Being from New York but living in California, it has become pretty normal for me to miss holidays with my family. Although Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday I usually end up with a friend’s family as it is pretty difficult to get back to New York during this time with work and school. But Christmas is the one holiday in my 25 years I have only missed once. Although my family does cook, we are not the most avid cookers or chef’s out there. But, there is one dish that we have every year that is one of my favorites. Every Christmas for breakfast we do the normal eggs, bacon, cinnamon rolls, grapefruit, and shoofly pie. Everything about the dish is a pretty basic breakfast dish, except for the shoofly pie. I don’t think I’ve ever had shoofly pie with any other family other than my immediate or extended family. The only Christmas morning that I have not eaten shoofly pie was the one Christmas that I missed. Every Christmas morning, we exchange gifts with one another and then we all sit down to eat breakfast. Although I have never actually made shoofly pie myself until now. Writing this paper, I realized I literally knew nothing about the origin of shoofly pie. All I knew was that it was a tradition on my father’s side of the family to make it every Christmas and that tradition was passed down. So, looking up the origin of the pie has been pretty interesting to me. I first looked up the origin of molasses which is essentially what the pie is (along with sugar, carbs, and fat) and found that it kind of holds a dark past. Cane is pressed to produce Cane Juice, then boiled until it crystallizes and forms molasses. This technique was actually used in India as far back as 500 B.C. The term molasses is English but came from a Portuguese term melaco which came from a Latin term mel which actually meant honey. The Japanese also call it Kuro Mitso (Black Honey). When traders started carrying slaves from Africa to the Caribbean they would sell humans for barrels of molasses. The molasses was then brought to England and made into rum, so this trade actually became extremely profitable. In the mid 1700’s the British Parliament added large taxes to the molasses trade to all of its’ colonies that were involved. This was a considerable livelihood for some New Englanders so they were not pleased with the tax, which would become something that was boycotted, petitioned and another thing that encouraged the Revolution.
Molasses has long been used for a sweetener and was actually a primary sweetener before sugar. Sugar was quite expensive in the 1800s and it wasn’t until the early 1900’s that people started using sugar more as it became cheaper. Molasses was used for almost anything in the United States, both by Southerners and Northerners. It was used anywhere from sweetener for drinks, marinating meat, for baking, and even to make alcohol. Now molasses is almost double the price of sugar which is probably a big reason that it isn’t used as much. Although there are specific recipes that call for molasses it seems that it is mostly some kind of sweet or baked good that molasses is used for.
After doing some research I found that Shoofly Pie is a Pennsylvanian Dutch food. In 1730 the Pennsylvania area was settled by various religious followers such as the Amish and Mennonites, and other off shoots. Many of whom emigrated from Germany and Switzerland. As far as I know, I do not have any Amish or Mennonite relatives, but my ethnic background is a mix of a few things, one being German. Many of the settlers in this area apparently had a major sweet tooth. A word that I came across a few times was actually “addicted” to sweets and baked goods, especially pies. I found this entertaining as I have such a sweet tooth and not for candy but for things like cake, cookies, and other baked goods. I guess it’s just in my blood. They would eat pies often at any time of the day either as meals or along with most of their meals.
In one of the articles I read, the author stated that the earliest recipe of Shoofly Pie that was found was in 1876. The pie was supposedly made as a result of farm wives making due with what they had in the middle of winter. Left with molasses, lard, and flour they were combined and Shoofly Pie came about. A big question is how did the name Shoofly Pie come about – as it doesn’t sound very appetizing. One story is that the pie was actually French and looked like cauliflower or “cheux-fleur” in French, which then turned into Shoofly. The probability of this being true is pretty slim especially considering that Shoofly Pie is not usually seen in French Cuisine. The more likely story is that pools of molasses would form on top of the pie as it was left to cool which would then attract flies because of its sweetness, hence the flies having to be shooed away. Shoofly Pie became a favorite of the Pennsylvanian Dutch. Although it is not seen in many bakeries across America, it is still very popular in Amish country and in a lot of restaurants in that area. There’s a few different ways the pie can be made, some being more wet at the bottom and some more dry (personally I like it dry), as well as different toppings that people put on it. Some people put whipped cream on it while others put chocolate on top. In my opinion it is fine alone or at most a little butter on top. People fear Shoofly Pie which I get because it seems like it could be really heavy, or even excessively sweet, but it’s not and an interviewee in one of the articles compared it to the sweetness of Pecan Pie which was a great comparison. Although people are a lot more health conscious then they used to be so I don’t see this ever becoming a popular dish across America, but, continuing to be well liked in the areas that it originated.
For my project, I asked my parents if they had any pictures of the pie and somehow there were none! So instead of getting pictures online I decided that it would be fun to make the pie myself and get my own pictures (I also included ingredients and directions below!). As I said before I had never made this pie, or actually even helped make it so I was a little nervous but figured that if I had a recipe for it, how could I go wrong? Although my mom makes the pie crust herself, I thought that seemed a little too ambitious as I am not the best cook and cooking the rest of the pie itself would be challenging enough for me. So, I recruited my best friend to help me. We thought it sounded like a good time. I went to the grocery store and bought the ingredients, got home and also recruited my roommate to help out. What ended up happening was them just hanging out with me while I made the pie-which I did not mind. Although I’m not the best cook, I actually really enjoy it. I find it pretty fun to grab my speakers, put on some Led Zeppelin and attempt to cook. So that’s what I did. We hung out, listened to music and I made the infamous Shoofly Pie.
As I took the pie out of the oven I realized a lot had actually spilled out all over the oven – oops. This was a lot to clean up as molasses is extremely sticky. I let the pie cool for a little then gave some to my friends to try, excited to see their reactions. They loved it! Or so I thought. I turned around to hear them giggling and realized they didn’t like the pie, they were just trying to be polite and not hurt my feelings! They actually hated it. We all got a good laugh out of it. I was pretty baffled though because it’s one of my favorite pies. I have some health issues and am supposed to stay away from sugar but, had to try the pie to see what they were talking about. It was pretty bad. I was baffled as to what I did wrong, but it was definitely a fun experience. My thought is that I didn’t mix everything in well enough because as I kept forcing them to eat more, they claimed that some bites were super “nutmegy”, some were very sweet, and some were indescribable. I have decided that when I go home for Christmas this year I am going to help my mom with the pie so I can see how it’s done correctly and maybe someday I’ll be able to make it again and actually have my friends enjoy it.
Pie Crust Ingredients
2 cups all purpose flour, sifted
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup of butter or shortening
5-7 tablespoons cold water
Put the flour into the mixing bowl and add the butter. Use a pastry cutter or pastry blender to mix the flour and the butter. Add the salt and water. Mix until the dough is formed. Roll out the dough on a flat surface. Place the dough in a pie plate. Bake the dough at 375 degrees for about 15 Minutes until Brown.
Shoofly Pie Ingredients
1 Pie Shell
1 Cup Molasses
¾ Cup of Hot Water
¾ Teaspoon of Baking Soda
1 Egg Beaten
1 ½ Cups All-Purpose Flour
1 Cup Packed Brown Sugar
¼ Cup Shortening
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Bottom Layer (Molasses): Combine the molasses, hot water, and baking soda in a mixing bowl. Stir and mix in the beaten egg. Pour into shell.
Top Layer (Crumb Topping): Combine flour and brown sugar into mixing bowl. Then add shortening. Mix until mixture resembles coarse crumbles then put on top of bottom layer. Place in oven and bake for 15 minutes. Turn the oven to 350 and continue to bake for 30 more minutes.
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Baird, Sarah. “Know Your Sweets: Shoofly Pie”. Serious Eats. Serious Eats Inc. 2016 http://sweets.seriouseats.com/2013/07/know-your-sweets-shoofly-pie.html. Accessed 28 Nov. 2016.
Filippone, Peggy Trowbridge. “Molasses History”. About Food. About, Inc. 07 Nov. 2016. http://homecooking.about.com/od/foodhistory/a/molasseshistory.htm . Accessed 28 Nov. 2016.
Fullerton, Elizabeth. “Homemade Pie Crust”. FOOD. http://www.food.com/recipe/homemade-pie-crust-13619 . Accessed. 28 Nov. 2016
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http://www.newworldenhttp://citedatthecrossroads.net/ids336f16/wp-admin/media-upload.php?post_id=609&type=image&TB_iframe=1cyclopedia.org/entry/Molasses . Accessed 28 Nov. 2016.
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“Shoofly Pie History”. What’s Cooking America. https://whatscookingamerica.net/History/PieHistory/ShooflyPie.htm . Accessed 28 Nov. 2016
Stultz, D. “My Grandma’s Shoo-Fly Pie”. All Recipes. http://allrecipes.com/recipe/15853/my-grandmas-shoo-fly-pie/ . Accessed 28 Nov. 2016.