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Resurrecting Funeral Pie
Recently, I have been re-reading my paternal grandmother’s diaries. She kept a diary from 1939 to 1956. Although not very personal in nature (unless you read between the lines), they are interesting nonetheless.
Between the “tub loads” of wash and hours of ironing, she managed to do quite a bit of cooking. Many entries began with “I baked a few pies in the morning.” Whether this was two pies or five pies, she didn’t say. At the time she wrote, there were four adults living at home. Everyone in my father’s family was on the thin side, so I wonder how they burned off all those calories.
A popular Pennsylvania Dutch pie during that period was rosina or raisin pie. The more common name is Funeral Pie.
Nowadays, we are used to having any type of fresh fruit available 12 months a year. Before refrigeration, this was not the case. In my grandmother’s diary, there was no mention of strawberry shortcake in February.
In Amish homes, when someone passed away, relatives from far and wide gathered for the funeral. They often had to travel quite a few miles. Feeding the guests afterward was a given. Although the family of the deceased provided the majority of the food, mourners also brought along desserts.
Because funerals were not planned events, convenience and expediency were prime considerations in what to make. One ingredient that was available year-round was raisins. With nothing to peel or pit, the pie could be assembled quickly, and it traveled well. Although it was eaten at other times, the name Funeral Pie stuck.
I’ve adapted the old-time recipe a bit, substituting lemon juice for apple cider vinegar. If you don’t have a lemon at hand, vinegar will give a similar flavor.
The next time you need to whip up a quick pie for a potluck or family gathering, give Funeral Pie a try. When presenting the pie, use its aliases, and no one will be the wiser.
Pastry for double-crust pie (9 inches)
2 cups raisins
2 cups water
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Soak the raisins in the water for 30 minutes.
Combine the sugar, flour, cinnamon and salt in a small bowl. Add to the raisins and mix. Cook over medium heat until the mixture thickens, about 8 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the walnuts, grated lemon rind and juice.
Let the raisin mixture cool until just barely warm. Pour mixture into prepared 9-inch pie shell.
Add the top crust and bake at 400 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes until the crust is golden brown.
— Julie Falsetti, a York native, comes from a long line of good cooks. Her column, From Scratch, runs twice monthly in The York Dispatch food section.