If you were to ask me what my favorite pie is, I’d say raisin … or strawberry-rhubarb … or raisin. It’s a toss-up between the two! Raisin was also my grandpa’s favorite pie. I don’t recall my grandma ever making it, but I certainly remember my mom baking one at least once a year so he’d have some. He loved it … and would talk about his mom, Grandma Phoebe, making it when he was a kid.
Grandpa was 14 when is mama died … that was the early years of the Great Depression.
I’ve heard a lot of folks reminisce that “this area was so poor, we didn’t know there was a depression”. There is some truth to that sentiment, but I still can’t imagine a time of “Hoovervilles” and the inability to provide for your family. Dessert certainly wasn’t served after every meal like it can be today. Even during the prosperity of the 1920s, a good majority of families in southern Illinois were living frugally, ours included. Raisin pie was a sweet treat Grandma Phoebe could make with limited supplies, but I doubt she made it often. It was a treat and Grandpa savored every bite. He had very fond memories of her that he willingly shared … frequently … which is the only reason I know my great-grandmother so well having never met her.
We don’t have a family recipe, per se, just the general rule that the more raisins, the better.
Most recipes call for 2 cups of raisins. I have a very deep pie plate that I “permanently borrowed” from my grandma one day … that’s a perfect excuse for me to use 4 cups of raisins!
I also use rum or brandy in mine … I like my spirits!
To get as close to what my great grandma probably baked, I combined recipes out of an 1897 White House cook book and the 1895 Fannie Farmer cookbook … then adapted them to fit the way I cook.
- 4 cups raisins
- 2 1/2 cups water
- 1/4 cup rum or brandy
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 3 tablespoons corn starch
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon lemon
- 1 tablespoon butter
- Pastry crust for top and bottom of pie shell
- 1 egg for egg wash on top crust
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Add raisins and water to sauce pan and bring to a boil, cook for 5 minutes.
- Reduce heat to simmer.
- Stir in rum, sugar, corn starch, cinnamon, salt, and lemon juice.
- Continue to simmer until liquid begins to thicken slightly.
- Remove from heat and let cool.
- Prepare 9-inch pie pan with bottom crust.
- Pour cooled raisin filling into crust and top with pats of butter.
- Place top crust over pie, crimp, and slit to allow steam to escape.
- Brush top crust with egg wash.
- Bake in 400 degree oven for 15 minutes.
- Reduce oven to 350 degrees and bake for 35 minutes.