flour and 1/2 tsp. of cinnamon to the bowl of apple slices. Pour this apple mixture into a prepared vodka crust pastry, and cover with another. Seal the pastry by pressing it around the edge with a fork and cut some vent holes in the top of the pie.

Bake at 350 F on the bottom rack in your oven for approximately 45 minutes and you will have a beautiful apple pie with vodka crust.

My helpers were back when the pie came out of the oven. They were gracious enough to taste test, and quickly reported that the crust was very flaky with no vodka taste whatsoever. I’m not sure if it is any flakier than other pie crusts have been, but it was a fun experiment to try.

You might be wondering why this crust is considered environmentally friendly. I refer to it being environmentally friendly because it uses less water. In our efforts to conserve our most basic environmental resource, it feels good knowing that we are doing our part.

So what we have learned today is that vodka is a good replacement for water. I wouldn’t recommend replacing water with vodka when preparing cereal for a baby, but I might try it in my porridge tomorrow morning. Who knew it would be so versatile!

Happy baking my friends!!

“A pie without cheese is like a hug without a squeeze.” – Auntie Zena

If cooking with vodka isn’t your style, try this canola oil pastry recipe as a healthier alternative to traditional pastry recipes. By substituting canola oil for shortening or lard, you replace fats higher in saturated fatty acids with an oil which has the lowest level of saturated fatty acids.

Canola oil pie crust

  • 1-1/2 c. all-purpose flour1-1/2 tsp. granulated sugar1/2 tsp. salt2 tsp. cold one per cent milk1/2 c. canola oil

Sift together flour, sugar and salt. In small bowl, beat milk into canola oil with fork until frothy. Form a well in flour mixture. Add canola oil mixture and combine gently with a fork until crumbly. Pat in pie plate as you would for graham wafer crust. Add filling and bake according to filling recipe.

Yield: 2 shells (9 inches) or 1 pie (9-inch) shell and top (8 slices per pie). Source: CanolaInfo

About the author

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Lorraine Stevenson

Lorraine Stevenson is a reporter and photographer for the Manitoba Co-operator with 25 years experience writing news and features. She was previously a reporter with the Farmers Independent Weekly and has also written for community newspapers in Winnipeg and Manitoba's Interlake.

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