Cornelia Wynne's lifelong interest in cooking was inspired by growing up on a farm in the midwest where her family raised most of their food. After the death of her mother, she took over the household chores, raising and feeding the family. She raised 8 children of her own, and in recent years ran a boarding house in New Jersey, famed for its robust American menu.
As FDR once reminded Americans, "All of us are descended from immigrants," though not, of course, the Indian peoples who were already here (more on that later). And despite what the culture czars of multi-culturalism and political correctness proclaim to the contrary, we are still a melting pot nation, a place where people of all races and creeds come to pursue their lives in freedom and in the process become what we think of as Americans, imbibing our defining values: independence, resourcefulness, and a can-do spirit. Immigrants may leave their countries of origin behind, but something of their ethnic heritage is preserved, often in foods. We can trace these influences throughout our cuisine from Irish stew to Asian stir-fry, from Mexican salsas to Middle Eastern pita bread. The current enthusiasm for Greek yogurt is the result of an enterprising Greek-American by the name of Chobani who started a modest yogurt factory using a family recipe. Even on Thanksgiving, the ultimate American holiday when we pay tribute to the Pilgrims with a traditional turkey dinner, across this land the meal is often embellished with other immigrant traditions such as red spaghetti (to be featured). That's what's so great about our country, we make room for other cultures.
All of which is an introduction to this new series, which I am pleased to say is inaugurated by Mike Swisher's Dutch pie crust recipe. I know it works because it has been tested by my husband (the pie maker) in our own kitchen. Mike, as you may know, is Chairman of the Board of Religion and Society, the educational foundation that publishes The St. Croix Review, and he owns Bayport Printing House, Inc., that prints The St. Croix Review.
A little background: The Swishers came to this country in the first half of the 18th century, departing from Amsterdam and arriving in Philadelphia. The name "Swisher" was originally spelt "Switser," which suggests a remote Swiss ancestry, but Mike says that his forebears lived in Holland as far back as the middle of the 17th century and his family has always regarded them as being Dutch. His particular ancestors settled in the northern part of the valley of Virginia where they were fruit growers, a typical activity of the Dutch settlers. The large, sweet, white-fleshed clingstone peaches they grew are a local specialty. Ripe from the tree, Mike describes them as being as large as softballs and very juicy. If you can find or grow such peaches ("Belle of Georgia" is a similar but freestone, pink-fleshed variety) make a pie with them using Mike's unique family recipe. "It's as easy as pie" is a Swisher family slogan.
Swisher Family Pie Crust
Be sure to have the butter and water as cold as possible, get the butter well-blended with the flour, and then add the flour and water paste. It should come together into a roll-able dough rather quickly (it did in our trial).
2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted / 1 teaspoon salt / 3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, chilled / 1/4 cup water, iced
Reserve 1/3 cup flour and mix with the 1/4 cup water to make a paste. Blend butter with remainder of flour. When blended with butter completely, add the flour paste and stir with a fork or work in with fingers. Work dough only until it coheres - as little as possible.
Form dough into a ball. Mike recommends chilling dough in the icebox while you prepare the filling (or chill for a couple of hours as my husband did). Cut dough in half and roll out bottom crust. Fill pie, roll out top crust, close pie and bake at 400 F for 10 minutes, then at 350 F for about 45 minutes or until filling is bubbling.
Next time: Chippewa Venison Chile. *