Easy as Pie (recipe: Egg Custard Pie)
In the mid to late 1960′s, my grandparents were finally able to afford a washing machine. While that simplified their lives to some degree because it meant no more lugging everything and everybody to the laundromat, it presented another set of challenges. Now washday had to be scheduled around the weather. They couldn’t afford the dryer to go along with the washer, so the clothes had to be solar dried. On this particular day, we were up bright and early to start the wash and get it hung out because, “it looks like we might have a cloud comin’ up”. The first load out of the washer was plopped into a big green plastic clothes basket. Granny grabbed her apron that held her stash of wooden clothes pins, tied on the apron and we both lugged the basket of clothes to the backyard clothes line. As she picked through the basket of clothes to give me the “easy” ones to hang out, she told me to reach in the apron, grab a handful of the wooden clothes and pin them on my clothes making it easier for me to have access to them. My bundle of wet clothes to hang consisted of handkerchiefs, undershirts and socks. As I struggled trying to manage the wet clothes and keep them off the ground and on the clothesline, I noticed that she moved deftly and swiftly, not missing a beat. Her clothes were perfectly straight with similar types sorted and hanging together. Meanwhile, I manage to get three handkerchiefs and two pairs of socks up. I don’t know what it is about seeing clothes flapping in the wind hanging on a clothesline but something about the sight of it appeals to me. Clothesline are not allowed in most neighborhoods. Some consider a clothesline tacky. It’s not the clothesline itself that I love to see, it’s the clothes swaying back and forth in the breeze. Especially white clothes. They almost glisten in the sun. Nothing smells better to me than bed linens that have been line dried. Snuggle up in bed, take a big whiff of that clean fresh scent and your mind is cleared and ready for sleep. It’s like a magic potion.
With the last load out of the washer, we are almost finished getting the clothes on the line. There’s not any evidence of imminent rainy weather and it appears the timing was perfect. Granny says, “Let go in and get our dinner started. I’ve got a new pie recipe I want you to try to make fer us.” Dinner to her meant the noon meal. This is a holdover from times when farmers would need their largest meal in the middle of the day to carry them through the very long and tiring workday. We entered the back door to the kitchen and she opened a drawer and handed me a piece of paper written in someone else’s handwriting that said:
Blender Custard Pie
1/2 c. flour
2 c. sweet milk
1/2 c. butter
Blend in blender. Pour into pie pan.
She very gleefully explained to me that you don’t even need a pie crust or a mixer to make this pie. And you don’t mess up a bowl because you put everything right in the blender. Glancing at the recipe I saw only a few ingredients and a few words. This pie must be really simple. She set about her little kitchen gathering ingredients and implements for me. I sat down at the black and white enamel table in front of the pie safe that held the remnants from breakfast, bacon and biscuits, and maybe some cornbread from last nights’ supper. She instructed me to reach in the safe and get me something to eat because she knew I must be hungry. She was right! A cold biscuit and bacon hit the spot. As she placed a pot of Southern peas on to cook, I started measuring ingredients for this magic pie. Eggs, flour and milk were measured directly in the blender. Next is sugar. Ummmm. There’s no amount. ”Granny”, I asked, “how much sugar do I need to use?” She answered, “Well, shug, it’s just owin’ to how sweet ya want it. I usually put in about a cup and a half, maybe a tad bit more.” With a cup and half of sugar measured and poured in the blender, I next unwrapped a stick of butter, 1/2 cup, and threw the stick into the blender with the rest of the ingredients. She scowled. “What did I do wrong?”, I asked. “You’ve got to melt that butter.” Looking back at the recipe three more times, I still didn’t see a word about melting the butter. And the stick of butter was swimming around in the blender with eggs,milk and sugar. Nothing else to do but to fish it out, melt it in a pan on the stove in the absence of a microwave and let it gain re-entry into the blender. The next ingredient said, “vanilla flavor”. Oh, brother! As if she could read my mind, I heard, “Just put cha a capful of vanilla in it.” All ingredients of the magic pie are now present and accounted for. The blender whirs until everything is consolidated. I carefully pour the mixture into a deep dish pie pan and place it in a 375 degree preheated oven for………how many minutes? Good grief! Responding to my question, “How long do we bake it?”, she said, “You just have to know when it’s done.” And I thought this was going to be easy. The pie finished baking in about 55 minutes. It was a perfect finish to our meal of salmon patties, peas and cornbread.
I’ve made Granny’s magic pie many, many times since that day. Having a granddaughter of my own now, it will be a happy day when I can teach her to bake the magic pie. I won’t hold out on the ingredient amounts, either. My Granny wasn’t doing that to be mean and hard to get along with. That was the way she cooked and the way she taught me to cook. She just reckoned you had enough sense to know basic things and didn’t see the need to tell you something you already knew. So, when Ella gets in the kitchen with me, I will have the recipe written on her own special recipe card that she can keep forever and ever. On second thought, I’m passing down the recipe card that I have right now that has yellowed and shows food stains. I think that will mean more to her. Gosh, I wish I had a clothesline.
Y’all come see us.
While Granny delighted in mixing this in the blender, I use my 35 year old avocado green hand mixer. I also mess up a mixing bowl. Only one bowl, though! This is a simple basic little custard pie that would never win a beauty contest but has such a comforting flavor. It’s meant to look rustic because that’s what it is. I will give you the complete recipe.
1/2 cup self rising flour
2 cups milk
1 1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla flavoring
Mix. Pour. Bake.
Coat a deep dish pie pan with oil or butter. You’ve got a whole stick of butter in this recipe. You can spare some. The only deep dish pie plate I have happens to be an apple pie one.
Add eggs before you add anything else. No need to put eggs in a separate dish first and mess up that dish. You can see if you have egg shells. If you do, take them out.
Everything else goes in. I’m not so sure the butter has to be melted. I think you could dice it up and it would work just fine. I haven’t tested that out yet.
Pour into a pie pan. See the bubbles in the upper right hand corner? We want to get rid of those by rapping gently, ah say gently, on the counter.
See, no more bubbles.
Bake at 375 degrees for about 55 minutes. The middle of the pie will start to spit and sputter and the pie juggles but doesn’t slosh when move it. It sets better if you chill it thoroughly before slicing. Got any clothes you need hang out on the line?