Jo loves to cook and has been doing so for family and friends for many years. She enjoys sharing her family recipes with others.
Aunt Ethel's Legendary Caramel Pie
If you travel across Tennessee on Interstate 40, you'll come to an exit for Buffalo. It's just past the exit for Bucksnort (where you can stop at a little cafe and get a fried baloney sandwich). Once upon a time, you could stop at a log cabin restaurant at the Buffalo exit and order a slice of delicious caramel pie. It was made by Aunt Ethel, the cook at this little restaurant.
The log cabin restaurant is still there, but it has changed ownership—and Aunt Ethel is long gone. She passed away years ago and had been retired years before that.
I never knew Aunt Ethel. But I know her daughter, and I know her nephew well since I am married to him. Even Aunt Ethel's daughter did not have her recipe for caramel pie, but before Aunt Ethel died, my husband took his mother for a visit to Aunt Ethel's house. When they called to tell her they were coming for a visit, they requested that she have one of her caramel pies for them to sample.
While they were enjoying the pie, John asked her for her recipe.
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When they left Aunt Ethel's that day, John's mother told him that the recipe had actually been her mother's, Aunt Ethel's mother-in-law. She was a little peeved that Aunt Ethel had actually taken credit for the recipe since it had come from her mother. John wrote on his recipe, "Aunt Ethel's caramel pie, through Granny Duncan (Mary Lavonia Magdelene)." But Aunt Ethel was the one who had made the pie famous. She perfected the pie and cooked it many times over her tenure at the local restaurant, and this is the recipe she gave him that day.
- 1 baked pie crust
- 1 1/2 sugar
- 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups milk
- 3 eggs, separated
- 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 6 tablespoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- In medium sauce pan combine 3/4 cup of the sugar, salt, and all-purpose flour. Mix thoroughly.
- Add milk to pan and cook over medium heat until bubbly, stirring constantly. Continue to cook and stir for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir small amount of mixture into slightly beaten eggs yolks.
- Return to heat and cook until bubbly, stirring constantly. Continue to cook and stir for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
- Pour remaining 3/4 cup sugar into a cast iron skillet. Cook on medium high or high heat, stirring constantly with a knife until sugar caramelizes. Sugar will begin to melt slightly and turn brown. Watch this carefully to be sugar does not begin to burn.
- Pour caramelized sugar into thickened ingredients in saucepan. Stir until smooth and pour into baked pie crust.
- Beat egg whites with cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Gradually add sugar, one teaspoon at a time, and beat until stiff peaks form. Add vanilla.
- Spread meringue over pie and bake at 350°F for 10–15 minutes, or until brown.
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This Pie Is Worth the Effort
This pie, I discovered, is a little tricky to make. I had to make several attempts before I was successful, but it is now one of our favorite desserts.
Aunt Ethel's instructions were a little vague in places, so I experimented to get the desired results. I have made a few clarifications in places to the original instructions but am still giving full credit to Aunt Ethel (through Granny Duncan) for this recipe.
© 2017 Jo Miller