Colonial days sure did it right.

By Mary Allen Perry
November 07, 2016
We can all agree that we love chess pie, but we can't seem to agree where the dessert got its name. The mixture of eggs, butter, sugar, vanilla, and flour made its way to the American South from England. It became popular in Virginia and has had many incarnations, from the Classic Chess PieChocolate-Pecan Chess Pie, and Pumpkin-Lemon Cream Cheese Chess Pie to fruity versions, like Lemon Chess Pie, Tangerine Chess Pie and Grapefruit Chess Pie. Because the pie was kept in pie chests, some say the name "chess" comes from "chest." Others say that the pie was often served during evenings spent playing chess. Still others claim that "chess" is a variant of the British "cheese" pie. No matter the origin, this pie has become a Southern staple.
| Credit: Alison Miksch

Recipes for chess-like pies date back to Colonial days and are as varied as the maker, but all share a wickedly rich mix of butter, sugar, and eggs. Some are thickened with cornmeal, others with flour. Buttermilk, cider vinegar, or citrus often mellows the high- voltage sweetness. Pie historians remain divided on the origins of the name. Some claim it's a Southern corruption of the archaic British "cheese" pie, others speculate the sugar-laden fillings had unrivaled keeping qualities when stored in a pie "ches—a ventilated cupboard with punched tin doors where pies were stored before refrigeration. And then there's the notion that it's "jes' pie", stirred together in a pinch with ingredients cooks commonly had on hand and baked in flaky crusts made with home-rendered lard. Our Pumpkin-Lemon Cream Cheese Chess Pie is marbled with swirls of citrus-flavored cream cheese for a dreamy Thanksgiving update on a classic.

Fore more pies, check out our Old-Fashioned Pies & Cobblers.