Once you master the basic techniques for making pie fillings from scratch, you’ll never go back to cans again — the same techniques work for similar pies with only small tweaks for different ingredients. The fresh taste, complex layers of flavors and your ability to control the level of sugar help create pies that are worth the extra effort.
Perfect your crust-making techniques at the same time you commit pie recipes to memory, or simplify the pie-making process by using commercial pie crusts.
Choose a basic pastry crust for these pies, or add a hint of flavor that matches the fruit, such as minced, fresh ginger in a crust for a peach pie or a few pieces of crushed lavender blossoms in an apple pie crust.
- Wash, dry and cut the fruit. Precision isn’t necessary when cutting fruit — medium-sized slices or chunks work well.
- Stir in a thickener, such as flour, cornstarch or tapioca. Use the proportions indicated in your recipe, typically between 2 tablespoons and 1/4 cup of thickener for every 4 cups of fruit.
- Add 2 tablespoons of lemon juice to brighten the flavor of any fruit pie, even one whose flavors are already on the tart side, such as rhubarb.
- Add sugar to help create a caramelized texture and bring out the essential flavor of the fruit you’ve chosen.
Juicy fruits such as berries need more thickener than less juicy fruits such as apples. Add an extra tablespoon of thickener if the fruit you’re using looks overly juicy.
Most custard pies, such as pumpkin, lemon meringue or coconut, rely on a combination of eggs and cream or milk to form the custard. Others — such as nut pies like pecan — use corn syrup instead of a dairy product.
Flavor a regular pastry crust with one of the flavors in the pie, such as shredded coconut for a coconut pie or cinnamon for a pumpkin pie. Or, use a buttery shortbread crust that you prebake for lemon meringue or key lime pies.
Chocolate, banana cream, coconut cream and peanut butter are a few of the flavors of pudding pies that differ from custard pies in that they don’t rely on a cooked custard base. Instead, pudding pie fillings cook on the stove top and use eggs, gelatin , cornstarch or flour for thickening.
Many pudding pies come with crumb crusts, made with a mixture of butter and crumbs from graham crackers, gingersnaps or chocolate wafers.