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Columns November 14, 2017  RSS feed

Cooking Country

Sherry Matney

One week closer to Thanksgiving and that means it’s only about a week and a half until December. For us everything seems to take off at Thanksgiving. I refuse to decorate for Christmas until Thanksgiving is done. But before we get into the Christmas mood we still have cooking to do for the Thanksgiving feast. I probably wrote this before but please forgive me if I have, when I grew up we never had turkey for Thanksgiving, we had a large, fat chicken hen. My mother did not roast the hen but boiled her to make the chicken broth then served the meat on the side. We also did not have pumpkins but ate sweet potato pie, and loved it. My mother’s favorite pie to make for Thanksgiving was Caramel Pie, we pronounced caramel. It was marvelous but she probably made it because she had the ingredients on hand. Caramel pie takes work and skill!! When my mother died my sister Trudy, took up making dressing, because I am not fond of that dish, and I became the Caramel Piemaker. I have never mastered the skill that my mother and grandmother and aunt achieved but I still try. I know we have already overloaded on sugar in the past few weeks, but after all it is the holiday season, so this week we are making the Caramel Pie recipe that my mother made. It is not like most Caramel Pie recipes because she made the custard separate then added the caramelized sugar. I have seen multiple recipes but this one works for me, well sort of works, it is not 100%.

Caramel Pie

1 baked pie shell (9-inch)
2 cups white sugar – divided 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/8 tsp. salt
2 cups milk
4 eggs, separated

In a medium saucepan, mix together 1 cup sugar, flour, salt, milk and egg yolks, stirring until smooth. Cook over medium heat until thick and bubbly, stirring constantly. Keep custard warm by turning heat to low.

Sprinkle remaining 1 cup sugar in 10-inch cast iron skillet. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until sugar is caramelized. There are several tricks to this step. First I use an egg spatula to push across the bottom of the pan and to stir the sugar to keep it from sticking as bad. Next, to get a beautiful color and flavor you must cook the sugar until it is pretty dark but not burnt. And as soon as you reach the right color quickly pour it into the warm custard mixture. (The iron skillet holds heat so the sugar will keep cooking.) Stir until smooth and pour into the pastry shell.

Some people prefer whipped cream to meringue but I can’t stand to waste the egg whites, so it is meringue for me.

Meringue for Pie

4 egg whites
1 tsp. vanilla
½ tsp. cream of tartar
½ cup sugar

In a small mixing bowl beat the egg whites, vanilla, and cream of tartar at medium speed of an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Gradually add the sugar beating at high speed for about 4 more minutes or until mixture forms stiff peaks. Immediately spread meringue over pie, carefully sealing to edge of pastry.

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