Sunday, January 20, 2013

Pennsylvania Dutch recipe for funeral pie (aka raisin pie)

"Pennsylvania Dutch Traditional Recipes for Pies and Pastries" is a staplebound booklet originally published in 1963. The introduction states:
"The Pennsylvania Dutch loved their pies and ate them morning, noon and night. There were pies on the table at every meal. Everyone helped himself and 'ate himself full.'"
But the pies were not always for the happiest occasions. One of the pies featured in the booklet is called funeral pie. It didn't take much searching to discover the reason behind the name.
  • "Funeral pie, noun, Pennsylvania Dutch Cookery. A traditional pie made with a black filling of raisins and lemon juice and presented to a bereaved family."
  • Arlene Wright-Correll on Helium: "Before we became accustomed to having every staple we needed on hand whether in or out of season our pantry or larder held just a few things such as flour, sugar, salt, coffee and the rest of the time we cooked whatever was in season and most of the time we preserved, canned or dried our seasonal excesses of produce and that included grapes which gave us raisins. When it came time to bring something to a funeral it usually had to be something that one could cook or bake quickly using what was on hand and often that was raisins. The Amish and Pennsylvania Dutch often called Rosina pie (which is Dutch for Raisins) Funeral pie."
  • Dogpatch Days: "Funeral pie is a raisin pie. I expect it came to be known as funeral pie because you never knew when you'd have to provide one to a bereaved relative or friend, and raisins were always in season, unlike peaches or blueberries. Sure you could make pies of dried apples or other things, but the shock of the death may have left you unable to deal with mixing mincemeat or roasting pumpkins. Raisins make practically fast-food pie."
  • One Perfect Bite: "It became a favorite of Mennonite cooks because the ingredients were always available and the pie kept well. That meant it could be made a day or two before the funeral supper and freed hands for other tasks. The pie is not unpleasant, and if you love raisins or mincemeat I suspect you'll love it. One caution. It is very sweet. Susan, who writes The Well-Seasoned Chef, let us know that the pie is deliberately made cloyingly, almost painfully, sweet to allow mourners to forget, if only for a moment, the pain of their grief. If I make this again, I'll reduce the sugar by half."

I also found a smart and amusing post on the Poor Richard's Almanac blog in which the author — who describes his work as "a Luddite’s take on life, chickens, and other critical issues" — tries to track down a recipe for "Amish funeral potatoes" and ends up on an awful lot of tangents. A kindred spirit, indeed.

Anyway, before I go off on a tangent, here is the booklet's recipe:

Funeral Pie
  • 1 cup seeded raisins, washed
  • 2 cups water
  • 1½ cups sugar
  • 4 tablespoons flour
  • 1 egg, well beaten
  • juice of a lemon
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon rind
  • pinch of salt
Soak raisins 3 hours, mix sugar, flour and egg. Then add seasoning, raisins and liquid. Cook over hot water for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. When the mixture is cool, empty into a pie-dough lined pie plate. Cover pie with narrow strips of dough, criss-crossed and bake until browned.

(Note that the ingredients and the recipe don't include the process of creating the pie dough, which you would, of course, also need.)

1 comment:

  1. I remember my Grandmother making a raisin pie as a kid (she was an award winning pie baker). I hated the pie. Hey, I was a kid. I don't remember the sweetness, but I do remember the texture of the raisins. I'm thinking of making the pie, just to make it. It does look really sweet. What do you think 3/4 cup of sugar? Great blog. v