Recipe Source: Gonzales, John R. The Colonial Williamsburg Tavern Cookbook. Clarkson Potter Publishers, New York, 2001 pp. 188
First of all, let me apologize for the photo in this post. It is not pretty. The floors in our kitchen - in our house - are not level. This is to be expected in a farmhouse that is over 200 years old (not that there are any farms left in Braintree, but I digress.) Unfortunately this means that our oven is not perfectly level. It has caused a few problems in the past, notably in the quiche that expanded over one side of the crust and out onto the baking sheet with most of its filling. This time, when I opened the oven door to check on the pie, the pie slid out and landed face-down on the oven door. Most of the pie survived, but it did not survive in an attractive manner.
Right. So onto the pie itself. My husband adores pecan pie - which is funny to me, because he's not even remotely of Southern extraction and even pronounces "pecan" wrong. (He tries, but keeps slipping.) Personally, I'm not a huge pecan pie fan most of the time. It is far too sweet for my tender tastebuds. I do remember it making appearances on the table, particularly at Thanksgiving, and to be honest it was never overly sweet then. I know I've become less tolerant of sweet flavors over the years, but only this year did I figure out the reason.
My dad's mother, who passed away in April, was the family pie maker. Her pies were always the best, everyone always agreed, and while I was never much of a fan of pies that didn't have chocolate I could always tolerate the fruit and pecan pies. When I went away and had to eat other people's pies, that was not the case. Anyway, I was talking about this with my aunt (or was it my dad?) recently, and I mentioned how little I liked non-chocolate pies because they were always too sweet. My source said, "Your grandma was the same way. She always halved the sugar in any pie recipe. She couldn't stand food that was too sweet."
I'm finding more and more similarities between myself and my father's mother, which is really odd because I never spent the kind of one-on-one time with her that I spent with my mother's mother. At any rate, this is not Grandma's pecan pie recipe. It comes from the King's Arms Tavern in Colonial Williamsburg, and if you haven't been to Williamsburg you should absolutely go there before you die. (Hit Jamestown too, while you're in the area. It's not nearly as fancy, but we had a fantastic time there.) What attracted me about this recipe was that it was a lot less sweet than other recipes I've seen for pecan pie. Don't get me wrong - it's still sweet. But the amount of sweeteners, especially the corn syrup, seems much reduced. I didn't make a lot of changes, although I did add more pecans. I also used the family Super Secret Pie Crust recipe, which I suspect came from Southern Living magazine but can't cite properly and so can't share here. Use whatever pie crust recipe seems appropriate to you, or even store-bought.
King's Arms Tavern Pecan Pie (Serves 10; approx. $0.77/serving)
1 single-crust pie crust
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup light corn syrup
4 tablespoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 cups pecan halves
- Pie plate
- Rolling pin
- Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
- Roll out your pie crust with whatever method works for you. Personally, I like the plastic bag method. Center your dough ball (or disc) in a gallon-size zip top plastic bag. (For me, this is the same bag that held the dough in the refrigeration stage.) Roll it out to fill the bag, leaving the top unzipped. Cut away the sides and it will fit perfectly in your 9" pie plate. I can't take credit for this one, I saw it on Good Eats, but it has saved me a LOT of cursing over the years.
- Lay out the crust in your pie plate, neaten the sides and dock with a fork or other tool.
- Combine the eggs, sugar, salt, corn syrup, butter and vanilla in the bowl and mix very well.
- Stir in the pecan halves.
- Fill the crust.
- Transfer to the oven, reduce temperature to 350, and bake 40 - 50 minutes. The filling should be firm in the center.
- Cool and serve.