Pies and Other Good Stuff!

Pecan pie

is a type of Chess Pie, based on sugar, syrup, butter and eggs and there are many variations (including Vinegar Pie). It’s hard to find a good one in restaurants North of the Mason-Dixon Line.

The type and ratio of sugar and syrup determine how rich/hearty it turns out.
If you like extra rich, use molasses and dark brown sugar.
If you like it lighter use white Karo corn syrup and a lighter sugar.
You can experiment using honey, maple syrup, white sugar.
Traditionally pecan halves are intact but some folks like to chop and mix in, ‘decorating’ with halves around the edges. I cover the bottom of the pie crust with pecan halves. They rise to the top during baking.

I prefer a fairly light pie, so my pecan pie recipe is:

1 cup light brown sugar
1 cup light Karo
1/4 cup butter
3 large eggs
1/8 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup pecans
1 pie crust for 9″ pie pan.
Put pie crust in pan
My wife & son make crust from scratch but I don’t unless I’m making several pies.
I use pre-made crust but move it from freezer to fridge a day in advance.
(Doesn’t keep longer than about a week in the fridge).

Preheat oven to 375°
Beat eggs in large bowl & set aside.
Combine sugar, syrup, butter & salt in saucepan.
Heat until sugar dissolves, stirring constantly – won’t take long.
Add small amount to beaten eggs and mix well.
Add the rest of the hot mixture and mix well.
(If you dumped all the hot mix into the beaten eggs at once, you’d end up with sweet scrambled eggs).
Pour into pie crust.
Bake 40-50 minutes until center is just a bit jiggly when shaken.

Variations:
Haven’t tried using honey but I’ve made a Maple Walnut Pie with maple syrup, light brown sugar and walnuts.

I’m lucky to have family living in the middle of a pecan orchard, so I get pounds for free every year. If you are fresh out of pecans, you could substitute other nuts or try the following:

Poor Man’s Pecan Pie

1/2 cup grape-nuts
1/2 cup lukewarm water
1 cup brown sugar (I use light brown)
1 cup corn syrup (I use white Karo)
1/4 cup butter
1/8 tsp salt
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 unbaked pie crust for 9″ pie pan

Preheat oven to 375°
Lay pie crust in pie pan.
Soak grape-nuts in the 1/2 cup warm water.
Combine sugar, corn syrup, butter & salt in saucepan.
Bring to quick boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved & remove from heat.
Beat eggs until foamy, Add small amount of hot syrup to eggs, beating well.
Ad remaining hot mixture, mixing well.
(If you dumped all the hot mix into the beaten eggs at once, you’d end up with sweet scrambled eggs).
Stir in the softened grape-nuts.
Pour into pie crust.
Bake 45-50 minutes until center is just a bit jiggly when shaken.

***

Key Lime Pie – from my family’s cookbook.

Ingredients:
1 baked 9″ pie shell
2 1/4 cups canned condensed milk.
(2 14oz. cans Eagle Brand or equivalent)
3 egg yolks
3/4 cup + 2 tblsp lime juice
4 tsps grated lime rind
(I can seldom find Key Limes and they are very small. I use one regular lime and bottled lime juice).

Separate 3 eggs, set whites aside.

In medium bowl, beat egg yolks until thick and light yellow.
Blend in condensed milk with a whisk.
Gradually whisk in the lime juice and rind, blending well.
(Mixture will thicken).
Spoon into pie shell.

Preheat oven to 350°

Meringue
3 egg whites
1 tsp lime juice
6 tblsp sugar

Beat whites until frothy
Add the lime juice and beat until it starts to hold its shape.
Add the sugar, on tsp at at time, beat until mixure form stiff, glossy peaks and the sugar has dissolved.
Place mounds of meringue around edges just inside the crust.
Spread so it touches crust all the way around (this prevents the meringue from shrinking away from the sides).
Heap rest of meringue in the center and work it out toward the edges.
Optional: Lightly sprinkle a little bit of grated rind on top of the meringue.
Using the back of a spoon, pull up points in the meringue to make a textured top.
Bake 12-15 minutes until meringue is flecked with gold at the tips of the peaks.
Let pie cool to room temperature, then chill about 4 hours to set the filling.

Pie will be easier to serve if the knife is dipped into cool water between cuts.

***

Vinegar Pie

Ingredients:
Pastry for 9″ single crust pie
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 tblsp flour
1/4 tsp salt
3 eggs beaten well
1/4 cup butter, melted
3 tblsp evaporated milk, 1/2&1/2 or milk
1/3 cup vinegar – apple cider or white, not flavored
Directions:
Preheat oven to 350°
Line 9″ pan with crust.
Small bowl, combine sugar, flour, salt; mix with fork.
Medium bowl whisk/beat eggs, butter, milk.
Add sugar/flour mix and stir well.
Add vinegar and stir well.
Pour into piecrust.
Place on bottom rack & bake 10 minutes.
Reduce heat to 325°
Bake until edges puff up & center fairly firm when shaken gently; takes 35-45 minutes.

***

Bacon Pie

Ingredients:
12 slices of bacon
1 cup shredded Swiss cheese
1/3 cup chopped onion
2 cups milk
4 eggs
1 cup baking mix, like Bisquick
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

Preparation:
Heat oven to 400°.
Grease a 10-inch glass pie plate.
Put bacon in large skillet over medium-high heat,
turning occasionally until evenly browned, about 10 minutes.
Pat dry on paper towels and crumble the bacon.
Sprinkle bacon, cheese & onion into pie plate
In medium bowl, combine milk, eggs, baking mix & pepper; stir with fork until blended.
Pour mix into pie.
Bake 35-40 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean.

***

To preserve a family tradition:

Cindi’s Dad’s Cole Slaw Recipe

Since warmer weather approaches, it’s time to think of barbeque and picnics. Here is a very simple family favorite dating back to 70 years or more.

1 head of cabbage
2-3 carrots
2-3 stalks of celery
1 green pepper

Shred cabbage and place in large bowl.
Grate in the carrots.
Dice the celery, add to bowl.
Cut the green pepper and wash out seeds, then dice it & add to bowl.

Dressing:
Scatter 5 tsp coarse salt.
Scatter 2 tblsp sugar.
Add 1/4 cup cider vinegar.
Add juice 1/2 lemon.

Add enough mayonnaise to ‘frost’ the top of the cole slaw.
Mix thoroughly and refrigerate until served.

***

Another family tradition:

Cindi’s fruitcake recipe is 99% fruit. She filled old ‘square’ jars with about 3 pints of fruit, citron, raisins, currants & Secret Ingredients, then added a cup of cake batter – 6 cups fruitstuff, 1 cup batter. My job was picking the stems out of currents and 3 different types of raisins, dicing up the citron and candied fruit into teeeeeny pieces.

At one time you could buy coffee in cans about 6″ wide and 4″ tall. She lined them with greased brown paper and baked in them. Each fruitcake weighed about 3lbs although she made a 5-pounder for special orders (like feeding 100 people).

We sliced them as thin as deli meat. They are rather like baklava – too rich to eat more than a very small portion. The uneaten part was wrapped in waxed paper, then foil, then sealed in a tin box. Opened once a year for few more slices, sprinkled with a bit of brandy or sherry and sealed up again. I’ve still got a couple on the shelf at least 15 years old. It’s edible forever – too rich for bacteria to survive.

The biggest problem is getting the ingredients. We used get some at a Hungarian shop on the Upper East Side but I don’t think it’s still there.

The Family Fruitcake Recipe

Okay, for those who are tired of rotating gift fruitcakes through your friend network or using them for doorstops, this is the reason they were really invented, before the commercial folks corrupted the process.

If you’ve only eaten the commercial ones, you haven’t eaten fruitcake.

Equipment:
We have ‘square’ 2-quart jars, quite old.
If you can’t find such, use whatever works, but should seal.
We use 1-lb coffee cans (quite old) for small fruitcakes
and tube cake pan for larger fruitcakes.
Use whatever works – about 7 inches across, 4 inches high.
Recipe makes one large fruitcake or 3-4 smaller ones
depending on what container you use.

The secret to good fruit cake is the great variety of fruits/nuts and slicing the fruit VERY thin.

Ingredients:

1 lb candied pineapple
1/2 lb candied cherries
1/4 lb citron
1/8 lb lemon peel
1/8 lb orange peel
1 lb golden raisins
1/2 lb seeded (muscat) raisins
1/4 lb currants
1/4 seedless raisins

1/2 cup brandy
1/4 lb almonds
or 2 oz almonds & 2oz pecans
1/4 lb walnuts

1/4 lb butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup light brown sugar

2 cups flour
1/2 tsp mace
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking soda
5 eggs
1 tblsp milk
1 tsp almond extract

Preparation:
Sort through raisins and currents, removing any stems or bad ones.
Carefully slice all fruit.
Slice VERY thin.
Place fruit, nuts, raisins & brandy in large bowl, mix well.
Transfer to large glass jar with lid, set aside.
We do this prep work the day before, let it marinate overnight.

Sift 11/2 cup flour with spices and soda.
Beat eggs lightly, not whipped.
Cream butter in separate bowl, work in white sugar, then brown sugar.
Cream well until light and fluffy.
Stir in eggs, add milk and almond extract.
Add flour, mix thoroughly.
Mix other 1/2 flour with fruit/nuts and move to another bowl.
Pour batter over fruit/nut mixture and mix thoroughly.

Divide evenly among coffee cans lined with buttered/greased brown paper.
or into larger cake pan.

Bake at 275° about 2 hours.

When completely cool, wrap in wax paper, then in foil.
We then seal them in tin boxes.
Use whatever you can find that makes a good seal.

When you unwrap them, keep a small knife handy.
Bits of fruit may stick to the paper.
Pick them off with the knife and push them back into the cake.

This cake is incredibly rich. That means the servings are very thin slices and a cake may last for years.

Once a year, unwrap and eat some more.
Sprinkle with brandy or sherry, rewrap and store for next year.
We have some 10 years old or more – still delicious.

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