Old-Fashioned Vinegar Pie

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This luscious, tangy pie does the impossible: It's juicy and fruity without actually containing fruit.

Old-Fashioned Vinegar Pie
Photo:

Victor Protasio, Food Stylist: Emily Nabors Hall, Prop Stylist: Christina Dailey

When chef Rob Connoley was doing research on the recipes and cooking methods he wanted to feature at his restaurant Bulrush in St. Louis, Missouri, which specializes in Ozark cuisine, he came across this recipe for old-fashioned vinegar pie. Despite the sour taste that may come to your mind when you think of vinegar, vinegar pie is actually quite sweet, fruity, and creamy.

Here, discover everything you need to know about vinegar pie, including where this unique recipe came from, the ingredients you need and how to make it—plus, the best ways to serve and store it.

What Is Vinegar Pie?

Known as one of the desperation pies, thanks to the lack of fresh ingredients (if you’re simply desperate for pie, you likely have all these ingredients in your pantry already!), vinegar pie dates back to the 19th century. Since people sometimes had trouble sourcing certain ingredients, such as fruit, they could use the vinegar left from the winter’s canning and preserving to flavor this pie. 

Connoley came across his recipe while researching the cuisine of the Ozarks, the mountain range that crosses Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and the southeast corner of Kansas, but it was made outside of this region as well: A vinegar pie recipe was featured in the May 16, 1905 issue of the The Herald Democrat in Leadville, Colorado. 

What Does Vinegar Pie Taste Like?

No, vinegar pie is not bitter, tart, or sour. In fact, it’s sweet!

The flavor of your pie is a bit dependent on the type of vinegar you use (more on that below), but the combination of fruit vinegar, sugar, lemon juice, and butter creates a sweet, slightly lemony, and even juicy pie.

Old-Fashioned Vinegar Pie

Victor Protasio, Food Stylist: Emily Nabors Hall, Prop Stylist: Christina Dailey

Vinegar Pie Ingredients

If you have a well-stocked pantry and fridge and a pre-made pie crust in your freezer, you likely have everything you need to make vinegar pie. Here are the basic ingredients:

  • Pie Crust: You can use any pie crust you have on hand to make vinegar pie. The crust is blind baked before you add and cook the filling, so you could also make and bake a homemade crust if you have a preferred recipe.
  • Sugar: Like with most pies, sugar is essential. Without it, your vinegar pie would be too thin and not sweet enough. For a richer honey flavor, you can sub in honey for some of the sugar, like in this version of Honey Vinegar Pie. Some recipes will also add a vanilla bean for additional sweet flavor.
  • Cornstarch: This powdery, flavorless, quick-cooking ingredient is perfect for thickening the filling of this pie and other fruity pies.
  • Eggs: When cooked and cooled, the eggs in this recipe puff up to give the filling a rich and decadent texture. 
  • Salt: You’ll see a little salt for balanced flavor in almost every dessert recipe. 
  • Lemon Juice: Since the vinegar you use may vary, lemon juice gives your pie a consistent, recognizable flavor.
  • Fruit Vinegar: The vinegar gives this pie its mouthwatering flavor. Chef Connoley recommends a fruit vinegar, but you don’t need to go out of your way to find any specific kind. A fruit shrub would work, too.
  • Water: Since you won’t use too much vinegar, water is needed to achieve the proper filling consistency. 
  • Butter: The butter is added to the filling at the very end to make it rich and smooth. Unsalted is best. 

The Right Vinegar for a Vinegar Pie

Chef Connoley recommends using a fruit vinegar, such as apple cider or strawberry balsamic, to give your pie the most flavor. If you don’t have fruit vinegar but do happen to have some fresh berries on hand, you can add those to your filling to achieve more fruitiness. 

How to Serve Vinegar Pie

Since you don’t bake the filling, you need to let this vinegar pie cool to room temperature so it fully sets before you serve it. If you’re going to make it ahead, it’s best served chilled or after you’ve let it come to room temperature again. 

How to Store Vinegar Pie

You can technically freeze cooked custard pies, like vinegar pie, but they tend to become watery after thawing. For this reason, it’s best to eat your vinegar pie right after you make it—which shouldn’t be too hard. 

Editorial contributions by Alyssa Sybertz.

Ingredients

  • 1 prepared pie crust

  • 1 1/2 cup sugar

  • 1/4 cup cornstarch

  • 4 eggs

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

  • Juice of one half of a lemon

  • 4 tablespoons fruit vinegar (on the top shelf of the vinegar section of your grocery store)

  • 2 cups water

  • 2 tablespoons butter, unsalted, room temperature

Directions

  1. Bake pie crust according to packaging instructions.

    prepared pie crust

    Victor Protasio, Food Stylist: Emily Nabors Hall, Prop Stylist: Christina Dailey

  2. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the sugar, cornstarch, and salt with a whisk (this will help the cornstarch from lumping). Add the eggs and lemon juice. Mix into a thick paste.

    egg mixture with whisk

    Victor Protasio, Food Stylist: Emily Nabors Hall, Prop Stylist: Christina Dailey

  3. Bring the vinegar and water to a simmer in a medium saucepan. Pour a quarter of the hot liquid into the egg/sugar slurry and whisk until smooth.

  4. Pour the remaining liquid into the mixing bowl and gently whisk until thoroughly combined. Return the mixture to the saucepan and continue heating, gently whisking continually, until the mixture begins to thicken. Continue for one more minute, then remove from heat. Add the butter and whisk until the butter is melted and combined.

    egg mixture in bowl

    Victor Protasio, Food Stylist: Emily Nabors Hall, Prop Stylist: Christina Dailey

  5. Pour into a pre-baked pie shell, and allow pie to cool to room temperature.

    Old-Fashioned Vinegar Pie

    Victor Protasio, Food Stylist: Emily Nabors Hall, Prop Stylist: Christina Dailey

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