Fall weather has arrived, and it’s time to change up our pie baking to match the season.
This is the time of year when we love pies filled with apples, pumpkin or sweet potato, but why stop there? Why not make an Osgood pie?
What, you may ask, is that?
Some cookbooks say to think of a chess pie or vinegar pie with the addition of raisins, nuts and spice in sweet custard. That certainly sounds good, but it somehow shortchanges the uniqueness of this pie. The version I made reminded friends more of a fruitcake pie, only without the hated waxy citron cherries and pineapple.
There was no Osgood, at least so far as culinary history can show. Several cookbook writers, including Betty Furness, call it an oh-so-good pie, which leads many to think Osgood is merely a condensed version of that. That may also explain why this old-fashioned wonder is also known as allgood pie in some quarters, according to The Big Apple, a online compendium of food references.
But no one knows who made the first oh-so-good pie or where. Some legends point to Texas, others merely to some Southern region in which pecans grow. In the news clippings references on The Big Apple, the earliest mention dates back to neither; it is from the Indianapolis Star in 1911. More mentions arose in the 1920s and 1930s, suggesting but the pie’s popularity seems to have dropped off the charts in the 1950s.
By 1970, the Associated Press’ food editor, Cecily Brownstone, professed she had never heard of the pie, The Big Apple reports. According to an article she wrote that appeared in the Dallas Morning News, “A Greenwich Village restaurant in New York City, specializing in Tex-Mex cuisine, serves an interesting dessert called Osgood Pie. When we first ate the pie there we didn’t remember ever seeing a recipe for it. But searching among our 3,000 cookbooks yielded results: two cookbooks from Texas and one devoted to Southern cookery had versions of the dessert.”
Osgood, or Allgood, Pie
In my own collection, I found five versions of Osgood Pie in cookbooks as diverse as Morton G. Clark’s “The Wide, Wide World of Texas Cooking” and “We Make You Kindly Welcome,” a collection of Shaker recipes from Pleasant Hill, Kentucky. Both books appeared in 1970, the same year as Brownstone’s article. Furness included Oh-So-Good Pie in her widely used 1954 “The Betty Furness Westinghouse Cookbook,” and Woman’s Day offered a version in its 1978 collection, “Old-Fashioned Desserts.”
The 1989 “Eats: A Folk History of Texas Foods,” by Ernestine Sewell Linck and Joyce Gibson Roach, offers no background on the pie, but the authors do make this observation: “Any of the molasses, raisin, chess, Osgood pies and their like — sticky, syrupy, often open-faced — could be called ‘shoo-fly pies,’ so called because of the worrisome winged visitors that came to the table uninvited. The children were given white cloths that they waved about to keep flies off the food.”
They also quote a 1941 article from Virginia Walker on “Pie Suppers in East Texas” that sheds a little light on why Osgood pie was so highly regarded in the Depression era: “The people who lived a cut above the folk would bring some pie with a store-bought ingredient like raisins or coconut.” It was a rare treat at a time when most people had to make do with what they had. It’s still a rare treat that’s worth the time it takes to make it.
Below are two variations on Osgood pie to get you started. I made the version from Woman’s Day, which came together easily, except I don’t have an 8-inch pie pan, so the filling in mine was a bit thin. No one seemed to mind it, especially when topped with whipped cream.
Few recipes for this dessert are alike, though most use raisins and pecans mixed with eggs, sugar and butter. Several versions add dates. Some call for vinegar, others for lemon juice. As for the spices, the choice of cinnamon, nutmeg or cloves is up to you. I may add different dried fruits, such as cherries or cranberries, the next time I make one. Or you could add chocolate chips, which is what a friend told me she expected when she saw the dark pieces in the pie filling before learning they were raisins; it may not be old-fashioned, but it would be oh so good.
Texas Osgood Pie
1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
3 eggs, separated
1 cup pecans
1 cup pitted, cut-up dates
1/2 cup white raisins
1 pinch salt
1 (9-inch) unbaked pie shell
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Cream butter and sugar and beat in the egg yolks. Fold in nuts, dates, raisins and salt. Beat egg whites until stuff and fold into the mixture. Turn into pie shell and bake until done (about 45 minutes). Serve hot or cold.
Makes 6 or 8 servings.
From “The Wide, Wide World of Texas Cooking” by Morton G. Clark
Woman’s Day’s Osgood Pie
Sugar, raisins, pecans and spices are stirred in the batter.
“Though the origin of this pie is unknown, recipes occasionally appear in regional cookbooks of Southern states where pecans are grown,” according to Barbara Myers in the 1978 cookbook, “Woman’s Day Old-Fashioned Desserts.” “The chewy filling, which includes raisins as well as nuts, has a thin, crisp meringue crust that develops while baking.” I thoroughly and gently folded the entire mass of egg whites into the dough and it formed no meringue on mine.
2 egg yolks
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons melted butter
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cloves
2 teaspoons vinegar
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup chopped raisins
2 egg whites
1 (8-inch) unbaked pie crust
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Beat the egg yolks slightly. Add the sugar, melted butter, cinnamon cloves and vinegar. Blend well. Add the pecans and raisins. Mix well.
Beat the egg whites until stiff, then fold in.
Turn the filling into the pie crust and spread evenly. Bake in oven for 30 to 35 minutes, or until set. The egg whites will rise to the top, forming a thin crust. To test the filling, insert a toothpick halfway between the outer crust and the center; it should come out clean. Also, when done, the meringue will pull slightly away from the rest of the pie.
Cool on a rack and serve warm or at room temperature. Cut with a thin, sharp knife to avoid crumbling the meringue crust.
Makes 6 or 8 servings.
From “Woman’s Day Old-Fashioned Desserts” by Barbara Myers