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The Stories Behind Our Favorite Vintage Pies

Rediscover the tasty, resourceful and thrifty pies of the The Great Depression, the pioneers, and even early American settlers from England. Sample old-time pie flavors from shoofly to raisin—and find out what "pie plant" is while you're at it.

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Shoofly Pie

Loaded with molasses and brown sugar and topped with crunchy golden streusel, here’s a treat sure to satisfy any sweet tooth. The Pennsylvania Dutch specialty is so sugary you just may need the shoo away the flies. Another theory behind the name? That the pie was deliberately set out to lure flies away from the choicer foods on the table.
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Buttermilk Pie

This old-fashioned custard pie originated in England and became a Southern favorite. Our version from Missouri cook Kathy Harding is studded with rich and crunchy pecans for good measure.
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Chess Pie

Lemony chess pie is another Southern standard. The rich custard filling, similar to lemon curd, often includes a bit of cornmeal for texture. If you like lemon pies, why not give chess pie a try? They also come in chocolate and vanilla flavors.
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Delicious poppy tart with almonds and walnuts on marbleDelicious poppy tart with almonds and walnuts on marble; Shutterstock ID 67822915
Photo: Shutterstock/Cinematographer

Mincemeat Pie

Traditional mincemeat dessert pies included minced beef suet, lean beef, dried or candied fruits, holiday spices and brandy or rum. You can find jarred mincemeat in grocery stores from Thanksgiving to Christmas. Most modern mincemeat fillings don’t include meat or suet. Both sweet and savory versions of this thrifty British staple abound. Savory examples include beef potpies, steamed puddings, and steak and ale pies made with a suet pastry crust. Commercial suet for baking is really a thing!

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Vinegar Pie

If you have sugar, butter, flour and vinegar on hand, you can whip up this old-time pie with a sweet and tangy flavor. Vinegar was added to pies by resourceful Americans who didn’t have access to fresh apples and lemons in the 1800s. The tart vinegar plays off of the sugar, maple syrup, molasses or whatever sweet ingredient was in abundance in regional variations of this simple pie. Many vinegar pies—like ours—don’t even call for eggs!
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Christmas mince piesChristmas mince pies; Shutterstock ID 530321425; Job: Taste of Home
Photo: Shutterstock/Katarzyna Golembowska

Raisin (aka Funeral) Pie

This classic rose to stardom before electricity and is still popular today with Amish and Mennonite communities because, unlike fresh fruits, raisins are easily kept on hand without the aid of refrigeration. Why was it a mainstay at wakes and funerals? Maybe because of the sweet filling’s somber black color.

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Rhubarb Pie

What to make of rhubarb, the odd stalklike vegetable that eats like a fruit, thanks to its extraordinarily tart flavor? Rhubarb pies (and crisps, cakes, breads and jams), of course! Because it is so dessert-friendly, this low-maintenance perennial veggie became known as “pie plant” in the mid-19th century.

Christine Rukavena
Christine loves to read, curate, sample and develop new recipes as a senior book editor at Taste of Home. A CIA alumna with honors, she creates cookbooks and food-related content. A favorite part of the job is taste-testing dishes. Previous positions include pastry chef at a AAA Five Diamond property. Christine moonlights at a boutique wine shop, where she edits marketing pieces and samples wine far higher than her pay grade.