Today is Pi Day – 3.14 – a day that appeals to me in two ways. First, to the science geek in me. I was that kid in high school taking ALL the math and science courses. I loved science, it was so much more concrete than English and way more interesting than history or geography. Oh, the Humanities! I do so love the puniness of the day.
But even more exciting about Pi Day is that it is Pie Day.
Pies are important in our family. My Great Grandma was famous for her pies. She had a thriving pie business in the 1920’s and 30’s, baking pies for fun and fortune. Grandma Mabel’s pies graced the finest homes and restaurants. She involved her kids and grandkids in the pie business. My Dad was one of her delivery boys.
Dad delivered pies in the neighbourhood in a wagon and further afield on a delivery bike. He also worked as a delivery boy for the local grocer and delivered groceries after school and on weekends.
Now that I think about it, that first job working for his grandmother set him up in what was to become a lifelong career spent in the delivery of goods in trucking logistics and transportation.
Dad loved hanging out at Grandma Mabel’s; it was quieter than home where he had 9 brothers and sisters. Even though Mabel had 14 kids of her own, they were all pretty much grown and launched. Although, Dad was the same age as Grandma Mabel’s youngest, and Dad and his Uncle Delbert were in the same grade at the same school. How funny is that?
Dad learned to make pie crust and to play rummy 500 at Grandma Mabel’s big kitchen table. He taught me both of these skills. I most definitely like pies better than cards, but I still enjoy a hand of rummy once in a while. No betting though. It was not allowed at my great-grandparents’ house. My Great Grandfather was a devout man and believed that gambling was the devil’s handiwork. And we never gambled when we played either. Although, Dad enjoyed the occasional trip to the race track later in life. It appealed to his logical mind.
At our house, it was always Dad who made the pie crust.
My mother was a good cook, but she would be the first to say she was not a baker. She would usually make a lovely custard to fill the pie. And then it would be topped with stewed apples or fresh berries. So yummy.
My Dad’s very favourite pie was lemon meringue. Whenever I make a lemon meringue pie it brings back memories of making pie crust with him and of Easter Sundays. After I had kids of my own, my parents usually came to our house for Easter dinner. They would arrive mid-afternoon and after the grandkids got their hugs, they would follow him to the dining room where he would check for a lemon meringue pie on the sideboard along with our other Easter sweets. It makes me smile to think of how his eyes would light up when he spotted that pie mounded high with gilded meringue waiting there. And then he would mischievously suggest that we should eat dessert first. “Oh Grandpa!” would come the reply.
Especially during the depression, lemons were pretty hard to come by so Grandma Mabel would make vinegar pie for the family. Here is the recipe for Mabel’s Vinegar Pie. Don’t let the vinegar fool you, the filling has a lovely mild flavour. The recipe suggests using lemon extract but you can substitute vanilla if you don’t have lemon on hand.
- one 9" baked pastry shell, use your favourite recipe
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon flour
- pinch salt
- 1 cup cold water
- 2 tablespoons vinegar (cider vinegar works best)
- 1 teaspoon lemon extract
- sweetened whipped cream for serving
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- With a fork or a whisk, mix the eggs and 1/4 cup of the sugar in a bowl.
- Stir together the flour and the remaining 3/4 cup sugar in a 1-quart heavy saucepan. Using your whisk, mix in the water and vinegar. Bring this mixture to a boil, whisking until sugar is dissolved.
- Remove from heat and then mix about 1/3 of the vinegar mixture into the eggs (this is to temper the eggs and start the cooking process so the eggs do not curdle the mixture).
- Now pour the egg mixture back into the vinegar mixture in the saucepan and mix it all together.
- Cook over moderate heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until filling coats back of spoon (about 175°F), this will take 12 to 15 minutes. (Do not boil.)
- Remove from heat and add lemon extract and then pour hot filling into baked pie shell.
- Bake in the middle of oven.
- You may wish to cover the edges of the piecrust with a pie shield or foil to prevent overbrowning.
- Bake pie until filling is set, 15 to 20 minutes, then cool completely in pan on a rack. It is best if you let this set up overnight. Serve with whipped cream.
- You will find some excellent directions and pictures of vinegar pie being prepared at Pretty Hungry Blog: http://prettyhungryblog.com/2013/12/20/vinegar-pies-just-like-laura-ingalls-wilder-used-make/