I’ve written before about learning to cook at the side of my Grandmother. I’ve also written about the revelation that this same Grandmother, who has been responsible for preparing 3 meals a day, for a varying number of hungry mouths, for the past 70 years, actually hates to cook. My cousin and I always assumed that the fun things she let us do while helping her prepare food were meant to be, well, fun. For us. As it turns out they were often ways for her to make the process more interesting for herself, and if she was able to take a shortcut or two in the name of “fun” then all the better.
The “pissybed” is really just a free form pie. In France, it would fall under the header of “galette” if galette meant “shit, my pastry is crap today and isn’t going to roll out properly!” Because this kind of pie is usually what you end up with, albeit unintentionally, if your pie crust is crap. You can make them if your pie crust is fine, as was my Grandmother’s – and mine – but know that unless they get to taste it, people will think this is because your dough is a no-go. My Grandma wouldn’t know a galette from a whosit – there weren’t a lot of fancy French people in rural Nova Scotia. Well, there were once but the English shipped them off to Louisiana to become Cajuns.
In any case, the name “pissybed” is not some French derivative, but rather a name that came about because, according to my Grandma, the pie looks like the bundle of wet sheets you end up with when one of the kids pees the bed in the middle of the night. Helen Kirby clearly missed her calling as a stand-up comedienne.
My Grandma makes these as a whole pie, usually on a flat baking sheet. Because I tend to make pies in a smaller version (just two of us to feed versus my Grandma’s houseful of 6 or 7 people) I’ve made mine in 6″ pie pans, but the point of a free form pie is that you can make it however you like.
I use lard in my crust and half red fife whole wheat flour, and the apples are a mix of Empires, Gingergolds and Sunrises with plenty of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and a pinch of allspice, plus sugar, a bit of flour and plenty of butter. Milk and sugar on the crust for the last 10 minutes of baking makes for a crunchy crust. They’re not intended to be pretty – which is definitely where they stray from a galette, where the crust is usually crimped in a pretty manner – the deal is to just encase those apples in pastry, mush it all together and let it be ugly, but delicious.