Preserving history through food is one of my passions. Nothing thrills me more than to have someone share with me a cherished recipe from their family heritage. I’ll usually make that recipe, like these pie crust cookies. Oh, the sweet story behind these cookies.
Then I love it when someone tells me about something that they loved eating as a child, growing up, the memories it would evoke. That’s how this recipe came about. Growing up in West Virginia, we had dear neighbors, the Burgess family. There were two children, Sarah, who was about six years younger than me, and her brother, Gilman, who was maybe ten years younger. I remember when Gilman was born. He was like our real live baby doll that we would play with! I would spend hours in Sarah and Gilman’s kitchen watching Miss Lulah cook, and I learned so much from her!
Fast forward now some decades later and both Sarah and I are grown, both grandmothers and we still are friends, virtually seeing each other daily on Facebook. One day Sarah asked me if I’d ever tasted Miss Opal’s creme pie with a graham cracker crust. I hadn’t, so I set about asking Sarah about what made it so delicious. Of course, I probed and questioned, and Sarah described and explained.
Now, Miss Opal and her husband, Talmadge, were lifelong residents of our small Appalachian town and our families were all intertwined in this small mountain community. Sarah said she wished she’d gotten Miss Opal’s recipe before she passed away in her early 90s. It was her very favorite. Knowing that memories are connected emotionally to food, and knowing that Sarah had these warm special memories, I set about trying to recreate this pie and a recipe for Sarah.
I’m not sure if it’s what her palate memories are, but I can assuredly say that this pie is one of my family’s favorites. I decided to add toasted coconut to it and make the pie crust, with a graham cracker base, more substantial and with more texture. This pie is refrigerated and is simply divine. Creamy. Crunchy. It’s like eating a slice of a life long gone. My dear West Virginia home. The past. When days were longer, people waved at each other as they drove down the street, kids walked to school, rode their bikes, doors were left unlocked and everyone knew you name and your family.
- Preheat oven to 375
- 3 cups graham crackers, crushed
- ½ cup walnuts, put in a food processor and pulse into mixture with some small pieces of nuts
- ¼ cup wheat germ
- 8 Tbl. butter, salted and melted
- ½ cup sugar
- 5 Tbl. cornstarch, non GMO
- 1/8 tsp. sea salt
- 1 ½ cups milk, whole
- ½ cup sour cream
- 1 Tbl. vanilla
- 3 egg yolks, blended
- 1 cup coconut, sweetened and toasted
- In a mixing bowl, combine the crushed graham crackers, walnuts, wheat germ and butter. Blend well. Divide between the two pie pans and pat into the bottom and slightly up the sides. Bake in a preheated 375 oven for 5 minutes. Remove. Cool. Set aside.
- In a medium size sauce pan, combine the sugar, cornstarch, salt, milk, sour cream and vanilla. Whisk together well. Put on a medium blaze for about 5 to 7 minutes whisking most of the time. It will thicken. Do not let it boil.
- Take one-half cup of the hot mixture and slowly drizzle into the eggs tempering them. Whisk well. Now take this egg mixture and slowly drizzle into the saucepan thickened milk mixture. Continue to let it thicken about 3 minutes. (No boiling.)
- Remove. Cover with a piece of plastic wrap. Cool for about an hour at room temperature then pour equal amounts into each pie pan. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate preferably overnight.
- Spread the coconut on a cookie sheet. Put in a preheated 375 oven a few minutes until it starts to turn golden brown.
- Watch carefully. Remove, cool and put in an air tight container. Sprinkle on the pie before serving.
This pie is much better letting it sit overnight in the refrigerator (covered with plastic).
Sprinkle liberally with the toasted coconut before slicing and serving.