Chess Pie - Cornmeal and Vinegar Southern Dessert

Chess Pie
Chess Pie is a classic Southern dessert custard pie made with eggs, sugar, butter, vanilla, with some recipes containing either/both cornmeal and vinegar. Open up a dozen different community cookbooks and you'll find that many different versions of Chess Pie, or more. The origin of the pie is mainly supposition:
  • From the word 'chest' or 'Chester' from putting the pie in a pie chest (it has common ingredients and was thought to be made frequently)
  • Slang from 'It's just pie'
  • From the word 'cheese' as it is thought to have been derived from a cheese tart recipe with the same consistency

No matter where Chess Pie's name originated, most Chess Pies are simple to stir together and bake, and just like a pecan pie, contain a few common pantry ingredients and is practically foolproof to bake.

Here are a few different recipes to get you started. All are adapted from the 1963 edition of Favorite Recipes of Home Economics Teachers: Desserts, which is a pretty good cross section of recipes made in the different regions of the South. Visit the Old School Pastry blog for a recipe for Chess Pie from 1877.

Chess Pie (with Cornmeal and Vinegar) 
Recipe submitted by a teacher from Arkansas.
  • 1 9"-unbaked pie crust
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 large whole egg
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 1 tablespoon cornmeal
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon plain vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Mix all the ingredients together and pour into prepared pie crust. Bake for about 25 to 30 minutes until lightly browned and set in the center.

Lemon Chess Pie (with Cornmeal and Lemon)
Recipe submitted by multiple teachers from Texas, Kentucky and Tennessee.
  • 1 9"-inch unbaked pie crust
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons finely grated lemon rind (yellow part only)
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 tablespoon cornmeal
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Mix all the ingredients together until smooth. Pour into prepared pie crust and bake for about 35 to 40 minutes until lightly browned and set in the center.

Chess Pie (with Brown Sugar)
Recipe submitted by a teacher from South Carolina
  • 1 8" or 9"-inch unbaked pie crust
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon all purpose flour
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup melted butter
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Mix the sugars and flour, and beat in the eggs, milk, and vanilla. Last, stir in the butter until smooth. Pour into prepared pie crust and bake about 30 to 35 minutes until lightly browned and set in the center.

Image courtesy Flickr User little blue hen through a Creative Commons License.

 

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