First, a quote:
"She also began to bake a lot of pies. She made dried apple pie and raisin pie. She had mincemeat she'd put up and was saving for Christmas but she opened those jars. When she ran out of those, she made mock apple pie out of crushed crackers or red bean pie. She made vinegar pie." -- Carol Emshwiller, Ledoyt.The following recipe is taken from Carol Emshwiller's unconventional Western novel, Ledoyt. Unfortunately, I think it has a tragic flaw. (The recipe, not the book, which is excellent.)
1 cup sugarUsually a pie is a pastry shell -- the crust -- with a filling, sweet or savory, like a larger version of a tart. (There are exceptions, like the Boston Cream Pie, and pizza developed from the pie tradition in its own direction.) Some are baked, and some are chilled; some are open-faced, and some can be entirely enclosed by crust. But the filling has to fill the pie. The above recipe does not. Two tablespoons of flour isn't going to thicken 300 mL of liquid. So before making it, I searched the Internet for other recipes for vinegar pie. Some trivia first: it turns out that vinegar pie was a popular dish in Regency England in the early 19th century. I had the impression, from the recipe's context in Emshwiller's novel, that vinegar pie was a pioneer sort of pie, a stopgap pie for when a farm might run out of fresh fruit. Not necessarily. Vinegar pie is also meant to be a custard pie, a flan if you will; and those require eggs. And using Google, I found a version that used a nearly exact copy of Emshwiller's ingredients, save for an extra half-tablespoon of butter and four eggs. Aha! the missing ingredient confirmed. Okay. I had all of the ingredients necessary for vinegar pie in the kitchen... except for the pie crust. While not wanting to use a cookie crust as I did last time, I also did not want to mess with making a crust from scratch. What can I say? I am just not in the pie crust zone at the moment. Thus, with a heavy heart (again) I went to the supermarket, and bought some frozen standard pie crusts, made by Pillsbury, the big American baking concern, from lard and flour and some interesting chemicals. After I opened the package, I discovered one crust was torn. I swear, sometimes pie crust dough is more tempermental than phyllo. That one I saved for making empanadas or something later. The other looked OK, with a small, suspiciously straight, probably machine-made tear that was easy enough to fix. I set it aside. I mixed the sugar and the flour in my old saucepan, Old Faithful, added the cold water, the vinegar spoonful by spoonful, and then a chunk of butter, two tablespoons worth. Butter in the US comes with measurement marks on the wrapper, so this was actually a rectangular block that floated on top of the liquid. I heated the mixture up, stirring, and waited for the butter to melt, wondering if the mixture would get thick enough without the eggs to use as a filling. The answer was no. I let that cool for a bit, broke four eggs into a convenient glass, Rocky-style, and beat them with a fork. When the saucepan seemed cool enough, I poured a bit of egg into it, to make sure I wouldn't accidentally make egg drop sweet-and-sour soup. It was cool enough, so I slowly poured a bit more egg at a time in, stirring after I poured. Then I turned the burner back on, still stirring, medium heat, some recipes tell you to use a double boiler in these situations but I like living dangerously, lifting the pan, lowering the heat, stirring the mixture thicker and thicker, stirring towards freedom! until it felt as thick as a batter. Then I poured it into the unbaked pie shell. I figured 325 degrees Fahrenheit was close enough to "hold your hand in the oven and count to twenty". Some experiments aren't worth the trouble. That's about 160 degrees Centigrade for you maniacs already in the 22nd century. I baked the pie until the crust was brown, but forgot to time the proceedings. (We're probably talking about half an hour here, but don't quote me on that.) The filling had turned a rich deep gold. I let the finished pie cool on top of the fridge, my standard operating procedure. The first slice was delicious. As I mentioned before, vinegar pie is a custard pie, so the filling was sweet and rich and eggy. The vinegar added just enough sourness to make it taste as if fruit were involved, but no fruits or other extracts were harmed during the making of this pie. In fact, the next time I make this, I might want to increase the vinegar content, to give the filling a little more bite. And the store-bought crust was not bad, not bad at all. Seven more slices to go.
1 cup cold water
2 tbsp. flour
5 tbsp. vinegar
2 tbsp. lard or butter
Mix and pour into pie crust. If you can hold your hand in the oven and count to twenty, it is just the right temperature. Bake until the crust is brown.