Thursday, April 2, 2009

Grandpa's apricot pie



Harry Bichakjian learned to cook somewhere between the historic Armenian city of Kharpert and Chelsea, Massachusetts.

Like so much about my maternal grandfather's life, exactly where and how that happened is a mystery.


I know that he came to the United States in 1887 at age 17, making him something of an Armenian-American pioneer. Chelsea, just across the Mystic River from Boston, became a magnet for other Armenian immigrants who found work in the nearby factories and mills. Grandpa eventually opened a boarding house and a lunch room.

Many of these Armenians found themselves migrating again when the factories moved South in the 1920s, and Grandpa went along. So did my other grandfather, Harry Kalajian.

The two Haroutyuns opened a restaurant together in Union City, New Jersey, with Bichakjian Grandpa running the kitchen. I know two things about the restaurant from first-hand testimony.

My father, who ate his first meal in America there in 1928, recalled that there was no menu. Everyone ate whatever Grandpa spooned into their bowls, usually starting with bulgur pilaf. Alice Bakalian, my mother's cousin, remembers Grandpa's pies -- apple and apricot -- freshly baked and cooling on top of the ice box. He always gave her one to take home.

I never met my grandfather the cook, but I remember his pies because my mother baked them. Grandpa's apricot pie, perfectly tart and sweet at the same time, was her knockout dessert specialty.

Now, it's Robyn's. She bakes an apricot pie every holiday in honor of my mother.

You don't have to wait for a holiday. This pie itself is reason to celebrate.

And what could be more Armenian than a pie filled with prunus Armenicus?


Apricot pie

Filling ingredients
2 (11-ounce) pkgs. dry apricots
1/2 cup sugar
1 Tbsp. butter
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
water, enough to almost cover the apricots
cinnamon, a dash
note: the filling can be made ahead of time

Crust: Use your favorite recipe for a two-crust pie, or get ready-made.

Cook apricots in 3-quart pot filled with water to about 1 1/2 inches from the top for 15-20 minutes. Add the butter. Stir with an immersion blender, or just use a potato masher.
Combine cornstarch and water, then add to apricot mixture and heat until thickened.
Add cinnamon.
Butter pan before putting in dough.
Separate 1 egg. Brush dough with egg white before adding apricot.
Add 1 Tsp. water to egg yolk, beat and brush top of crust.
Bake at 425 degrees for 30-45 minutes.

5 comments:

  1. I'm looking for a recipe for an Armenian cookie that I know as sodale. My recipes were destroyed during a home invasion. I remember that my mother had to heat the milk before adding it to the dry ingredients. The dough was rolled out into long ropes and then cut into 1&1/2 inch pieces. I believe my mother also used a milk wash on the cookie before placing in the oven. It's been over 30 years since I've tasted this cookie and I hope that someone can help me find this taste again. would

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  2. Somehow I think you may be making reference to Shakareshee ( Probably spelled incorrectly )
    But it is a type of Shortbread consistency usually made with a whole almond pressed into it before baking. I may have a recipe for this in an Assyrian Cook Book.
    Contact me @ twrguy@optonline.net

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  3. John,
    Perhaps the reader is referring to something like the Kahkee (cookie) recipe from the Assyrian Cookbook, pgs. 103-104. That one uses milk, whereas the Shakarashee cookies don't.

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  4. My grandmother used to make apricots w/ eggs for a very tasty and unusual breakfaast...ripe apricots, onions and parsley sauteed in butter until soft...add well beaten eggs and salt, and cook over low heat until scrambled.

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  5. Many years ago I had the pleasure of having a pie known as heavenly pie. I don't know if this was the actual name or just the name the family gave it ... it consisted of nuts, honey and basic pie crust .... it lived up to it's name!

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