Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Shepherd's Pie

Hi, friends. I made this shepherd's pie last Saturday, just as I was becoming stricken with tonsilitis. It had porcini mushrooms, lentils, carrots, celery and onions for the "meat" and rosemary, garlic mashed potatoes for the potatoes. The crust was a crazy bisquik-type batter with tons of vinegar in it that turned out great. It took a long time to make but was easy to do in my nice new kitchen. Then we had Emily and Ben over, and then Greg and I had it again for dinner the next night. Awesome good vegan dinner pie goodness care of (who else?) Angelica Kitchen. And Mandy.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Pie For a Passerby!

This is a story I heard on NPR while driving around with my mom back in 2002. We thought it was so funny and it fueled my then-budding interest in pies.

The story is basically about this woman who got a grant from New York's Public Art Fund(I have to think up a grant-scheme like this!) to set up a pie-making country shack on the steps of the Brooklyn Public Library. She made pies for 4 hours a day and would set them on the window sill. If you asked for a pie, she wouldn't give it to you--you had to steal it.

This project also gave me the idea for my summer pie project I did last summer-- guerilla-picking urban berries(usually from the Mulberry trees all over Ann Arbor or the black raspberries in West Park) nearly everyday, making pies with them, and leaving them on the porches of my friends in the neighborhood. Usually I just gave it to them, since I didn't want anyone else or animals to steal it. If I can find a free source of wild urban berries here in Burlington, maybe I'll do it again.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Happy Birthday, Robert Frost!

Today is Robert Frost's birthday. Frost is often considered one of the most 'American' poets, just as pie is considered one of the most American foods, and just as pie can have much darker implications (nothing-in-the-house pies, stealing of pies, gender dynamic, etc.) than a cutsy American dessert, so too is frost much darker than the 'road less traveled' cliche. Beyond that silly little stretch of an analogy of my own creation, I came across this poem that some consider to be a lost manuscript of Frost's. I think it's pretty clear that it's not, but it's a decent parody:

o pumpkins in an open field stood,
And sorry I could not harvest both
And one pie make, long I stood
And looked over one as best I could
To where it anchored in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was brassy and wanted air;
Though as for that the sunning there
Had ripened them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another pie!
Yet knowing how many pies end in the sty,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence;
Two pumpkins in a field stood, and I - -
I took the lesser for my pie,
And that has made all the difference.

For an actual Frost poem, this one about berry picking, check out 'Blueberries.' It's a little too long to post here, though.

And finally, a picture taken when some friends and I visited Frost's grave in Bennington, VT on the way back from NELP in the Summer of 2003. We had our own little ceremony-- Erik read "Too Anxious For Rivers" and we all recited "Into My Own", of course.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Humble Pie

So, I accidentally deleted the blog during a bout of insomnia late last night (or early yesterday evening, for y'all in EST). I wish I could blame it on Ambien or something, but I can't. At any rate, thanks to Google's cache I can restore the majority of the blog. Unfortunately, all the comments are toast. I've been able to republish some of the original pictures, but Blogger's photo uploader seems to be experiencing some technical difficulties, so complete restoration of restorable blog content will likely take the rest of tonight and tomorrow afternoon.

And please comment if you'd like to have posting access!

Sorry I screwed up. I'm trying to fix it.

Maggie Kate

update: Looks like I'll have to finish the project this weekend. Schoolwork. Apologies. M

National Pi Day

Today was National Pi Day. As in, 3.14. I'm sorry I missed it. I once made a pie with the pi symbol on it. That is all.

Click here

Vermont State Pie

I made an apple pie once with the shape of Vermont on the crust, but don't have a picture of it, so I had to use this one.

No. 15 of the Acts of 1999, effective May 10, 1999, designated the apple pie as the official State Pie[of Vermont]. When serving apple pie in Vermont, a "good faith" effort shall be made to meet one or more of the following conditions: (a) with a glass of cold milk, (b) with a slice of cheddar cheese weighing a minimum of 1/2 ounce, (c) with a large scoop of vanilla ice cream. -from Office of the Secretary of State, Vermont Legislative Directory

And this, from Angela's zine "The Worries of Weightlessness #1," from "Anything Can Happen in Vermont" by Marguerite Hurrey Wolf(1965):
It was rather fun being a new Vermonter for a while. I was forgiven for planting asparagus roots upside down, and returning a pie plate empty. But as year after year went by, it troubled me that we were still considered novices. We had been humored, watched, and finally accepted on the sole basis of our desire and increasing ability to do our own chores and repairs. But we were not Vermonters.

A Poem by Emily Dickinson; Funeral Pie


Go slow, my soul to feed thyself
Opon his rare approach -
Go rapid, lest competing death
Prevail opon the coach,
Go timid, should his testing eye
Determine thee amiss
Go boldly for thou paid'st the price,
Redemption for a kiss.

Frustrated with the high prices of the zombified out-of-season fruit populating the shelves of the local Tesco, I opted for this old Pennsylvania Dutch recipe. The filling is sweet, brown sugary, a little morose. Like a mince pie, but milder. Adding a slug of brandy to the filling wouldn't be out of the question. I'd like to try a version of this recipe that doesn't involve Well, here's the recipe I followed, courtesy of

"This a pie seen quite often in Amish homes. Because it is easy, quick and made from non-seasonal ingredients, it was often taken to the family of those grieving over a passing..."

2 cups raisins
2 cups water
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1 pinch salt
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
Nothing-in-the-House pie crust recipe (halved)

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (205 degrees C). Line a pan with half the pastry and chill.
2. Place the raisins and 2/3 cup of the water in a saucepan and heat over medium heat for 5 minutes.
3. Combine the sugars, cornstarch, spices, and salt in a bowl and , mixing all the time, slowly add the remaining water. Add this mixture to the heating raisins. Cook and stir this until the mixture starts to bubble. Add the vinegar and butter and heat until the butter is melted. Cool until just warm.
4. Pour into the prepared shell and top with the second crust. Bake 25 minutes or until golden. Cool.

Related links:

A brief "history" of funeral pie
A page on Pennsylvania Dutch cookery

Sunday Night Pie

Last Sunday night, friends gathered to work on a super-secret project and eat dessert. Chile-chocolate-rum pudding, candied ginger shortbread and muffins graced the table, and lo, everything was delicious. I made this very spicy pumpkin pie, which exactly matched the color of G's ukelele. My new thing is making crusts with about 1/3 wheat flour to 2/3 white, which seems to give a desired crumblyness.

Nothing-in-the-House is providing pie inspiration, pie dreams, and I am pleased to up the pastrymaking factor of my tableside life. Got pie? Eat it -- then blog about it.

Here is a picture of Michelle and Greg in the "pumpkin pie enjoyment zone." Sky-high pie society over there, mmm-hmmm.

A Few Retro Recipes (From a Blogging-Inept Poster...)

While perusing my mom's cookbooks today to figure out what to make for her birthday dinner, I ran across this humdinger of a pie book. There are some killer recipes in it, as well as some pretty stellar pictures of pie-bakers back in the day. Thought I'd share some of them.

Here's a recipe for a green tomato pie (Em, is this how your dad makes his?) I've been wanting to try this for some time, but will have to wait until my first tomatoes show up this summer. Maggie Kate, maybe you'll be back by then? This one seems to strike a nice balance between sweet and tart.

Toward the end of the book was this little recipe for a Buttermilk Sky Pie. I wonder how it would compare to the recipe posted earlier in this blog with its additional sugar and eggs...and its additional bit of sky?

And for those of you out there who are struggling with your pie crusts, here's a little problem-solving clinic. It may seem a little common sense, but who wouldn't want to refer to the pie crust clinic in all its glory?

All it takes is a bit of practice, and we, too, can be as proud of our pies as this woman:

Nothing-In-The-House: A Brief Phrase History

Oh Georgy

So why is this blog called 'nothing-in-the-house?,' you might wonder. Well, it is a phrase that I think has a certain...'je ne sais quoi,' but also comes from some reading I did in my 1968 edition of 'The Study of American Folklore' by Jan Harold Brunvand (purchased at Crow Books).

Here's what Brunvand has to say, "It was with 'Nothing-in-the-house Pies' that the early American housewife showed her best form. These were either concocted from otherwise insipid fruits--green currants or huckleberries, and elderberries, for instance--or from unlikely ones such as grapes or rhubarb. The out-and-out 'mock' pies required the greatest daring--crushed crackers could be made to taste like an apple filling, with the proper seasoning, and either vinegar or field-sorrel flavored cream pie might pass for lemon. One mock mincemeat pie was made from green tomatoes[my dad has made this, and LOVES it.], and another from rolled crackers and raisins properly seasoned. In some families there was a traditional design, often a monogram initial, that was cut or punched into the top crusts of pies as a last flourish."

So there you have it. Now go make that field-sorrel(?) taste like lemon cream pie!

A Word on Crust

Emmy Lou introduced me to this crust recipe when we started making pies together last summer. I think it's one of the best crust recipes I've ever come across. The apple cider vinegar makes the crust flakier, sort of like the 7-up in the first post, w/out the sugary 7-up flavor. As with any pie crust, it's probably best to let the dough chill a little bit in the fridge (maybe half an hour) before rolling it out; firmer dough means easier handling. However, I've had mysterious & disasterous results with over-chilling pie dough. Seems like if I leave a hunk of dough in the fridge overnight & try to use it the next day it's tough to roll out & becomes stretchy & shrinks when it bakes! Any of you know why this happens? Well, at any rate, here's the recipe:

makes 4 crusts, which means two double-crust pies or four single crust dealies

In a large mixing bowl, combine:
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 3/4 cups shortening
2 teaspoons salt

A word on "cutting in" the shortening: the trick here is to mix the stuff in with the flour until it gets this grainy consistency. I like to do it with my hands, but you can use a couple butter knives if you don't like getting up to your elbows in pie crust. Mash & separate the shortening into little bits and mix it in with the flour. The shortening's cut in when it's pulverized into pea-sized to marble-sized (probably no bigger than that) clumps. 

Okay, now you'll have to add:
1 beaten egg
1/2 cup water
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar

Again, I like to mix the dough with my hands, but a wooden spoon will also do the trick. You might want to knead the dough with your hands in order to mix in the remainder of the dry ingredients, though. Don't worry about mixing in bigger clumps of shortening. They'll turn into light, flaky layers when the pie bakes.

And that's it! I like to sprinkle turbinado sugar on top of the pie crust, to give it a crunch. You can also brush the top crust with beaten egg before popping it in the oven for a glossy effect. I'm interested in hearing more tips! Please comment if you have any.


Adventures with Buttermilk Pie

Emmy Lou recently emailed me this article from on buttermilk pie. "Buttermilk pie?" quoth I. "What in the deuce is that?"

Well, fair reader, the buttermilk pie is a Southern delicacy. It's known as a chess pie in some circles, and the article refers to it as creme brulee's culinary cousin. It's a simple recipe, mixes up in minutes, and the results are fantastic. The photograph of the pie in the NPR article looks a bit anemic to me; leave it in the oven for an hour and you won't have that problem. And don't be alarmed when the custard puffs up and cracks! The finished pie settles after it cools. Eat it warm and you'll understand why it's compared to creme brulee; chill it in the fridge and it becomes almost like cheesecake, but with a lighter texture and more subtle flavor.

Buttermilk pie does well with a shake of nutmeg on top before you put it in the oven, and I imagine it'll go well with fresh black raspberries come summer.

BUTTERMILK PIE (courtesy of
3 eggs (or 4 eggs for less sweet version)
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons flour, plus a little for dusting
1/2 cup melted butter
1 cup buttermilk (or 1 1/2 cups buttermilk for less sweet version)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 unbaked 9-inch pie shell

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

2. Beat eggs slightly and add sugar and flour. Then add melted butter and mix well. Add buttermilk and vanilla and mix.

3. Dust the unbaked pie shell with a little bit of flour. Pour batter into shell, and then sprinkle a little more flour on top.

4. Bake at 325 degrees until the custard is set, approximately 1 hour.

Maine Pie

This is an apple pie I made and brought to my friend Jamie's cottage on Mt. Desert Island (Acadia) in Maine this summer. We warmed it in the crisper and over the course of 4 days, we ate it all.

I like spelling things like 'Humble Pie'(to make people eat it) or '609'(for the residents of 609 Ann St.) or 'USA'(for the 4th of July) or 'Jesus' or making cool shapes on the crusts of my pies.