Thanksgiving recipe: Sorghum buttermilk pie

There's no doubt about it, buttermilk makes everything better. A sweet syrup, either molasses or sorghum, blends with tangy, creamy buttermilk to create a light custard in this pie. 

The Runaway Spoon
Use molasses or sorghum for the filling in this old-fashioned Southern pie.

In case you haven’t noticed, I love cooking with buttermilk. It tenderizes, flavorizes, tangifies and creamifies anything it works with. I go out of my way to seek out good, thick country buttermilk. It is the most important ingredient in fried chicken, biscuits and cornbread. I use it in dressings, gravies, marinades, cookies cakes and pies. It is always on my refrigerator.

And one of the best resources I’ve found for buttermilk recipes is "Southern Cooking by Mrs. S.R. Dull," first published in 1928. Tucked into the tightly packed pages are more recipes that use buttermilk than I could count, and I have a little post-it flag on almost all of them. I marked “Molasses Custard” on one page and recently returned to it. 

I hadn’t at first marking realized it was a pie filling, but figured that was even better. These old-fashioned recipes are short and not particularly detailed, and the pie crust part is just a short line at the end. But I couldn’t resist. I switched out the molasses for sorghum, because I love the earthy, Southern sweetness of the syrup.

Sorghum buttermilk pie
Serves 8

Pastry for one 9-inch pie

1 cup sorghum

1/2 cup buttermilk

1 cup granulated sugar

2 tablespoons flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

3 eggs

1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Fit the pastry into a pie plate and set aside.

2. Stir the sorghum, buttermilk, sugar, flour, and baking soda together in a large, high sided saucepan. Crack the eggs into the measuring jug you used for the sorghum and milk and beat together. Pour into the pan and stir to thoroughly combine all the ingredients. You might want to use a whisk to break up any flour lumps, but use a heatproof spatula while cooking.

3. Place the pan over medium high heat and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture comes to a boil. Scrape the bottom and sides of the pan frequently to prevent scorching. The filling will bubble up so needs to be stirred and watched carefully. When it reaches a boil, remove from the heat and stir it down for a few minutes until some of the foaming subsides. Carefully pour it into the prepared crust  Fill it right to the top, if you have more in the pan than will fit in the crust, let it settle a few minutes, then gently stir the remaining filling into the crust.

4. Bake the pie for 40–45 minutes, until it is firm with just a little wobble to it. I’ve never had the filling spill over, but just to be safe I like to put a foil lined baking sheet on the rack below to catch any potential drips.

5. Place the pie plate on a rack to cool completely, then chill until firm.

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