It’s been a long time since I sat in Mrs. Holder’s geometry class, learning about proofs, formulas, and recipes for figuring out the area of a square, the volume of a cylinder, and the meaning of ‘rhombus’, a word I like very much but never seem to use. Geometry appealed to me with its graphics and literal applications, and possibly in a subliminal way for its applications in the world of food. Same with fractions years earlier — immediately applicable to sharing food. With the image of a pan of brownies or a beautiful pie in mind, I could get right to my mathematical work. I remember the phrase “Pi R Square”, though I couldn’t now explain it even if you promised me a round-the-world plane ticket. But Pi Day? That is my kind of math phrase, and inspired me to get up this morning and make a pie.
In terms of seasonal ingredients, right now it’s early spring here in North Carolina, and local fruit means apples from last fall. Rhubarb is surely up somewhere, but since I don’t have a pie plant out in the backyard (To-Do List entry: plant rhubarb for next spring), that didn’t work for a pi day pie. Browsing recipes we had to cut from my book, Southern Pies, I came across Osgood Pie, an old-school recipe that was standard in Southern kitchens but widely popular across the midwest as well. It’s in the chess family, which means it’s a very simple pie depending on butter, sugar, and eggs to bring great happiness to baker and to eaters. Raisins and pecans are longtime standards in Southern kitchens, and called on for dessert pleasures in between the seasons for strawberries, peaches, figs, and plums. I stirred this up with a fork, on 3/14, Pi Day. Though Pi Day, celebrated since 1989, gives a shout-out to a number (3.14159….) which has no end, this pie does have an end. It can only be cut into a finite number of pieces: 6, or 18, or 12, and because of its satisfying homestyle flavor, it will last only a very finite day or two on your kitchen counter. The name, Osgood Pie? Nobody knows. My favorite legend is that the person who first sampled it hollered out “Oh! So Good!” Could be — it is very good.
Pastry for a 9-inch single-crust
3/4 cup (4 ounces) raisins
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened (4 ounces/1 stick)
1 tablespoon vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (3ounces) chopped pecans
Heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a 9-inch pie pan with piecrust, then crimp the edges decoratively, or set out a prepared unbaked piecrust. Put the raisins in a small bowl and add hot water to cover them. Let stand for 5 to 10 minutes while you prepare the filling.
In a medium bowl, combine the sugar and butter. Use a fork or a whisk to mix them well. Add the eggs one by one, beating well each time. Add the vinegar and salt and stir well. Drain the raisins and add them to the filling along with the pecans, and stir well to combine everything into a thick, chunky filling.
Pour it into the piecrust and place the pie in the middle of the 400 degree F oven. Bake for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to 325 degrees and bake until the pie is puffed, lightly browned, and firm, 30 to 40 minutes more. Place the pie on a cooling rack or a folded kitchen towel and let cool to room temperature.
Makes 1 9-inch pie