Vinegar Pies was country folks old-time dessert

By Pat Kenney
Journal Correspondent

Real aunts don't eat quiche: They don't know how to make it. They make Soul food, steak and potatoes. That may or may not be served candle lit. They serve tomatoes, vine-ripe not sun-dried and always, always VINEGAR PIES.

When I eat out locally, I've noticed that an old-timey dish is making a come back. The very delicious bread pudding is again on the menu. This is a "poor-man" desert remembered from my childhood. On the farm where I was raised there were always fresh eggs, (laid by our chickens), fresh milk supplied by "Old Jersey", fresh-churned butter and left over bread.. if the family was not too big. Big families were the norm but moms always managed to feed their brood in style.

Have you tasted homemade vinegar pies? This is another old dish that few have heard of today. One of my many aunts made these pies and they were sooo good. One cousin my own age was the helper each week when my aunt baked up a big batch to last as long as they would for that week. These were shared with kinfolk, friends and neighbors. Someone was always stopping by for coffee and pie and to..set a spell. The oldest gentlemen (still living) in our family remember these pies as I do.

Country kids had fun outside, most of the time. When I got to visit my cousins, we did normal country kid things. We actually did walk on top of fences, jump on old boards. We made up songs and poems and told them to each other. I remember one day we had what I call an eye opening adventure. One cousin suggested that we visit their new neighbors. I was warned that these were "poor" folks. I had never seen any so I was extremely excited. My pie-making cousin led the way. Down thru the cotton rows we trudged. No one could see us. We reached the share-crop house and found the doors standing open. No one was at home. We cousins, (about four) didn't know to knock, but wandered into the house.

These poor folks had probably gone out to get food, being as it was a weekend. I looked around. There was not much to see. The house was dirty but that was to be expected. What I didn't expect was a huge pile of dirty clothes thrown in a corner. When I pointed to it, my cousin informed me that someone, probably the Salvation Army, gave them their clothes. They didn't wash them. They had disposable clothes! What a revolutionary idea.

My mom and aunt spent hours, washing and ironing. We had houses without closets but we hung up our clothes. Two big nails and a strong piece of wire were used to stretch across any corner in our houses. Grandpa's house had heirloom armoires but we had to make do.

Since there was nothing much more to see, we returned to my aunt's house just in time for "dinner". My aunt collected chairs, so there was no shortage of places to sit. We enjoyed a home-cooked meal and every child was served a slice of that vinegar pie. As we ate we felt sooo rich and we felt so sorry for those other poor kids next door.

Vinegar pie was a pie made by pioneers during the winter when dried fruits had been depleted. They brought the recipe with them. Also, it became a traditional southern (farm) favorite. It was always made with ingredients on hand.

This is one pie that tastes much better than you might imagine. Below is a recipe.

Baked in 9 inch pie shell cooled
bake pie shell 350 F
2 c. water
1/2 c. flour
2 c. sugar
2 eggs beaten
6 Tbs. apple cider vinegar
2 tsp. lemon extract
In a heavy saucepan, bring water to a boil. In a small bowl, combine flour and sugar, tossing with a fork to blend. Add flour, sugar mixture to boiling water, cook whisking often, until thickened. (about 6 min.)
Remove from heat and slowly add eggs. Stir. Return to low heat and cook and stir until velvety smooth (about 3 min.)
Add the vinegar and lemon extract, blending gently. Pour into a cooled shell and refrigerate for at least 3 hours (to set).