A resurgence in "desperation" pies

Hoosier sugar cream pie 

Restaurants aiming to craft menus for local and seasonal products often run into a snag when it comes to desserts. That's why James Beard Award-winning chef Chris Shepherd turned to an unlikely resource for a custard pie that he was putting on the menu at his Houston restaurant. "We have lemons now, but what happens in June, July, May?" Shepherd asked. He was flipping through a cookbook-"more of a pamphlet, really"-from 1968 called "Hillbilly Cooking, Mountaineer Style" when he ran across a recipe for vinegar pie, a sweet, tangy tart that used vinegar to replace the acid from citrus fruit. "I was like 'I don't get it, but it sounds intriguing." He asked his pastry chef to put it on the menu. The resulting pie, made with sugarcane vinegar, double strength Korean apple vinegar, and garnished with a piece of salt brittle, quickly became a staff favorite.

The Bon Appetit article linked above takes a look at the resurgence in "desperation" pies like the vinegar pie. Others in this genre include buttermilk pieHoosier sugar cream pie, green tomato pie, and mock apple pie. Beyond the seasonal eating issue, Paula Haney, a Chicago pastry chef and owner of Hoosier Mama Pie, was drawn to these pies due to their rich culinary history. While researching her cookbook, The Hoosier Mama Book of Pies, Haney looked further into the history of treats like the green tomato pie.

"That's when you go to your garden in September and have all these tomatoes on the vine that won't ripen," she said. "It ends up tasting like apple pie. Oatmeal pie, which I really love, tastes almost like an oatmeal cookie-think a pecan pie, but with oats instead of pecan. We're making mincemeat pie now for Christmas, which would count as a desperation pie because it started in England when people were trying to save meats for the winter."

Photo of Hoosier sugar cream pie from Leite's Culinaria by Paula Haney

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