arbuckle mountain fried pies (davis ok)

Fried pies probably came to the United States by boat and recipe from England via savory Cornish pasties, but the American South sweetened them up for the table (although savory versions abound). Going back to the 1770s, they were known as crab lanterns due to crab apple filling and ventilation slits.

Because baked dough surrounds a fried pie, the dish could be carried for later enjoyment in the field or on a picnic. And what is better on a cold day than a warm pie? Fried pies were also an outcome of extra dough and filling needing to find a place. McDonald’s popularized fried pies through their apple version (later baked after 1992 to be ‘healthier’).

I can’t say I’ve ever had a legit fried pie until I stopped in at Arbuckle’s on the way back to Austin from a geology conference in Stillwater. I had attended a presentation about Turner Falls and thanked the presenter, telling him I would stop at the falls on the way back. “Then you also need to be sure to stop in at the fried pie place north of the park,” he said.

He was right.

The family has been making fried pies since 1954 from, you guessed it, mom’s recipe. Initially a steak house with fried pies on the menu for dessert, the pies took over, and that is all that is sold here today. The place is out in the middle of nowhere but conveniently located next to I-35 (the pies were there first). I got into line and ordered a fruit pie, a savory pie, and a fruit to go. I noticed later that a freezer on the side held frozen pies.

These pies are big and fried golden brown. The crust is savory and crispy-crunchy, the yin to the soft yang of the interior. I tried blackberry and was not disappointed, with fresh drupelets swimming in a deep purplish compote. The balance between sweet and savory was perfectly teetered. Moans abounded.

For the savory, I tried the breakfast pie, with bacon, egg, and cheese. The pie-makers make the savories fresh while you wait (about 7 to 10 minutes), but totally worth it. However, if you only have room for one pie, go fruit.

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