Black Walnut-Buttermilk Pie with Hibiscus-Cranberry Relish 

This buttermilk pie gets extra flavor thanks to a seasonal topping.

Black Walnut-Buttermilk Pie with Hibiscus-Cranberry Relish
Photo: Johnny Autry; Food Styling: Keia Mastrianni; Prop Styling: Charlotte L. Autry
Active Time:
40 mins
Chill Time:
1 hrs
Freeze Time:
20 mins
Bake Time:
1 hrs 10 mins
Cool Time:
2 hrs
Total Time:
5 hrs 10 mins

This isn't just any old pie. This recipe for Black Walnut-Buttermilk Pie with Hibiscus-Cranberry Relish comes from writer and baker Keia Mastrianni, who has earned a dedicated following for her hyperseasonal pies at Milk Glass Pie, her farm-based bakery in western North Carolina. "On the farm where I live, black walnut trees gather in clusters in a patch dubbed 'Walnut Grove' on the far side of the pasture," says Mastrianni. "In the grey cold of wintertime, my husband and I collect baskets full of these heady walnuts, still in their shells. Luckily, we have a good tool for getting the meat from these tough nuts."

In this recipe, buttermilk is perfumed with the almost fruity umami of black walnuts and balanced with the Hibiscus-Cranberry Relish. "Hibiscus flowers, grown by my farmer husband, make a mouth-puckering stand-in for cranberries, which don't grow in our region. I like to mix the two in this holiday relish, but you can use all cranberries just the same," notes Mastrianni.


All-Butter Crust

  • 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface 

  • 2 teaspoons granulated sugar 

  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt 

  • ½ cup cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes

  • ¼ cup cold water 


  • 1 ¼ cups granulated sugar 

  • cup black walnuts, finely ground 

  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour 

  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt 

  • 3 large eggs

  • ¾ cup whole buttermilk

  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice (from 1 lemon) 

  • ¼ cup butter, melted 

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract) 

Hibiscus-Cranberry Relish

  • 1 cup water

  • ½ cup dried hibiscus flowers

  • 1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries

  • ½ cup packed light brown sugar

  • Zest of 1 lemon (about 2 tsp.)

  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt 

  • 1 cinnamon stick 

  • 1 - 2 dried bay leaves

  • 5 grinds of black pepper

  • 1 (4-inch) rosemary sprig (optional)


  1. Prepare the All-Butter Crust: Whisk together flour, granulated sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Add cold butter, and toss to coat in flour mixture. Using a pastry blender, cut butter into flour mixture, breaking large pieces into smaller, pebble-size pieces. Use your fingers to "snap" the butter, flattening it into large flakes. Continue working butter into flour until mixture is well blended. (It should look like grated Parmesan cheese with a few pebble-size pieces.)

  2. Make a well in center of flour mixture, and add ¼ cup cold water; toss thoroughly, making sure to incorporate it evenly throughout entire bowl. Turn out onto a lightly floured work surface, and bring dough together into a single mass. Shape into a disk. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and chill at least 1 hour or up to overnight (12 hours).

  3. Roll dough into a 12-inch circle on a lightly floured work surface. Transfer dough to a 9-inch pie plate. Trim any excess dough so that it just barely skims work surface. Roll dough under itself to create piecrust. Crimp as desired, and place in freezer for 20 minutes. Preheat oven to 425°F with rack in lower half of oven. Line frozen pie shell with parchment paper; fill completely with pie weights to top edge of crust. Bake 20 minutes. Remove pie weights and parchment, and bake 3 to 5 minutes. Remove and cool completely.

  4. Prepare the Filling: Preheat oven to 350°F. Whisk together sugar, black walnuts, flour, and salt in a bowl. Add eggs 1 at a time, whisking until incorporated. Stir in buttermilk and lemon juice. Add melted butter and vanilla, and whisk until combined. Pour into prepared pie shell. Cover edges of pie shell with aluminum foil to prevent overbrowning. Bake just until set, 35 to 45 minutes. Remove to a wire rack; cool completely.

  5. Prepare the Hibiscus-Cranberry Relish: Combine 1 cup water and dried hibiscus flowers in a saucepan, and bring to a boil. Remove from heat; cover and steep 5 minutes. Pour mixture through a fine mesh strainer over a bowl; discard solids. Return strained hibiscus water to saucepan. Add cranberries, brown sugar, lemon zest, salt, cinnamon stick, bay leaf, pepper, and (if desired) rosemary sprig to saucepan. Simmer over medium until thickened and jammy, about 15 minutes. Let cool; discard bay leaf. Serve with Black Walnut-Buttermilk Pie.

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