Monday, September 29, 2014

Grandmama Spooner's Chess Pie - A Southern Tradition for Generations

After the Civil War and through the depression era, the south was a very poor and struggling region. I have heard my mother tell stories about life in rural Georgia during the 30's and 40's numerous times. Land may have plentiful, but the residents were a very poor people. Black and white farmers worked side by side in the fields, just trying to put food on the tables for their families. My mother and her sisters picked cotton during the depression. Her mother was very much a lady, and made them wear sunbonnets and long sleeves while working in the fields. They may have had to work like field hands, but they had peaches and cream complexions and no freckles on their arms. I remember dinner on my grandparents farm when I was a child as being served on white tablecloths with the good silver used every day. My granddaddy would take his work boots off on the back porch and wash up for dinner each day. The afternoon brought a nap for everyone and the leftovers were on the stove covered up for supper. Dish towels were thrown across the fried chicken and other meats. The men went back to the fields after nap and we kids were allowed to play outside after a good rest and the heat of the day subsided.

One of the delicacies that my mother and grandmother both made was Chess Pie. There had to be dessert on the table each day. During lean times, I'm sure this pie became popular as it was made with ingredients that were always on hand, even during the leanest times. After dinner, my Grandaddy would pour his coffee into his saucer and sip it that way until it cooled. Along with coffee, this Chess Pie was also served. It is very, very sweet. I 'm sure that strong black coffee would be a good partner.

I have cut way back on the required sugar in my version of the pie and it is still very sweet. While researching the origins of Chess Pie, one of the stories is that it was called Chess pie because it was so sweet that it could be left in the pie safe or pie chest and therefore, those southern accents evolved into Chess Pie as the name. Another great story is that a Georgia Cracker homesteader was asked what kind of pie that she had prepared. She replied "It's jess pie, I don't know what it's called." Therefore the name Chess Pie originated. Who knows the real story, but it is a great dessert and will certainly satisfy any sweet tooth. The crust that forms on the top is my favorite bite. I can't wait for you to prepare this original Chess Pie recipe for your families.

Grandmama Spooner's Chess Pie

1 9 inch unbaked pie crust - I haven't made my own since Pillsbury came out with the unfolded variety in the 1980's - everyone brags on my pie crust -  I always smile and say "Thank You"

1 1/2 cup sugar
1 stick butter, melted and cooled
3 eggs slightly beaten
1/4 cup whole milk
1 tablespoon cornmeal
1 tablespoon vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Beat sugar, butter and vanilla together. Mix in the eggs. Then add the cornmeal, vinegar, and milk. Beat with hand mixer until smooth.

Pour into prepared pie crust and bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Reduce oven to 325 degrees and bake an additional 40 to 45 minutes until center of pie is set.

Cool completely. Cut and top servings with whipped cream.

A thin slice is very rich, but oh - so delicious.


  1. Mrs. Evelyn, I love reading your blog. I can't wait to try your delicious-sounding recipes. Thank you for sharing them and your stories. Andrea

  2. Andrea, thanks for following our blog. Merry Christmas to the Johnson's