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Weird Pies for Dessert!
Weird Pies for Dessert!
What is a weird pie? Depending on where you live you may consider a bean pie a weird pie. Beans as a pie filling? Yet, it is one of my all time favorite pies but then I live in Brooklyn, NYC where beans pies are popular and have been around for more than 40 years! To me a funeral pie is weird and a vinegar pie. (see list of pies below).
The subject of weird pies came up quite innocently. I was sitting around with a friend named Amy, and perhaps because happy holidays (with pies) was approaching, she asked me if I ever had a chess pie. No, I haven't. I've heard of it though. She said her grandmother made the best; it seems the weird ingredient is cornmeal. She suggested I write an article and list some weird pies.
We can begin with:
Bean Pie* - This is now my second favorite pie (sweet potato is still #1, see photo below). Beans are actually quite sweet. In fact all over S. Korea red beans are used as filling in desserts. In bean pies the most commonly used beans are navy beans. Other ingredients are eggs, evaporated milk, butter, sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger and cloves. Years ago I baked a bean pie but it was a bit too light and fluffy for me. I prefer the ones from the local bakeries which are denser, never too sweet and made as small mini-pies. (More info below)
Chess Pie - Popular in Southern states, the key ingredient is cornmeal. And it seems to be in each recipe - only about a tablespoon of cornmeal. The other ingredients are butter, white sugar, vanilla extract, eggs, evaporated milk and a tablespoon of white vinegar. Corn meal is used instead of flour. It is closely related to vinegar pie (next on the list) and the two terms are often used interchangeably. Some people think the name came from the fact that pies were at one time stored in a 'chest' which sounds similar to 'chess.'
Vinegar Pie - Vinegar pie? Brown vinegar is made from apples, and generally green tart Granny Smith Apples are used to make an apple pie. This may not be too far a stretch as far as taste, and vinegar we all know has excellent (even amazing) healing properties. This pie calls for a bit more vinegar than the Chess Pie but is otherwise similar.This is one of my cousin Bryan's favorite pies to make for guests. They oooh and aaah and eat it all.
Funeral Pie - (AKA raisin pie) I'll eat a raisin pie but not a funeral pie. They are one and the same of course (but there is so much in a name). This is a tradition in Amish homes and is often served at funerals - thus the name. The use of raisins came about because raisins are an ingredient that can be readily available year round - unlike fresh fruits.
Ritz Cracker/Mock Apple Pie - I have seen the recipe on boxes of Ritz Crackers; the idea has always appalled me. Supposedly, this pie was created during the 19th century when apples were not readily available. But some websites say it was created during WWII when apples were again not available. It is exactly what it sounds like - a recipe that calls for 36 crackers, a lot of sugar, cream of tartar, 1 lemon, lemon juice, butter and ground cinnamon. As a pie eater I would try it (once) but I don't advocate mock anything. Why not call it a cracker filled pie? Can't imagine this even pretending to have nutritional value.
Finger Pie - No fingers baked here. The name came about because it was stirred with the finger to keep the bottom crust from breaking. It is also known as Sugar Cream Pie. The pie crust is filled with layers of creamed butter, brown sugar, a sprinkling of flour and filled with vanilla flavored cream, then baked. It is way too much sugar for me but many pies are really nothing more than using ingredients on hand which may be fruits, vegetables, meats, seafood, cream, etc. and dumping it all in a crust.
Peanut Butter Pie - The recipes for this no-bake pie seem to always call for about as much cream cheese as peanut butter, a lot of powdered sugar, and whipped cream or milk. The crust is generally graham cracker. Quite frankly, I don't think I could enjoy this kind of pie without thinking of my arteries clogging instantly and perhaps even passing out.
Shoofly Pie - According to the Amish Country News, there is no other single dessert so identified with the Amish Country as is the Shoofly Pie. The name came about because while the pie was cooling, the sweet ingredients attracted flies and the cook had to 'shoo' the 'flies' away, hence the name 'shoofly.' When we visited the Pennsylvania Dutch Country, we had to try the shoofly pie (and everything else). It can best be described as a coffee cake with a gooey molasses bottom. It was served warm with a large dollop of fresh whipped cream. The pie bottom can be thick or barely visible and is therefore referred to as wet-bottom, or dry-bottom.
Sweet Potato Pie (see photo below) - Most people think of pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving. Probably because you have pumpkins laying around from Hallowe'en, but in my family the number one traditional holiday pie is this pie - a must. Yet some people find the filling weird. This is considered a classic Southern soul food pie. The other ingredients are similar to those of the pumpkin pie. My favorite pie. Mmmmmm.
Moon Pie - Maybe this isn't really a pie, but it seems to be familiar to anyone who has had a childhood. They are round chocolate covered graham cracker type things with a marshmallow filling - about the size of a hockey puck. In some parts of the US they are known as Scooter Pies. It is said they were invented in 1917 in Chattanooga. And I have to say the best in the world are found in Korean supermarkets - made in Korea. The milk chocolate ones are good, but the best are the pure dark chocolate (without all the chemicals, artificial flavors, high fructose corn syrup, and partially hydrogenated oils commonly found in the American brands). Those dark chocolate ones from Korea are called Choco Pies; you can eat them by the thousands.
*Bean pies have been around at least since the 1960s here in NYC. They are most often associated with the Nation Of Islam. The objective was to eat nutrionally even if it was dessert. Bean pies were also used as a means of fundraising.
One good thing about bean pies is that they have not been destroyed by corporate conglomerates; you can go into many bakeries in Brooklyn and buy fresh ones, and always be satisfied - they are usually mini-sized and just enough. Even the companies that make the bean pies have remained small and true to the belief in quality ingredients.
It is also hard to find mass-produced sweet potato pies in the supermarket but surprisingly - many Chinese takeout restaurants sell mini-pies, which is the pie pictured below.
Other weird fillings are: Coffee Cream, Eggnog, Oatmeal Pecan, Caramel, Brown Sugar, Sugar Cream, Cranberry Cream, Cookies 'n' Cream. There seems to be a movement away from fresh fruits; perhaps it is a matter of using what is on hand which seems to be a lot of sugar and cream.
Enjoy your pie(s)!