If you’ve never had Chess Pie, you’ve missed a real Southern treat! As usual in Southern desserts, this pie is sweet – some say sweeter than pecan pie and has some similarity in that it is somewhat gelatinous in texture (and no pecans, of course!). What sets off a true Chess Pie is cornmeal – yes, cornmeal (another Southern staple!) which gives it its thicker, almost grainy texture. Some people even add coconut which gives it a more crunchy texture.
James Beard said the pie recipe came from England originally and was found in both New England and Virginia and the name may have come from the term “pie chest”, another name for a pie safe used to keep little hands – or big ones – out of the pie until time to serve it! But south of the Mason-Dixon Line, they call it their own!
Some Southerners make this with vinegar; but today most use lemon juice. Try it both ways. The acid does help cut the sweetness just a bit. Top with a squirt of whipped cream if you feel decadent, and it’s delicious with a cup of coffee.
- 2 c sugar
- 1 Tbsp. flour
- 1/4 c yellow cornmeal
- 1/4 c unsalted butter (1/2 stick), melted
- 4 eggs, slightly beaten
- 1 c milk
- 1/4 c freshly squeezed lemon juice or white vinegar
- 1/4 c grated lemon rind
- 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract or vanilla paste
- 1 deep-dish pie shell, unbaked (your own or store bought, but deep-dish as this will over-fill a normal pie shell!)
Preheat oven to 350 and set rack I middle of oven.
Whisk together the sugar, flour and cornmeal. Add remaining ingredients EXCEPT pie shell and stir until blended and you cannot see any dry streaks. Pour filling into prepared, unbaked pie shell.
Bake about 45 minutes or until a thin knife or cake tester inserted in the middle comes out cleanly (the way a custard pie or flan would). The top should be lightly golden brown.