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A simple stir-up of buttermilk, sugar, eggs, butter, flour, and vanilla, this pie pleases lemon-lovers and cheesecake fans alike.

Buttermilk Pie is just an egg custard pie with attitude...

The calendar may say 10/3, but for me it’s catch-up day. I’m running a tad behind on my make-a-pie-a-day plan for October, so I’m taking this Sunday to get the first three pies baked and posted. Starting tomorrow 10/4, I’ll continue in proper daily-made fashion. First up is Buttermilk Pie, an old-timer which was surely edged over to the sidelines by the move away from d.i.y.-dairying during the second half of the twentieth century. My maternal grandparents’ dairy farm in Piedmont North Carolina supplied them with raw milk and magnificently rich sweet cream, which they turned into pastuerized milk, butter, and its byproduct, buttermilk. My grandfather’s routine afternoon snack was a tall glass filled with chunks of crumbled-up cornbread left over from Grandmother’s enormous farmhouse lunch (known then as ‘dinner’ but that’s another story), and filled to the brim with cold buttermilk. He used a long-handled spoon to mix the treat to his liking, and then savored it standing at the kitchen window, gazing out past the pecan tree into the farmyard. Grandaddy didn’t have much use for sweets, and I never have come far beyond my childhood sense of awe and alarm that someone I loved could devour something I found so sour and strange with such contentment and pleasure. Buttermilk Pie puts it together for me — the dense, refreshing quality that I imagine Grandaddy found in his glass of cornbread baptized in buttermilk, and the sweet-sour creamy goodness of a classic pie that is earning back its place on the favorite-pies table.

Recipe for Nancie’s Buttermilk Pie

October 1, 2010

This pie is so simply stirred into being that the hardest part may be finding buttermilk. It’s widely available in supermarkets, and makes a delicious alternative to milk in all kinds of baking, particularly cornbread, biscuits, and pancakes.

1 unbaked 9-inch piecrust

2/3 cup sugar

3 tablespoons flour

2 eggs

1 cup buttermilk

1/4 cup butter, melted

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Heat the oven to 425 degrees F. Combine sugar and flour in a medium bowl, and mix them well using a fork or a whisk.

In another medium bowl, beat the eggs well with a fork or a whisk. Add the buttermilk, melted butter, and vanilla, and stir to mix everything together well. Add the sugar-flour mixture and stir well until everything is combined into a smooth mixture. Pour this filling into the piecrust, and bake in the 425 degree F oven for 10 minutes. Lower the heat to 350 degrees F, and then baked until the pie’s edges puff up, and until the pie is almost firm, with just a little wiggling at the center when you shake the pan gently; about 25 to 30 minutes. Set the pie on a cooling rack, or onto a folded kitchen towel and let it cool to room temperature.

Makes  1 9-inch pie

(Adapted from Southern Pies: A Gracious Plenty of Pie Recipes, from Lemon Chess to Chocolate Pecan, Chronicle Books October 2010)

About the Author
Nancie McDermott is a food writer and cooking teacher, and the author of ten cookbooks. Her passion is researching and celebrating traditional food in its cultural context, and her beloved subjects are two seemingly different places with much in common: the cuisines of Asia and of the American South. Nancie gained her Southern kitchen wisdom as a Piedmont North Carolina native,and her Asian culinary research commenced soon after college, when she was sent to northeastern Thailand as a Peace Corps volunteer.
  1. Teresa Reply

    Nancie, I just purchased southern pies at our local Borders. The pictures make my mouth water! Tomorrow I’ll be making the lemon cloud pie AND the butterscotch pie. (I tell myself I’m practicing for Thanksgiving!) Your website was on the back cover of the book. From there I found your blog. I am also a tarheel by birth (now living in Tennessee). I also noticed the doberman adds and I wondered if you are a doberman owner. I have loved and owned dobermans for years. The female I have now is five years old, and she is the craziest(good crazy) dog I’ve ever owned. I’m sure she’ll get a tiny taste of the butterscotch pie. Thanks for the wonderful recipes!

    • Nancie McDermott Reply

      Thank you so much, Teresa, for your kind words about Southern Pies. Why, I think practicing for Thanksgiving makes perfect sense — people practice piano and tennis serves and dull speeches — why on earth shouldn’t we warm up for the pie-baking season starting now? Tarheels living in Tennessee aren’t too far from home, and in terms of Southern food and particularly Southern baking, you’re not in a strange land at all. Not sure about the doberman ads— that must be part of how the blog earns its keep. We are dog people but of the wonderful-combo variety. Right now we have two, sweet old guy Pepper, a chow mix, and rascal rocket girl Sadie, both of whom are ever on the prowl for anything headed for the kitchen floor, be it Thai curry or cake or pie. Happy baking, and thank you for the warm welcome for my brand new book.

  2. Will Reply

    Buttermilk pie reminds me of the egg custard Dim Sum. Except much larger, and just as delicious.

    • Nancie McDermott Reply

      Yes indeed, it is in the same family — I need to make those and post them here. They are in my Chinese cookbook, but they are another close cousin of Southern pies…

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