Posted by: Rachel | June 30, 2013

a novel concept (2)

I don’t know if you remember, but back in March my friend Simone ran a challenge on her blog. The gist was “Prepare a dish of your choosing that has a connection to a published literary work (novel, novella, short story, memoir, bio, poem) you’ve read. Then write about it.”

I did, and other than one friend who was a bit unhappy with me for introducing her to a series of books that interfered with pretty much all facets of her life while she devoured them (I know, me too!), I got positive feedback.

Now Simone has issued the challenge again, and, never one to let a gauntlet just lie in the dust, here we go!

Summer, for me, is a time for lighter reading. I veer toward travel books, and if they include food (and how can they not?) so much the better. I have enjoyed Peter Mayle’s books taken from his experiences as a British ex-pat in Provence, which are as light as the scent of tanning lotion through boxwoods, and I have also read his novels.

No matter what you may think of his literary abilities, he writes good food. His characters eat well and credibly, often, and they enjoy the variety of the region.

For example, from Hotel Pastis: “Maman put a dish of sliced sausage and cornichons between them,… Sausage was followed by pizza, then by steak and roast peppers, salad, cheese, a homemade tarte au citron.” Mmmmm!

Now I have eaten lemon pie here in the States, and in France, and never met one I didn’t like (of course, I don’t know that i’ve ever met any pie I didn’t like… oh dear!). There are lemon meringue pies, there are lemon curd tarts, there are one- and two-crust lemons pies, “Shaker” pies and hand pies (think sort of fruit filled calzone) but I want to tell you about a totally different pie.

If “tromp l’oeil” is “fool the eye” then this was “trompe la bouche”. I truly thought I was eating a lemon pie – a very good lemon pie, but apparently I was sorely mistaken!

A friend made this for me a few years ago. She says it is her Irish great-grandmother’s recipe, and told me of course I could share it with you. No lemons found around Ireland back then – at least not in the homes of working folks! This is a vinegar pie.

Seriously, you have to trust me on this. If you don’t tell your guests, they will most likely think it is a lemon pie, as I did, since one often jumps to the closest point of reference, right?

This is a very simple recipe, and I have never had it fail. You can let it cool and eat it pretty much immediately, or you can chill it in the fridge. I like it cold. It keeps well (or so I am told – it never lasts long enough to be concerned around here!). You can use store-bought crust or make your own, no judgment from me on that point!

Here’s the recipe as I got it:

slice of vinegar pie

no lemons were harmed…

Great-Grandma’s Vinegar Pie

1-1/2 cups sugar
1 Tbsp flour (heaping)
pinch of salt
2 eggs (at room temperature)
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted and slightly cooled

Make your crust. Preheat oven to 375.

In a big bowl, whisk together the sugar, salt and flour. Beat in the 2 eggs; about 1/3 cup of cider vinegar, then beat in the 1/2 cup butter.

Pour into crust.
Bake at 375 degrees until top is brown (check at 30 minutes, probably takes about 40).

Easy as, well, pie! It will form a slight crust on top as it bakes. Don’t let the top get too brown, light not dark. You can play with the sugar – I find that 1-1/4 cups works for me, and you may drop the oven temp if your runs hot like mine does.

This goes mighty fine as a dessert or with coffee for brunch. Enjoy and let us know if you try it! Mmmmmm…



  1. I am SO making this. Printing it out for the recipe box as we speak!

    Celeste Epstein Collaborative Communications 512.326.5081

  2. Sounds delicious! Can’t wait to try it. Thank you…

  3. I’m going to pass this vinegar pie recipe on. I’m fascinated. For food novels, I loved the real, genuine “Under the Tuscan Sun” by Frances Mayes. Great descriptions of farmers’ markets and feasts in Tuscany. The movie had nothing to do with it.

    • I think that would have fit the criteria (criterium?) as it is a memoir of sorts but I was trying to stick with fiction. I mean, how could you pick just one meal out of UtTS? Or more specifically just one dish to recreate? Yikes!! Mmmmm….

  4. I think pies are trending now. I’ve heard tell of this pie, but never made it. Not sure I’m brave enough to try it. Then again, I don’t like buttermilk, but have you ever had buttermilk pie? the best!

    • Never met a pie I didn’t like (trend(y) or not!) but if you have a buttermilk pie recipe would you share it? Pleeeease? Mmmmm…

  5. Have you ever read Julia Glass? She is one of my faves, writing primarily about family relationships but there is always food around (being prepped, being eaten) and there is always a food artisan of some sort present. Makes for lovely stories.

    • I don’t know her books. Which one do you recommend? Or should I just start with her first one? Thanks for the rec and thanks for reading!

      • i recommend them all. the three junes, her first, won a national book award.

  6. This is so interesting, Rachel. I am always amazed at the inventiveness of people. I think you have made a lot of people curious with your description of this pie. I have read a couple of Mayle’s books and he certainly has a lively style and sense of humor: I agree with you that they are a good choice for summer reading. Thank you so much for contributing to Novel Food!

    • Thanks for including me! Great fun and now I have lots of new items on my “to read” list. Woohoo!

  7. I love the idea of this vinegar pie. And that no lemons were harmed during its making….

    • Heeheehee… Let us know if you try it, ok?

  8. When life does not give you lemons, make a Vinegar Pie. How inventive cooks are when the need arises!

  9. My book club read A Year in Provence a couple years ago and I loved it!

    Thanks for a great reference about what a vinegar pie taste like, too. I adore lemon things, but shied away from the vinegar name… now I really have no excuse!

  10. I love Peter Mayle’s food descriptions–his books always make me hungry. I love the vinegar pie recipe. I have seem similar ones in my vintage cookbooks and I am always intrigued. Great inspiration! 😉

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