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8 Forgotten Pie Recipes We Should Bring Back

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Sometimes simpler is better. That’s certainly the case with these old-fashioned pies, which have been unjustly relegated to the back of the recipe box. Made from just a few basic ingredients, they still manage to be rich and full of flavor. So break out the apron and the rolling pin, and give them a try.

1. BUTTERMILK CHESS PIE

The beauty of this pie is in its simplicity. Known as a “desperation pie” because it relies on just a few very basic ingredients—the only ingredients many cash-strapped farm families had back in the 19th and 20th centuries—the chess pie nevertheless manages to be decadent, with flour, sugar, eggs and butter coming together in just the right quantities. Adding in buttermilk along with some cocoa powder makes it even more satisfying. From there, you can customize it any number of ways—with lemons, pecans, even with citrus fruits.

2. MINCEMEAT PIE

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Mincemeat reaches all the way back to the 13th century, when Crusaders returned from the Holy Land with the three main spices: cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg. Cooks used them mainly as preservatives for fruit and meat, and found that combining everything together made for a tasty pie filling. Recent generations have done away with the “meat” part of mincemeat pie, though chefs swear on their grandmother’s grave that it’s the best version of the dish. For those put off by elk or venison or beef in their dessert, give former Gourmet editor Ruth Reichl’s found recipe a try.

3. SUGAR CREAM PIE

If you grew up in Indiana, there’s a good chance you're familiar with this, the official pie of the Hoosier State. The recipe comes from the Amish, who settled in Indiana in the 1800s, and it calls for heavy cream, milk and, of course, sugar. Like chess pie, this desperation pie has gone out of style in recent generations. But dutiful Hoosiers have kept it in their holiday rotations for years. Mixing brown with granulated sugar can deepen the flavor, while a cinnamon topping can spice things up a bit.

4. SHOOFLY PIE

Molasses is the main ingredient in this pie, for which we can also thank the Amish (Pennsylvania Dutch, in this case). There are two types: “dry bottom” shoofly pie, which has the consistency of gingerbread, and “wet bottom,” which has a custard-like quality and comes topped with crumbs. There are a few theories about the name, the most convincing one being that the sweet molasses drew flies while pies were cooling, causing cooks to have to shoo them away. Alton Brown has a highly rated recipe for shoofly pie that includes brown sugar crumb topping. Give it a try—and keep the window closed.

5. VINEGAR PIE

Don’t be put off by the name of this pie, which combines the silky quality of a custard pie with the tartness of an apple pie. The use of apple cider vinegar was a way for 19th-century cooks to mimic the taste of the actual fruit, making this an early culinary hack. And while you won’t find it in most restaurants, it’s pretty simple to make at home. Try this recipe from Epicurious, or this one from Martha Stewart, and serve it up with a scoop of ice cream.

6. MARLBOROUGH PIE

This New England specialty was once a staple in the region, where the plentiful supply of apples met with the custard pie recipes settlers had brought over from England. The name is thought to refer to the English town of Marlborough. Recently the pie has fallen out of favor in kitchens and restaurants, which is a shame since it combines two delicious pie elements—apples and custard—along with lemons and sherry wine. The taste, according to historian John T. Edge, author of Apple Pie: An American Story, carries “the tang of lemons, the silky musk of sherry, the base register of apples.” Yankee Magazine has a recipe that adds dashes of cinnamon and nutmeg to the mix.

7. FLAPPER PIE

If the phrase “Canadian prairie pie” doesn’t pique your interest, then perhaps the graham cracker crust, the custard filling, or the meringue topping will. Pioneered by home cooks north of the border, flapper pie is another decadent dessert made from the most basic ingredients—namely eggs, sugar, cornstarch, and butter. The crust can be a bit tricky, but you can always opt for a premade version from the store. As far as a recipe goes, Canadian grandma Irene Hrechuk won’t steer you wrong.

8. HUCKLEBERRY PIE

The hardest part about making this pie might be finding the title berries, which grow mainly in the Northwest and can only be found in the wild. Online sellers offer them frozen by the pound, which can be expensive. But with a uniquely tart taste, they’re definitely worth the investment. Pastry chef and author Greg Patent believes they’re one of the best baking berries around. Try his recipe for huckleberry pie, which he claims took him 20 years to perfect.

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Big Questions
Why Don't We Eat Turkey Tails?
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Turkey sandwiches. Turkey soup. Roasted turkey. This year, Americans will consume roughly 245 million birds, with 46 million being prepared and presented on Thanksgiving. What we don’t eat will be repurposed into leftovers.

But there’s one part of the turkey that virtually no family will have on their table: the tail.

Despite our country’s obsession with fattening, dissecting, and searing turkeys, we almost inevitably pass up the fat-infused rear portion. According to Michael Carolan, professor of sociology and associate dean for research at the College for Liberal Arts at Colorado State University, that may have something to do with how Americans have traditionally perceived turkeys. Consumption was rare prior to World War II. When the birds were readily available, there was no demand for the tail because it had never been offered in the first place.

"Tails did and do not fit into what has become our culinary fascination with white meat," Carolan tells Mental Floss. "But also from a marketing [and] processor standpoint, if the consumer was just going to throw the tail away, or will not miss it if it was omitted, [suppliers] saw an opportunity to make additional money."

Indeed, the fact that Americans didn't have a taste for tail didn't prevent the poultry industry from moving on. Tails were being routed to Pacific Island consumers in the 1950s. Rich in protein and fat—a turkey tail is really a gland that produces oil used for grooming—suppliers were able to make use of the unwanted portion. And once consumers were exposed to it, they couldn't get enough.

“By 2007,” according to Carolan, “the average Samoan was consuming more than 44 pounds of turkey tails every year.” Perhaps not coincidentally, Samoans also have alarmingly high obesity rates of 75 percent. In an effort to stave off contributing factors, importing tails to the Islands was banned from 2007 until 2013, when it was argued that doing so violated World Trade Organization rules.

With tradition going hand-in-hand with commerce, poultry suppliers don’t really have a reason to try and change domestic consumer appetites for the tails. In preparing his research into the missing treat, Carolan says he had to search high and low before finally finding a source of tails at a Whole Foods that was about to discard them. "[You] can't expect the food to be accepted if people can't even find the piece!"

Unless the meat industry mounts a major campaign to shift American tastes, Thanksgiving will once again be filled with turkeys missing one of their juicier body parts.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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Food
Here's the Butterball Hotline's Most Frequently Asked Turkey Question
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If you’re preparing to conquer a whole turkey for the first time this Thanksgiving, you may have some questions. Like, is bigger really better? How long should the turkey rest? And is dunking the bird in a deep-fryer a bad idea? But if data from the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line is any indication, the first and most important question you have concerns defrosting. As Fox News reports, how to properly thaw a turkey is the hotline's most frequently asked question—and has been for some time.

Dial the Butterball experts in the days leading up to Thanksgiving and they’ll likely tell you that there are two ways to handle a frozen turkey. The first is to unwrap it, place it on a tray, breast-side up, and leave it to sit in the refrigerator for a few days. The rule of thumb is to allow one day for every four pounds of turkey you’re thawing. So if you have an eight-pound bird, begin the defrosting process two days before Thanksgiving; if it’s 16 pounds, you need to let it thaw for four days.

Don’t panic if you’re reading this Wednesday night. There’s a quicker method for home cooks who prefer to wait until the last minute to start thinking about Thanksgiving dinner. Empty and clean the sink in your kitchen and fill it with cold water. With the plastic wrapping still on, submerge the turkey in the bath, breast-side down, and leave it alone. After 30 minutes, change out the water and flip the turkey so that it’s breast-side up. Repeat the process until the meat has fully thawed, which should take half an hour per pound. (So if you’re willing to stay up the night before, you can have a frozen turkey oven-ready by Thanksgiving morning.)

Have more burning questions about your dinner’s starring dish? You can call or text Butterball for guidance between now and December 24 (for those Christmas Eve questions). For additional turkey-cooking expertise, check out our list of tips from real chefs.

[h/t Fox News]

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