Monday, April 18, 2011

Beyond Raisin

By Belinda

It all started over supper on Thursday evening. Jane said to me, "Belinda, can you make raisin pie?" 

"Well, I never have," I said, "But I'm sure I could find a recipe, why?"

It turned out that Jane; a retired Salvation Army officer and a volunteer chaplain with the Toronto Police Force, had asked a man whom she's supporting through his last few weeks of life, what his favourite pie is.  It is raisin. 

I was on it! And on Saturday morning after breakfast I told Brenda what was on my agenda.

"You're making raisin pie?!" She was excited, "Can I buy two--one for Pastor Dan and one for Easter dinner with Kevin's family?" 

Of course she could; I'm still baking as many pies as I get orders for, for the Power of One fund raising cause.  

I consulted my most trusted recipe books when it comes to pies: my Better Homes and Gardens, and my old Purity Cook Book from the 1970's. Better Homes's raisin pie had walnuts; lemon and orange peel and a lattice top. It would probably be delicious, but it seemed too exotic. I didn't know if Jane's friend liked nuts with his raisin pie and I am all thumbs when it comes to making a lattice top, so I opted for the aptly named Purity recipe. Pure and simple--a classic raisin pie.

I have never cared for raisin pie made with pie filling, but I had never had a home made raisin pie. I felt as though I was embarking on a pie making adventure.

I decided to make 6 pies because 3 were already spoken for and as long as I was making pie, I thought I might as well make it worthwhile.

Each pie required 2 cups of raisins, but when I checked what I had on hand, all I had was enough for 3 pies. I decided to make that my first batch and then go and buy more raisins. 

So to 6 cups of raisins I added 6 cups of water. This is where things started to go badly wrong. The recipe said to simmer the raisins in the water for 10 minutes and then add sugar mixed with flour, but not having done this before, I added the sugar before I realized it. No worries, I thought, It can't do any harm to simmer the sugar with the raisins and then add the flour. Ha! How wildly wrong I was. 

I don't know what I was thinking, but once I had done simmering the raisins, I added the solo flour to the mixture. I know better, but because the recipe had said to stir it in gradually WITH the sugar, I didn't think about the fact that it might make a difference if it had no sugar. Of course it did, and the flour instantly turned into little white, solid dumplings. No matter how fast I stirred, even with my wire whisk, the dastardly deed was done, and to my horror I now had a mass of sticky, sweet raisins, interspersed with white globules.

This is when Paul came into the kitchen to see how I was doing....He bravely ventured in to the danger zone and advised that draining off the liquid would be a good idea. I hated to admit that he was right--whose kitchen was this, after all? But I swallowed my pride, got out my colander and sat it in another saucepan and poured in the goop, while mentally setting aside my original Saturday agenda for the kitchen equivalent of a chain gang. 

For the next half hour I picked out never ending opaque globs of flour with a spoon, silently thanking God that I had been down to my last 6 cups of raisins. Can you imagine if I had had 12 cups? I thought of Jane's friend and how much I wanted him to have the finest pie I could make. I imagined him squinting at a forkful of succulent raisins and spotting a small white blob amongst the glistening golden brown. "What might that small  white thing be?" he would wonder.  A fine treat that would be.

In the end, I admit, when I got to chasing down the final vestiges of congealed flour, I had tossed aside the spoon and was picking the flour out of the sticky mass of raisins with well washed hands until finally it was done and the raisins could be reunited with the liquid and have replacement flour added, more carefully this time, in a smooth paste made with lemon juice.

My next batch, after buying more raisins, went beautifully. I held my breath as I added the flour, mixed with sugar, but it blended in perfectly. 

At the end of the day it was worth it all. Six perfect golden pies cooled on the black wire racks--a labour of love. 

Paul and I had to try some to make sure that it was satisfactory. And I decided that a small slice of plump, juicy raisin pie is a very nice accompaniment indeed, to a cup of tea. :)

8 comments:

Dave Hingsburger said...

You had me at pie.

Belinda said...

Ha ha Dave! :)

Susan said...

My father had a mishap with his first raisin pie. An inveterate story-teller, it was one of his favourites:

My dad was a cook in the army. He was only 17 when he joined up, barely 18 when he was shipped overseas. He volunteered to be trained as a cook early on because he figured anyone that close to the food preparation would always have enough to eat.

One day a fellow soldier received a quantity of raisins in a care package from his family back in Canada. He told dad that if he would make them into pies for him, Dad keep half for his labour and expertise.

Dad had never made raisin pie, and there were no recipes for raisin pie in the cook tent, but he loved raisin pie himself and figured, "How hard can it be?" He accepted the raisins and got to it at the first opportunity. He rolled out the pastry, added the raisins and baked the pie.

This was the part of the story where dad would always begin to chuckle. He proudly presented one of the golden orbs of perfectly browned pastry to the soldier, whose eyes glistened with anticipation. When he cut into the pie, however, a precious taste of "home" he was bitterly disappointed.

"I learned a lesson that day," my Dad would say as his story reached its climax. "But it was my first raisin pie. How was I to know that you had to COOK the raisins BEFORE you put them in the pie?"

Then he would shake his head, crinkle up his blue eyes and chuckle, "My buddies never let me live that one down."

Belinda, I hope your buddies let you live down your raisin pie mishap. Cause I know they won't let you forget about being the Pie Nazi. :)

Belinda said...

Susan, thank you for sharing your story about your dad. I loved it. He and I can testify, there is more to raisin pie than meets the eye!

mercygraceword said...

Hope you're well, no posts for four days.

This is an encouraging link to the resurrection power of Christ:
http://www.christianityexplored.org/real-life-stories/deb

Belinda said...

Hi Deb,
Yes, I am well. Life just caught up with me this week and I had to go with the flow.

I think the tide is turning! I hope to be back tomorrow.

Thank you so much for asking. I should have posted a note.

Janet Sketchley said...

Belinda, thank you... your tips on the raising pie filling showed me how to make raisin sauce for our Easter ham dinner... I had those white flour globules last year. I told my husband he owes you big time :)

Belinda said...

Oh, Janet, that makes me happy--to know that you could benefit from my disaster! :) Raisin sauce hey? That must be delicious with ham!