If I failed to ask nicely for something, Mother always reminded me that I would attract more flies with honey than vinegar. It was a long time before I understood that one; longer still until I discovered that you could make a delicious sweet pie with the stuff too! Between the Great Depression (1929 - 1939) and the extreme food rationing of WW2 (1939 - 1945) both luxury and everyday ingredients were in short supply, and in a world without luxurious, expensive cream, vinegar plus flour and eggs equals cream pie! I know, it's just about impossible to believe, but there you go, it's an old pioneer trick for getting by with what you've got around the old homestead. And if the cows aren't a'milkin' or the milk is being diverted to fuel the war machine, then you don't have cream. Thankfully, back in the day even city folk kept a few hens, and war or no war, they kept laying. To be sure, eggs were also funneled to the hungry troops - in Canada, the US, and UK - but families were allowed to keep a few for themselves. Otherwise, flour and sugar would have been stored, and vinegar could have been brewed up from apple cider and kept for long stretches of time.
Wonderful vintage posters; hens were part of the war effort!
We don't know exactly who to credit for this ingenious creation - weird-sounding but surprisingly delicious! - but we can fairly assume a gaggle of resourceful gals scattered all over North America came up with several variations on this theme. Some are topped with a second crust; some are slathered with a thick layer of bruleed meringue. You could break with the have-not tradition (as I did!) and serve with a dollop of whipped cream and a drizzle of Canadian honey or maple.
Beautiful small-batch local Ontario apple cider vinegar from Mr. Vinegar.
Tip: The crusts can be prepared the day before; and for the best, most firm results, the filled pie should chill in the fridge overnight.
Apple Cider Vinegar Pie
2 9-inch pie crusts, homemade or frozen
2 tablespoons warm liquid honey for brushing the crusts
2 1/2 cups water
2 free-run eggs
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon maple, almond, vanilla or lemon extract
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Pre-heat oven to 400 F.
Blind-bake the pie crusts; Prick the dough all over with a fork, then weigh them down with dry beans or ceramic pie weights. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden.
Once baked, use a pastry brush to apply the warmed honey evenly over the bottom and sides of both crusts. Set aside to cool while making the filling.
In a medium saucepan over high heat, bring water to a very gentle boil; somewhere between a hard simmer and gentle boil is perfect.
While the water is coming to a boil, use a whisk to beat the eggs, sugar, flour, salt and vinegar together in a large bowl until perfectly smooth.
Very slowly, pour the egg mixture into the gently boiling water, whisking constantly to prevent the egg from scrambling or lumps from forming.
Continue to whisk constantly until the mixture is as thick as runny custard, about five to 10 minutes.
When the custard coats the back of a spoon, remove from heat and whisk in the extract and cinnamon.
Pour equally into cooled pie shells. For a finer finish, pour custard through a sieve to catch any grainy bits of cooked egg. Allow to chill in the fridge for at least six hours, preferably overnight.
Makes two nine-inch pies.