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Please don't remind me that I'm poor; I'm having too much fun pretending I'm simply "living green" like everyone else these days.


Saturday, August 20, 2011

Spring cream pie

I'm what I call a "discount bin cook" which means I like to use items I find in the stores with the pretty red stickers on them.  I think it's a great hobby while saving money too.  Finding discounted items in the store always reminds me of my Grandmother.  I called her Mama but on my blog I call her Grandma Mama so it's not confusing her with my actual Mother.  On my last shopping trip I happened to find some quarts of half and half with one of those really pretty red discount stickers on them.  Right away I knew what I wanted to make with these.

In the spring and early summer when the cows were making lots of milk, Grandma Mama had to find ways to use it all up.  Food was never wasted or thrown out unless it was totally unsafe to eat.  Seeing the half and half reminded me of a sweet treat she made in order to use up the bounty of cream she had.  Grandma Mama would sometimes make Spring Cream Pie with her extra cream.  

For this pie recipe I needed:
  • one quart of half and half cream
  • 1 /2 cup of cornstarch
  • 2 sticks of butter (or margarine)
  • 3 cups sugar or 1 1/2 cups honey (or a sugar substitute)
  • 2 baked pie shells

I also needed:
  • ground cinnamon (optional)
  • ground nutmeg (optional)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla

The first thing I did was bake the pie shell.  Hmm..... I know I have 6 pie pans in this house but for the life of me I can't figure out where the heck they are hiding!  I can't imagine why I wouldn't have them in the kitchen where I use them all the time?  So I used a square cake pan instead of two smaller pie pans.

While that's baking I melt the butter in a sauce pan big enough to hold a quart of cream.  I used a low heat setting so the butter doesn't burn.

I add the cornstarch.  If you don't have cornstarch then use the same amount of flour. 

Mix it together really well. 

Add the half and half cream and the sugar. 

When you add the coldness of the cream it makes the butter ball up.  This is ok.  It will get smooth again as you cook it.  Now start stirring and cooking until it gets thick.  Stir almost constantly so the cream doesn't get scorched on the bottom of the pan. 

Keep stirring and cooking over the low heat until it becomes pretty thick.  Sort of like a pudding. 

Pour into the baked pie shells and top with ground cinnamon and ground nutmeg.  Leave setting on the counter to cool.  It will get thicker as it cools.  Yes, you could put it in the refrigerator to cool but it isn't necessary.  My Grandma Mama didn't have electricity so her recipes were not meant to be refrigerated.  Many of her recipes were made around the use of a spring house.  What's a spring house?

A spring house (also called a cold house or a well house) was a building built over a section of a running stream.  Running stream water is cold.  You ever put your feet into a stream in the summer to cool them?  That's what happens in a spring house.  Food is put into containers in the running water to keep them cold.  The coolness of the running water also kept the building really cool inside.  Almost like being air conditioned.  Things that didn't need to be quite as cold could be put on shelves along the walls of the house.   A spring house was usually about the size of a walk in fridge we see today. 

Now about the virsitility of the recipe.  Grandma Mama knew no one wanted the same pie week after week.  The recipe is the basic.  After the cream was cooked to the right thickness, and taken off the heat, Grandma Mama let it cool down a bit and then would add other things to change the flavor.  

Grandma Mama would sometimes add:
  • stale left over cookies crumbled up
  • a few pieces of  hard candy pounded to tiny bits
  • various types of nuts chopped small (we had hickory nuts and walnuts on the farm)
  • fresh wild fruit picked on the farm
  • fruit from her orchard trees
  • shredded coconut when she had it
  • A packet of kool aid  (it came in only three flavors back then)

Grandma Mama sometimes left out the sugar and instead made it plain then added items for a different kind of side dish pie:
  • roasted onions and garlic chopped fine
  • wild chives
  • bits of chicken, beef or other left over cooked meat
  • cooked veggies like sweet potatoes or green beans or corn
  • cheese of different kinds
  • ham and beans
  • boiled or scrambled eggs and bacon

So you see, this is a very versitile recipe.  After the cooking is finished you can add just about anything to make it a different flavor.  It is always served at room temperature.  I guess you could also call this "left over pie" because you can use up all the bits and pieces of left overs.  Although your family might not appreciate it as much as calling it Spring Cream Pie.  They will think your are just a fantastic cook.


Joyful said...

Looks good. I'd like to try it in it's different variations. Thanks for sharing.

lw said...

Your memory brought back a lot memories for me. LIke your Grandma Mama, my grandmother always used what was at hand-- when her apricot tree bloomed, we had apricot syrup on our pancakes and apricot upside down cake for dessert. When the tomatoes were in, we had a lot of baked tomato dishes and spaghetti with tomatoes (she didn't really turn it into a sauce, but she'd blanche the tomatoes and remove the skins and cook them with butter and onion and serve it on spaghetti noodles.