I Tried the Popular Depression-Era Vinegar Pie and It’s Shockingly Delightful
I recently spied this recipe for Grandma Pruit’s Vinegar Pie in the goldmine that is the Old_Recipes subreddit. Vinegar and pie are not two words that I usually pair together — with the exception of using apple cider vinegar to achieve a flaky pie crust. This recipe, however, called for 2/3 cup vinegar in the filling. I was intrigued to say the very least.
According to users in the subreddit, vinegar pie goes at least as far back as the Great Depression, when there was limited accessibility to citrus fruits like lemons. The filling is made up of just sugar, butter, vinegar, and water. Needless to say, I was extremely curious about this pie — was it actually going to taste good? Or would it be little more than the sum of its humble parts?
Although I was skeptical, if anyone was going to be able to make something delicious out of nothing, I would definitely bet on the cooks who weathered the Depression (remember this pantry-friendly Depression era chocolate cake?). Here’s how it went when I gave vinegar pie a try!
How to Make Grandma Pruit’s Vinegar Pie
Begin by preparing enough dough for a double pie crust. Roll out a third of the dough and cut it into small, 2×1-inch strips. Layer the strips of dough along the bottom of a 12-inch enameled cast iron pan, or a round 12-inch baking dish. Whisk together two cups of sugar, a few spoonfuls of flour, and a bit of nutmeg. Pour half of the sugar mixture over the layered strips of dough and dot with four tablespoons of cubed butter.
Repeat with the remaining sugar and four more tablespoons of butter. Roll out the remaining pie crust and place it on top, pressing the edges up against the dish. Line a baking rack with foil to catch any spills. Cut a slit into the top of the pie, stir together a quart of hot water and 2/3 cup white vinegar, and slowly pour the mixture into the slit. Bake at 450°F for an hour. If your crust looks like it might over-brown, cover it loosely with foil until the pie is done baking. Cool on a wire rack before serving.
My Honest Review of Grandma Pruit’s Vinegar Pie
I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect with this recipe, but I was pleasantly surprised. Especially when I opened the oven to reveal a dessert that looked nearly identical to the reference photo! I let it cool for about an hour, and scooped out a slice while it was still fairly warm. It was a buttery, sweet delight. Originally, I was fairly nervous about the amount of sugar that goes into the pie, but with the butter and vinegar it balances out very nicely.
The texture and overall structure of this pie are quite unique. I would say that it’s more of a scoopable treat than what you typically think of as pie. For instance, the bottom crust is cut into pieces so that it essentially becomes part of the filling, as opposed to a structural bottom crust. While soggy bottom pies are typically meant to be avoided, that’s sort of the goal here. In contrast, the lid got crackly and a little burnt in a really lovely way. It reminded me a bit of a palmier with the added texture of the gooier insides.
Even if you do have access to apples or pumpkins or chocolate, sometimes you just don’t have the time or ability to run out to the store, and in those instances I would highly recommend giving vinegar pie a go. A fun recipe and history lesson all in one!
If You’re Making Grandma Pruit’s Vinegar Pie, a Few Tips
- Make sure your baking dish is big enough. I did not have a 12-inch enameled cast iron dish. I opted to use a 10-inch deep dish pie plate, which wasn’t large enough.
- Add a pinch of salt. The sugar filling is a tad on the sweet side, and a bit of salt would have cut through it really nicely. Alternatively, consider using a salted butter.
- Homemade crust is always best. I opted to use store-bought pie dough because I didn’t want to invest the time and effort into homemade pie crust for a recipe I wasn’t sure about. While it definitely worked, I would take the time to make homemade pie crust next time. There are so few ingredients in this recipe that elevating them slightly (high-quality butter, homemade crust, etc.) noticeably impacts the taste.
- Yes, you need to line your oven rack. I would have had a sticky, burnt mess on the bottom of my oven if I had skipped baking the pie on an oven rack lined with foil.
Have you ever made a vinegar pie before? Tell us what you thought in the comments!