Have You Ever Had Funeral Pie?

October 22, 2009
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My mother has always referred to raisin pie as funeral pie.

I never really understood this colloquialism. What about raisin pie was so right for a funeral?

Raisins are shriveled and dried up ? like the dead? No, it couldn’t be that tasteless.

My mom’s theory was only reinforced after my sister married into a family that runs a funeral home, with a father-in-law who just loves raisin pie. Who better to enjoy funeral pie than a funeral director?

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But they don’t call raisin-filled cookies funeral cookies. Who made up this funeral pie business?

Then The Amish Cook at Home (Andrews McMeel, $29.99 hardcover) came across my desk. Written by Ohio author Kevin Williams and Amish cook Lovina Eicher of Michigan, the book contains a recipe for Funeral Pie, which of course, is a raisin-filled pie.

My mother’s pie lingo was alive on the pages of an actual cookbook.

The book contains this explanation for funeral pie: ”Raisin pie is a funeral tradition in Pennsylvania Amish communities, where the thick pie is a comfort for the grieving family. In other Amish communities . . . a raisin pie is served at more celebratory occasions, like weddings.”

Since my mother grew up in Pennsylvania, not too far from Amish country, I finally had found the root of her expression.

I had earlier come to learn that the Amish influence was also the reason why fried eggs were always called ”dippy eggs” in our house growing up. This one I learned while visiting Lancaster, Pa. ? the heart of Amish country. My husband and I were at our hotel having breakfast when I heard a women in a very thick New Jersey accent tell the server at the breakfast buffet that her daughter would have ”dippy eggs.”

When I commented that I thought I was the only person who called over-easy eggs dippy eggs, she laughed and said her family had picked it up from the Pennsylvania Dutch.

Now mind you, my mother is not Amish (although she could take them on in the kitchen), but apparently she grew up more under their influence than I realized.

When I chatted with Williams from his home in Middletown, he explained that raisin pie is considered funeral pie by Amish of German lineage who settled in Pennsylvania and parts of Ohio. The thick sweet pie is for consoling, he said. In Indiana, where the Amish have Swiss ancestry, raisin pie is a sweet treat for celebrating happy occasions, he explained.

He said the dual-purpose pie is sort of unusual in Amish cooking, but noted that Amish communities can vary widely in their traditions.

Williams edits the syndicated newspaper column The Amish Cook, which Eicher writes. It previously had been written by Eicher’s mother, Elizabeth Coblentz, before her death in 2002. The column appears in more than 120 newspapers across the country.

The pair also have a new book that was just released, called The Amish Cook’s Baking Book (Andrews McNeal, $29.99 hardcover), which contains dozens of recipes for Amish baked goods, including many more pies.

I’m including the Funeral Pie recipe here, which hopefully you will be able to enjoy for a happy occasion.

FUNERAL PIE

2 cups raisins

2 cups water

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar

1/2 cup granulated sugar

3 tbsp. cornstarch

11/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp. ground allspice

Pinch of salt

1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar

3 tbsp. butter

2 disks of pie dough for a double crust

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Put raisins and 2/3 cup of water in a saucepan and heat over medium heat for 5 minutes.

Combine the sugars, cornstarch, spices and salt in a medium bowl, and stirring constantly, gradually add the remaining 11/3 cups water. Add this mixture to the raisins. Cook and stir until the mixture starts to bubble. Add the vinegar and butter and heat until the butter is melted. Remove from the stove and let cool until just warm.

Roll out one disk of dough to a 1/8-inch thickness on a floured surface. Line a 9-inch pie pan with the dough. Trim to a 1/2-inch wide overhang. Pour the filling into the crust. Roll out the second disk of dough, place on top of the pie, and trim to a 1-inch overhang. Fold the dough under and crimp the edge. Cut decorative slash marks into the top crust.

Bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool completely.

Makes one pie to serve eight.

? The Amish Cook at Home, Lovina Eicher and Kevin Williams

Source: Ohio.com

Author: Lisa A. Abraham can be reached at 330-996-3737 or labraham@thebeaconjournal.com

Photo: Flickr user Susan/The Well-Seasoned Cook

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