Now that we’re all done with our New Year’s weight-loss resolutions, we can get back to eating pie.
I am here to help. When I was younger, my mom often made Pineapple Sour Cream Pie. The pale yellow pie would magically appear on the counter, sometimes for guests, but sometimes just for us for no particular reason that I could discern. It was not ours to reason why; it was just ours to eat.
I never knew how Mom made it and my kid-mind couldn’t be roused to care. (Ah, the complete self-absorption of childhood! And, for many, of adulthood.)
The truth is, I don’t really know how my mom made most things. I don’t know if she had a recipe box or a file. She seemed to cook and bake from memory or she’d refer to her red-checked “Homes and Gardens Cookbook.” She didn’t normally invite me into the kitchen while she was cooking, and I wasn’t curious enough to ask. She wasn’t concerned with teaching me how to cook.
It was, I now realize, a marvelously empowering approach: She was conveying to me that cooking was irrelevant to womanhood and I could figure it out myself if I ever wanted to. Or maybe she just wanted me out of her way because I was annoying as heck.
At any rate, I’ve been thinking about this pie a lot. The tropical, summery flavor of pineapple seems like just the ticket to lift spirits when everything else is so grim.
I’m extremely fortunate to have my late mother’s recipe for this pie. My dad somehow found a printed copy of an email message that Mom sent to a friend in 1994. I tucked it into Mom’s old “Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook” and there it sat, waiting for this moment.
I’m chagrined to say I’ve never made it until now, mostly out of laziness, partially out of fear that I could never get it to taste as good as my mom’s. Laziness and fear, you are hereby banished! Pineapple Sour Cream Pie is officially Recipe No. 2 (after last week’s Hoppin’ John) in my quest to re-create beloved recipes consumed during my younger, more slender years.
There are two ways to make this pie, depending on whether you want a meringue top. The no-meringue way involves cooking but no baking (unless you bake your own pie crust beforehand). Here’s how to do it:
Put 2 eggs in a small bowl and beat them slightly, then set aside. In a saucepan on the stovetop, combine 3/4 cup sugar, 1/4 cup flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 1 cup sour cream and 1 undrained can of crushed pineapple. Cook, stirring continuously, until the mixture thickens and comes to a roiling boil.
Pour a small amount of the hot mixture into the eggs and stir until combined, then pour all the egg mixture into the hot mixture on the stovetop, cooking and stirring constantly until thick and bubbly.
Spoon everything into a pre-baked and completely cooled 9-inch pie crust. Allow the pie to cool on the counter then put it in the fridge to firm up the rest of the way. Serve when completely set. (Hide an extra couple of pieces in the back of the fridge just for yourself. Eat them when nobody’s looking. Feel slightly ashamed, yet also elated.)
If you want pie with meringue — and really, who doesn’t? 2021 demands more fluffiness, not less — separate the whites from 3 egg yolks and set aside. Whisk the yolks slightly and make everything the same way: heat the pineapple, sugar, flour and other ingredients on the stovetop, mix a little with the eggs, then pour it all back into the saucepan and cook until thick. Pour into crust and cool.
Mom doesn’t give specific directions for the meringue. It’s something I’ve never tried before because it seemed tricky, but if I can do it, then maybe I can also try other things like astrophysics or hog breeding. I looked up a few meringue recipes online and — bada boom, bada bing! — I can report that it’s definitely easier than astrophysics and less smelly than hog breeding. Anyhow, blend 3 room-temperature egg whites and 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar with an electric hand mixer until soft peaks form — that is, you lift the mixer out and the foam kind of gloops over sideways. Now, add 1/3 cup sugar while continuing to beat until the whites turn glossy and form a stiff point when the mixer is removed. To make extra sure you’ve done it right, hold the bowl upside down over your head like they do on “The Great British Baking Show” and remember that egg whites make a protein-rich shampoo.
Wait until the pie is completely cool, then spread the meringue all the way to the crust to form a seal. Use your spoon or spatula to create artful swishes and swirls. Bake on the top rack in a 350-degree oven for about 10 minutes or until the swirls turn a pretty golden brown. Let the pie cool again and cut everyone a big, sweet, creamy, fluffy slice. Order will be restored across the country. Not really, but wouldn’t it be nice if a good slice of pie could fix everything?
Mom also notes that, when she skipped the meringue, she sometimes decorated the pie with thin slices of strawberry and kiwi, maybe because if it’s got fresh fruit, then it qualifies as breakfast.
Monika Spykerman: 360-735-4556; firstname.lastname@example.org