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B&S Applejacks

Rule
From “Deep Run Roots” by Vivian Howard
Makes 12 hand pies

The hardest part about making these is rolling out the dough. We recently started using a tortilla press to make the job easier. It does require a few more strokes from the rolling pin after it’s been pressed, but overall the gadget helps. 

The other thing I see people struggling with is the urge to overfill the pies. Two tablespoons of filling just doesn’t look like that much when it’s laid out on the dough. That’s because it’s not that much. This hand pie is just as much about the thin, blistered brown crust as it is about the filling. Let it be.

The rosemary sugar is not a traditional garnish, but I like it. Your call.

Filling
2 1/2 cups roughly chopped dried apple slices
2 1/2 cups apple cider
2 1/4 cups water
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
Zest of 1 lemon, removed with a Microplane
3 tablespoons lemon juice

Dough
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling out the dough
1/3 cup lard or shortening, plus 2 cups for frying
2/3 cup hot water

Rosemary Sugar
2 teaspoons finely chopped rosemary
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt

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Make the filling: In a 10-inch sauté pan or skillet, combine everything but the lemon juice over medium heat. Bring it up to a boil and cook until the pan is nearly dry. Stir in the lemon juice and cool down the filling before assembling. The filling can be made up to 5 days in advance.

Make the dough: Mound the flour in the center of a large bowl. Make a little well in the center and drop the lard in the well. Pour about 1/2 cup of the hot water over the lard and, using your hand, work together the lard and the water until it’s all sludgy and homogenous. 

Pour the remaining water into the lard and begin working in the flour by moving the lard mass around, accumulating flour as you go. Continue until a soft, tender dough forms. You will use nearly all the flour in the bowl. The dough will be quite pliable and tender, but it should not be sticky. Cover the dough with a damp paper towel until you’re ready to make the pies.

Make the pies: Pinch off a golf-ball-size round of dough. Flour your work surface, a tortilla press if using, the dough ball, and your rolling pin. Place the ball in the center of the press and flatten it, or roll the dough into a thin circle with your rolling pin. Each round should be so thin you can see colors through it. Spoon 2 tablespoons filling in the center of each round. Using the back of your spoon, flatten the filling slightly so the delicate dough doesn’t have to do it when you fold it over.

Using your finger, dampen half the circle’s edge with water. Fold the dough over to make a crescent and crimp the edges with a fork. Trim the edges wit a knife and transfer the pies to a floured baking sheet till you’re ready to fry.

Make the sugar: Combine the rosemary, sugar, and salt in a food processor. Pulse a few times. Transfer the sugar to a bowl and set aside. 

Fry and serve: Heat 1 cup of the lard in a 12-inch cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Ms. Barwick tests the heat by dropping a pinch of flour in it. If it sizzles right away, she starts frying the jacks. 

In a 12-inch skillet you should be able to fry 4 or 5 jacks at a time. The lard should not be completely submerged. Cook till they are golden brown on one side and carefully turn them over and brown on the other side. Drain the cooked jacks on paper towels and sprinkle them with the rosemary sugar on both sides while they’re still hot. Follow up with the remaining jacks, adding more lard if you need it. 

Serve warm or at room temperature.