Food & Drink

Cheerwine Vinegar Pie

A classic Southern dessert with a twist

photo: Margaret Houston

Cheerwine Vinegar Pie garden gun

Here’s something you may not know: You can make vinegar from just about any sugary liquid. Sweet tea, fruit juice, even soda—with time and a little bit of effort, they’ll all transform. And before supermarkets brought Heinz and other big brands to the masses, people across the country brewed vinegar at home.

At Comfort, in Richmond, Virginia, chef de cuisine Travis Milton is bringing back a delicious tradition with vinegars made from locally grown ingredients such as turnip greens, tomatoes, and honeydew melon. He isn’t just drawing from the garden, either. Milton glazes wings with a barbecue sauce made from Mountain Dew vinegar, and bakes homemade Cheerwine vinegar into a pie that harks back to the days when Appalachian cooks, lacking citrus, substituted a more common ingredient with a similar bite.

Margaret Houston

Milton’s vinegar pie, which he tops with a dollop of corncob jelly cream, is a popular dessert at Comfort. His recipe for Cheerwine vinegar makes enough for a season’s worth of pies—with plenty left over for other projects. And if you’re not a fan of Cheerwine, there’s no reason why you can’t use a different soda. Mountain Dew vinaigrette, anyone?


Ingredients

  • Pie Crust

    • 2 cups all-purpose flour

    • 1/8 tsp. salt

    • 1 tbsp. sugar

    • 1/2 cup cornmeal*

    • 1/2 cup butter, cut into small pieces

    • 1/2 cup chilled buttermilk

    • 1 tsp. apple cider vinegar

    • 2 tbsp. lard

  • Pie Filling

    • 1/8 tsp. salt

    • 1 3/4 cup sugar

    • 3 whole eggs and 2 yolks, beaten together

    • 1/4 cup buttermilk

    • 1/4 cup Cheerwine vinegar

    • 1/3 cup melted unsalted butter


Preparation

  1. For the pie crust: Combine flour, salt, sugar, and cornmeal together, and sift into a large mixing bowl. Add lard and work it into the dry ingredients with your fingers until it is well incorporated. Repeat with butter, and then transfer the contents of the bowl to a food processor.

  2. Pulse the ingredients 3-4 times, or until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. Return the mixture to the bowl, add buttermilk and cider vinegar, and stir until it begins to form a dough. Then knead the dough into a coherent shape, folding it over itself in order to give the crust a layered, flaky texture.

  3. Transfer the dough to a floured surface, and roll it into a circle 12-13 inches in diameter and about 1/8-inch thick. Lightly flour the top of the crust and carefully roll it onto the rolling pin. Unroll it over a 9-inch pie pan, crimp the edges, and dot the base with a knife 8-10 times. Refrigerate until ready to use.

  4. For the pie filling: 

    Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

     

  5. Sift cornmeal, salt, and sugar together into a large mixing bowl. Then gently whisk in eggs. Once the eggs are thoroughly incorporated, add buttermilk, vinegar, and butter.

     

  6. Pour custard mixture into an unbaked pie crust and bake for 40-45 minutes, or until a medium-brown crust has formed on top and the pie has slightly less jiggle than Jello. Let cool and enjoy.

    *Milton uses coarse sorghum flour instead of cornmeal. If you can find it, it adds extra flavor to both the crust and the filling.

Recipe from Travis Milton of Comfort in Richmond, Virginia


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