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Cy's Vinegar Pie for Cook the Books

This round Simon, at briciole, selected That Old Ace in the Hole by Annie Proulx for our October-Novemer Cook the Books project. Here's her post

I have to be honest: I couldn't get through this book. I tried. Twice. The first time, I was reading the words without really engaging. I decided to restart, thinking I just needed an attitude adjustment. 

The second time, I was more interested in the characters and the story, but that only lasted for about the first fifty pages. Then, again, I was slogging through. 

I used to be a stubborn reader, determined to finish any book I started. But I am not that reader anymore; if a book doesn't hold my interest, I know that there are plenty more that will. I am thoroughly enjoying Jim Gaffigan's Food: A Love Story.

But just as I was about to throw in the towel and declare that I was out for this round, I read a page about Cy's Old Dog Café and knew that I could cook something from the book...even if I didn't finish the book.

I was most intrigued by the mention of vinegar pie. Really. Who would have thought to put vinegar in a pie? Apparently, though, vinegar pie is a traditional recipe. With a little reading, I discovered that vinegar pies have been around since the mid-19th century; they are a very simple dessert - a custard pie flavored with apple cider vinegar.

I imagine it was invented out of a lack of ingredients. And, rest assured, it tastes far better than it sounds. Here was my starting point... a vinegar pie recipe from Epicurious.

Crust Ingredients
  • 2 C flour
  • 1/2 C organic powdered sugar
  • 3/4 C butter, very-cold, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 2 T ice water
  • 2 T gin (typically I use vodka in a crust, but I didn't have any)
Filling Ingredients
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 C organic granulated sugar
  • 1 T flour
  • 1 C cold water
  • 2 T apple cider vinegar
  • 1 t pumpkin pie spice

For the pie crust...

Place the butter cubes, flour, and powdered sugar in a large mixing bowl. I used to use a pastry cutter, but after watching a pastry chef, I have started pressing the butter by hand. Flatten the butter by hand into discs, blending it in to the flour. Add in the water and gin and press the dough together till it comes together into a ball.

Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Roll the dough out between 2 pieces of parchment paper.

Transfer the crust to a pie pan. Trim to the correct size. Crimp the edges and prick the crust with a fork. Place the crust in the freezer to chill while you preheat the oven. Preheat the oven to 400°F.

With a little bit of extra crust, I dug out a pig cookie cutter in honor of Global Pork Rind in the book.

Line crust with foil and top with a handful of rice...or use pie weights. Bake for approximately 20 minutes. Remove foil, rice or weights and return to the oven until the bottom of the crust is golden, approximately 10 to 12 minutes more. I baked the pig along with the crust.

While the crust bakes, make the filling. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together eggs and 1/4 cup sugar until well- blended well. In a large saucepan, whisk together flour, spices, and remaining sugar. Whisk in water and vinegar. Bring to mixture to a boil, whisking until sugar is completely dissolved. Pour in the egg mixture in a slow stream, whisking constantly.

Cook the filling over moderate heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until filling coats the back of spoon. Mine took between 14 and 15 minutes. Take care not to let the mixture boil or the eggs will curdle. 

Reduce oven temperature to 350°F, then pour hot filling into baked pie shell. You can cover the edges with foil to keep them from browning too much. Bake pie until filling is set, approximately 20 to 25 minutes. I pressed the pig into the pie when it was still warm. Cool completely before serving.

Well, that's a wrap for this round of Cook the Books. I don't actually know what's up next for the group. I haven't seen the new list. But, join us, if you're inclined! 


  1. I am anxious to see what is up for next month too. I am glad that I wasn't the only one who had a tough time with this book.

    1. Yes, I thought I was the only one, too. But Simona said that I was not alone.

  2. In books, as in food, personal taste plays a large role and I completely expect to have a variety of responses to every selection of our club. Proulx likes to weave a tapestry and it is not always easy to follow her path. I am glad you found the Vinegar pie's mention intriguing (I did too!) It has such an unexpected flavor and makes one go from doubt to enthusiasm. Thank you for contributing to this edition of Cook the Books.

  3. G'day What a great recipe tied into this month's Cook The Book Challenge!
    Well done and completing too!
    Cheers! Joanne

  4. Sorry you didn't enjoy the book, Camilla. But you did rock this pie. Love the pig!

  5. A diversity of reading opinions is as good as the diversity of the Cook the Books participants, so I am happy you joined us in posting about this book, even if it wasn't to your taste. I love being part of an online book group because I get to read different things than I would pick on my own, but still have the flexibility to join in the conversation on my own schedule. Hope you will like the next pick, especially as it's my selection! Happy Holidays!

  6. I was that stubborn reader you mention, Camilla - it was a tough one to get through! Love your pie, I'll have to give it a whirl some day!

  7. I have heard of vinegar pie but have never 'explored' it more. It looks quite good. I love your pig crust decor--too cute. I had a hard time with the book at first but I surprised myself by getting into the second half and liking it--didn't think that was going to be the case. ;-)


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