Date custard pie a holiday dessert

This recipe for date pie has been for generations in the New England family of Bob Hey, Monitor features editor. It was somewhat forgotten until he recently decided to look it up and try to make it himself. It is a date custard pie, creamy smooth yet hearty enough to have been eaten for breakfast by Yankees.

Not an experienced cook, Bob said he was pleasantly surprised that it was so easy and has decided it will make a fine holiday dessert that is a bit different from the traditional pies.

He offers here the recipe, specialty of his grandmother. Grandma Pierpont's Date Pie 1 16-ounce package dates, pitted and chopped 1 3/4 cups water 2 cups milk Pinch salt 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar 2 eggs 1 unbaked 9-inch pie shell 3 egg whites 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar 6 tablespoons sugar

Cook dates with water over low heat, until soft and mushy, about one hour. Strain, in a ricer or through a kitchen strainer, using the back of a wooden spoon. You should have about 2 cups.

Add milk, salt, and sugar to dates. Beat eggs lightly and add to mixture. Pour into unbaked pie shell. Bake at 450 degrees F. for 10 minutes, then lower heat to 350 degrees F. and continue baking for one hour, or until date mixture is solid. Cool pie before topping with meringue.

To make meringue, beat egg white until frothy. Gradually beat in sugar, a little at a time, and beat well after each addition. Continue beating until stiff and glossy. Pile meringue on filling, being careful to seal meringue onto the edge of crust. Bake at 450 degrees F. for 8 to 10 minutes -- until delicately browned. Cool away from drafts.

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