Is it time for Pie yet?!


After my blog last week my husband and son went out and picked some apples from North Georgia. They brought home several varieties and we turned them into a delicious apple crisp (my apple crisp recipe that isn’t even an apple crisp!). I was enjoying it hot and bubbling out of the oven, and thinking about how much I love fall desserts, and that I was looking forward to Thanksgiving dinner with all the yummy desserts. THEN I thought, hey! A few years ago I did a series on Christmas cookies, why the heck not do a series on Thanksgiving desserts. Buckle up people, we’re talking about that nutty favorite: Pecan Pie!

I love pecans. LOVE THEM. My father-in-law has several pecan trees in his yard. So we have an endless supply of fresh pecans. Yay! I love eating pie, but I am not a pie baker (LOVE me some cakes, and I can bake cakes like nobody’s business). Nope, I tried making apple pie once, and it was a disaster. I also cannot make mashed potatoes, but otherwise I’m a fairly good cook. But, I digress. Back to pecan pie. I have not even attempted to make pecan pie. Let’s take a look at the history of pecan pie, and figure out how it made its way to our Thanksgiving dessert tables. 

Many people know that our current traditional Thanksgiving meal doesn’t resemble the first Thanksgiving meal back in 1621, so it should come as no surprise to find out that pecan pie was NOT on the menu 397 years ago. When did pecan pie burst onto the scene? Well, it’s really not clear based on historical evidence. If we start with the humble pecan.

If we step out of the kitchen and into the field, we find out that archaeologist had discovered that Native Americans were using pecans 8,000 years ago. Even the word pecan is of Native American origin (thank you to the Algonquin tribe for the name!). If pecans have been used for this incredible length of time, then surely pecan pie must have a long and storied history, right? That would be a hard- nope. 

The first solid evidence for the existence of pecan pie is fairly recent in the history of food. In 1886, February 6th to be exact, Harper’s Bazaar, printed the earliest known reference to pecan pie:

“Is not only delicious, but is capable of being made a ‘real state pie,’ as an enthusiastic admirer said. The pecans must be very carefully hulled, and the meat thoroughly freed from any bark or husk. When ready, throw the nuts into boiling milk, and let them boil while you are preparing a rich custard. Have your pie plates lined with a good pastry, and when the custard is ready, strain the milk from the nuts and add them to the custard. A meringue may be added, if liked, but very careful baking is necessary.”
“Pecan Pie,” Harper’s Bazaar, February 6, 1886 (p. 95) 

Not quite a fully formed recipe, but there it is! While there is no hard evidence for pecan pie earlier than this, there are claims that pecan based desserts and candies were created by the French after the settled the area around New Orleans, Louisiana (early in the 1700s). While the French settlers may have invented the sweet pecan dessert, there is just no proof. It seems that most modern food historians believe that pecan pie is a 20th century invention, and that it is deeply entrenched in southern traditional cooking. After some recipes published in the late 1800s, the next boom for pecan pie was in the 1940s when recipes appeared in Fannie Farmer and The Joy of Cooking

Many people associate pecan pie with the Karo Corn Syrup brand. It is true that Karo really popularized the pecan pie as we know it today (as well as many of its variants), and it claims that pecan pie was a discovery of a new use for corn syrup in 1930. However, the recipes for pecan pie before this do not include corn syrup! So there are plenty of recipes for pecan pie without the corn syrup. In fact, I thought it would fun to share one of these recipes! 

I was hoping to find a fully fleshed out older recipe with actual amounts AND cooking temperature or time. I was able to find plenty of modern recipes, but I was really hoping to find something from the days BEFORE corn syrup. I did hit on a significant clue; the 1929 Congressional Cookbook allegedly includes a recipe for pecan pie using pecans, eggs, sugar, and milk -no syrup. Unfortunately, I could not find the full recipe online, nor a copy of the book. Sad day. 

The best I could find from the pre-corn syrup days is from one of my favorite sources- The Food Timeline. This fantastic website shared a recipe from 1898. It was originally printed in Ladies Home Journal, but was found reprinted in the Goshen Daily Democrat, on November 26, 1898 (fun fact, I looked it up, this was two days after Thanksgiving that year!). Without further ado, here is the recipe (without out a cooking temperature I’m afraid). 

“Texas Pecan Pie.
One cup of sugar, one cup of sweet milk, half a cup of pecan kernels chopped fine, three eggs and a tablespoonful of flour. When cooked, spread the well-beaten whites of two eggs on top, brown, sprinkle a few of the chopped kernels over. These quantities will make one pie.–Ladies’ Home Journal.” —Goshen Daily Democrat, [IN] November 26, 1898 (p. 6)

I have to admit, I am very intrigued by the idea of a meringue on the top of pecan pie! But wait, I have more to offer you! Many of you know that Scott has a fantastic cookbook (Lunch is Ready!), and he offers three different pecan pie recipes, including one without corn syrup! YUP! 

Creamy Pecan Pie

This is a variation on the southern classic. This version is not as sweet as a traditional pecan pie, but is just as good…only different!

1 (3 oz.) box cook-&-serve vanilla Jell-O Pudding (not instant!)

1 cup light corn syrup

3/4 cup low-fat evaporated milk

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1 cup pecans, chopped

1 (9 inch) prepared pie shell, unbaked

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a medium mixing bowl combine the pudding mix, corn syrup, milk and egg, stirring well after each addition. Stir in pecans. Pour into prepared pie shell and bake for approximately 40 minutes or until top is slightly cracked and a thin knife inserted in center comes out clean. Remove to a wire rack and allow to cool and then refrigerate for at least 3 hours until chilled. Recipe from: Atlanta Journal-Constitution Newspaper Food Section

Scott’s Creamy Pecan Pie! Photo: S. Ewing/ISAC

I hope you give Scott’s delicious recipe for yourself! Personally, I have never NOT liked anything Scott has made, so I know you will love this recipe too! Where do you fall on the pecan pie? Like it? Love it? Pass? Next week will I will be sharing another yummy Thanksgiving dessert recipe! 


There are still seats available in these great classes this summer at ISAC! Click the links below to register now. 

English Over-Piped Elegant Wedding Cake with Ceri Griffiths, 11/7-8

Unicorn Bliss Cookie Collection with Sandra Beltran; 11/18

Art Deco Cookie Collection with Sandra Beltran; 11/19

Bohemian Love Cookie Collection with Sandra Beltran; 11/19


 Sweetly yours, 


Nicholas Lodge Amazon

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Chef Nicholas Lodge: 2015 Finalist for the Cake Masters Cake Hero Award

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