The North Carolina-based author of “A Year of Pies: A Seasonal Tour of Home Baked Pies” offers her own recipes for these favorites and includes others from eight bloggers around the country. English has written other books in this series she calls “homemade living,” including volumes on home dairy, keeping bees, raising chickens, and canning. She blogs at
Q. Why is the book organized by season?
A. It’s how I cook. I have a big garden, my husband and I patronize amazing local farmers’ markets here in western North Carolina. It really highlights just how good things taste when you eat them fresh. If you’ve ever bought out-of-season peaches and tried to blanch them, it just doesn’t happen and you get frustrated. Plus they don’t taste good, they get mealy. But if you have something that’s ripe and fresh, it usually works better with you in the kitchen and it tastes better in the final outcome.
Q. Which pies fit summer?
A. If we’re talking about savory, then there’s so much you can do right now. This is the time of year people start getting flushed with zucchini and they’re like, “What do I do with all this zucchini?” Or they go to the farmers’ markets and buy all the beautiful peppers or eggplant or tomatoes. I have a ratatouille pie with a polenta topping that’s a great way to make use of that bounty. In terms of sweet, all of the stone fruits, the nectarines, peaches, apricots, plums, cherries, they work really well in pie. Those fruits are delicious on their own but they become transcendent when they’re baked and the juices caramelize a little bit and the flavors meld. But maybe my favorite this time of year may be just berries. I’m growing blackberries and blueberries in my yard, and there’s a lot of places people can pick their own. If you don’t want to make jam, you just toss them in a pie and it’s so easy to make a berry pie.
Q. The book includes standbys like blueberry pie, but others that seem more experimental.
A. I did a sweet pot pie, which I’ve never seen before. It’s a cherry pot pie. Most of the time when people say pot pie, they’re thinking of a chicken pot pie or something savory and I thought, why do we have to be limited by that? Why don’t we make one sweet? It’s just cherries on the bottom with a little bit of sugar and vanilla bean and thickener and the pastry crust on top. When I serve it, people are always so surprised, like, “Oh, I never thought of a sweet pot pie.”
Q. How would you encourage baking newcomers to switch from store-bought crusts to homemade?
A. When I was making this book, I thought, well, I’m testing all these recipes, I know I’ve got a great pie crust recipe, should I just skip it and buy a bunch of frozen crusts? And the answer is, no! It doesn’t even remotely come close to the flavor. Homemade pie dough is really easy to make. You can make it on a day when you don’t even plan to make pie, keep it in your fridge for a few days or your freezer. [Pies] really are forgiving once you get past the fear of dough. Even when they’re messy, they look good and they taste good.
Q. In home kitchens, pies may look messy, but in the book, your photos are beautiful.
A. I tried to retain the humanity. I had to fight for that a little bit. I was like, “Make it look messier!”