When the words vanilla, cheesecake and pecan are all run together ending in pie I cannot help myself. I cannot resist. I head to the kitchen, sort out the ingredients and begin the fun of mixing and blending while imaging just how good this is going to taste!
Chess pies are a Southern specialty that has a simple filling of eggs, sugar, butter, and a small amount of flour. Some recipes add cornmeal and others include vinegar. Flavorings, such as vanilla, lemon juice, or chocolate are also added to vary the basic recipe.
When I asked my southern-born husband if his Granny made Chess Pie he said “definitely not, never heard of it.” At that point this Yankee cook and her chief culinary expert were on the same level playing field. I’ve never heard of it or eaten it until … I came to Tennessee!
When my Floridian, Pennsylvania-born friend, Phyllis, came to visit she immediately exclaimed “where can I get some Chess Pie? It is my favorite!”
I love coming to Tennessee so I can eat Chess Pie! For a week we ate in various restaurants, local cafes, and even at my house. No chess pie for Phyllis.
It was the day before she and my friend Kathy were leaving to continue their fall driving vacation. I woke up at 4 a.m. That isn’t unusual for me. And most generally it means I have something to do. On this particular morning I ran through my mental “to-do” list and was satisfied I did not have any pressing activity calling my name.
WRONG. Chess Pie. As I pulled the covers up tight and rolled over to sleep a few more hours I heard Phyllis saying, “where can I get some Chess Pie, it is my favorite!”
I really should have called this guess pie because guess what? I got up at 4:05 in the morning, fired up the computer, Googled a few recipes and found just the right one. How did I know it was the right one? Because Phyllis had told me that “true” chess pie included cornmeal and vinegar in the list of ingredients.
When the ladies came in from our little guest cabin for breakfast, this pie (and one more) was cooling on the counter. Phyllis squealed with delight! The second pie was delivered to my neighbor later that morning.
The origin of the name, Chess Pie, is uncertain, but there are plenty of guesses and a bit of folklore surrounding the name. My favorite is about the plantation cook who was asked what she was baking that smelled so great – “Jes’ pie” was her answer.
The recipe I used came from My Recipes.com and was featured in Southern Living March 2000. I made one change that we all think is a keeper. The recipe calls for 1 tablespoon of white vinegar. I happen to have Coconut flavored vinegar that came from a specialty olive oil and vinegar shop in Florida. I had never used it and now know that it was made for chess pie! It adds a fantastic light, rich, slightly coconut flavor. Oh my word, you have just got to try this.
This pie is not eggy. It is sweet, rich, custard with a crunchy crust (from the cornmeal.)
With Thanksgiving just around the corner — it’s pie time!
1 Chronicles 29:11-13
11 Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all. 12 Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might, and in your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all. 13 And now we thank you, our God, and praise your glorious name.
- 1 9" round pie crust
- 2 cups sugar
- 2 tablespoons cornmeal
- 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup butter or margarine, melted
- ¼ cup milk
- 1 tablespoon white vinegar or coconut flavored vinegar*
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
- Fit piecrust into a 9-inch pieplate according to package directions; fold edges under, and crimp.
- Line pastry with aluminum foil, and fill with pie weights or dried beans.
- Bake at 425° for 4 to 5 minutes. Remove weights and foil; bake 2 more minutes or until golden. Cool.
- Stir together sugar and next 7 ingredients until blended. Add eggs, stirring well. Pour into piecrust.
- Bake at 350° for 50 to 55 minutes, shielding edges with aluminum foil after 10 minutes to prevent excessive browning. Cool completely on a wire rack.
- Serve at room temperature, plain or with whipped cream
- Refrigerate leftovers.
Optional: Coconut Chess Pie: Prepare filling as directed above; stir in 1 cup toasted flaked coconut before pouring into piecrust. Bake as directed above.
Recipe adapted from Southern Living 2000.
I cannot remember when I made my first pie. But on the bright side I know it was when I was still in high school! My sous-chef dish-washing mom has made pie for as long as I can remember and I inherited her love of making anything pie!
When granddaughter Abbey arrived for a visit we talked about the things she would like to do, making salsa, jam, and pie were all at the top of her list!
I asked if she had ever made a pecan pie.
She said she hadn’t and since we had just returned from a tour of Jack Daniel’s distillery, just down the road, I suspected a pecan pie laced with Lynchburg’s hometown product was in our future! FYI — the alcohol cooks out and the flavor really enhances the sweetness of a custard pie like pecan.
As I have mentioned earlier, I became an instant Grandma to Abbey in 1991 when I married her Grandpa Lee. Abbey and I are only 29 years apart in age – unusually on the light side for grandmother and granddaughter. It is a wonderful blessing for me having her young, creative and fun spirit in the kitchen! It is not only inspiring but also a barrel of laughs! Besides chattering about cooking and baking we throw in a measurable amount of discussion on topics like MEN, love, and the pitfalls and benefits of both!
Praying your week is also filled with the joys of spending time with those you love.
“The greatest legacy one can pass on to one’s children and grandchildren is not money or other material things accumulated in one’s life, but rather a legacy of character and faith.” Billy Graham
- ¼ cup Butter
- ⅔ cups Brown Sugar, firmly packed
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup corn syrup (Light or dark)
- 3 eggs, slightly beaten
- 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
- 1 to 1½ cups Pecan halves or pieces (can be roughly chopped if you prefer)
- ¼ cup Jack Daniel Whiskey (Optional)
- 1 Pie Crust ( I use Pillsbury, but homemade is good too!)
- Lightly spray pie plate with canola oil. Line pie plate with pastry shell, flute edges and sprinkle with pecans.
- Cream butter and sugar until fluffy using a mixer or food processor. Add in next four ingredients mixing well.
- Pour filling over pecans.
- Cover outer pie crust with a pie ring or loosely with tin foil.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Bake 40 to 50 minutes, or longer if needed, until a tester inserted in the middle comes out clean.
- Serve warm or room temperature with whipped cream.
(2) The pie ring or foil is necessary or the outer pie crust will brown too much during cooking.
Have you ever eaten Buttermilk Pie? The first time I had ever even heard of Buttermilk Pie was on a trip to southern Utah. We were with a large group of folks who were hosting exchange teachers from Taiwan. We had taken the teachers sight-seeing through the dramatic canyonlands, a geological wonderland that sprawls across northern Arizona, southern Utah, western Colorado, and New Mexico.
Bryce Canyon National Park national park located in southwestern Utah. According to Wikipedia “the major feature of the park is Bryce Canyon, which despite its name, is not a canyon but a collection of giant natural amphitheaters, along the eastern side of the Paunsaugunt Plateau. The red, orange, and white colors of the rocks provide spectacular views for park visitors.
It was on this trip we stopped by a little cafe well-known for the 32 — yes 32 — different flavors of pie on the menu, one of which was Buttermilk. Fast forward a few years and I find myself living in southern Tennessee surrounded by buttermilk pie lovers! (I like it too!)
The Brown Eyed Baker recently posted this stunning picture and the recipe for Buttermilk Pie. I couldn’t have done better myself.