Friday, August 31, 2012

Hoosier Family Traditions - Sugar Cream Pie

I wasn't born in Indiana, but my Grandma L. was. Her brother R. left Indiana as an adult, as did Grandma, to go to Montana for land to homestead. 

My uncle is buried out West. I try and visit his grave when I can.  He made a good life for himself, serving in World War I and coming home to the simple life of a farmer, homesteader.  He was 84 when he died, on his motorcycle. Not in a crash, but from his heart simply ceasing to beat as he raced down the road about a zillion miles an hour, a giant grin on his face. 84, an age others were in their rocking chairs. 

He had never married,  had no children. Dad said by the time he was ready to settle down, he was well into middle age and all the girls were long since married.  So he simply continued about his business, living a somewhat unconventional life to the hilt.
When he died no one stepped forward to bury him.  Grandma had passed, no one else in his immediate family would claim the black sheep of the family, but my Father did.

Dad never put "rules" on how someone should live for them to be family, heart and spirit was all that mattered. Dad remembered well the Uncle who gave him his first rifle at age 8, who told him stories about honor and battle, the man who lived the life he wanted to without apology, one of hard work and self sufficiency. So even though Dad had the bills of a young, growing family to pay, he paid to have Uncle R. brought to the nearest military cemetary for a burial with the consideration and respect he was due as a veteran, with family there to hear the taps.

I don't really remember him, I was too young.  I wish I did.  Dad said he'd have liked me, and I know I would have liked him. All I can do now is bring him a handful of sunflowers to be placed among all the many bare soldiers graves on this peaceful hillside.

I've been in Indiana a while, and  plan on building, from plans, my next and hopefully, final home up north in Amish country, close enough I can drive to visit friends in the cities near here and commute to work but far enough away that goblins won't raid the shop that will be bigger than my cottage. I love this state and I don't see myself leaving.

Besides, how could I leave a place where you can get a lifetime Concealed Carry Permit AND the State Pie is made of sugar and cream.

Yes, a State Pie, just as states have a State Flower (Peony)and a State Bird. After driving interstate 65 work I'd say the State Bird is the Orange Cone.

The Sugar Cream Pie -  the treat that's on almost every table at a potluck, the secret Hoosier Handshake, that simple dessert that everyone has a favorite recipe for.

The local origins likely lie with the Amish or Quaker families of Indiana who created it in pioneer days. It's popular in Pennsylvania  Dutch country and versions of it exist all over (such as the  Quebec Sugar Cream Pie). It's something the thrifty could make when the apple bin was empty with ingredients every farm kitchen had.  It's so popular that the Indiana Foodways Allaiance has even created a  a "Hoosier Pie Trail" with must-stop eateries for visitors looking to try their state pie and Indiana family owned Wick's Pies ships them to more than 25 states. 

The Range is not on the official pie trail, but we make a decent pie. There are many variations but they are all similar, you need cream, sugar and something to bind them together.  Some use flour, some use cornstarch.  Some mix the dry ingredients and liquids directly in the pastry with the fingers, some cook on the stove and finish both pie and crust in the oven.  A few are egg based, but those tend to be a little more temperamental.  This recipe uses no eggs.  Like anything made out in farm country, the secret is using the freshest ingredients possible.

Topped with  Cinnamon and/or freshly grated Nutmeg, it's even better on the second day.  So tomorrow, if anyone stops in off the trail, there will be pie (with only a tiny piece missing) on the table while we raise a toast to friends, family, and Uncle R.C..

Sugar Cream Pie on the Range

Single 9 inch pie crust recipe (the one on the sidebar for apple pie, readers have liked)
3/4 cup vanilla sugar*
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
2 cups half-and-half cream
1/2 cup whipping cream  
3 Tablespoons cornstarch 
1/2 cup sweet cream unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon Saigon Cinnamon
grated fresh Nutmeg (you won't need a whole one).
Combine sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a medium saucepan. Stir in the cream. Cook and stir over medium heat until thickened and bubbly., stirring constantly so it does not burn. Remove from heat. Stir in butter until melted. Stir in brown sugar and vanilla. Pour into pie shell. Sprinkle with cinnamon and a little grated nutmeg (I used a couple teaspoons of the butter and dotted it on the top before baking, but you don't have to). Bake at 325 degrees F about 30 minutes or until edge is bubbly and the piecrust is becoming golden.. Cool completely on a wire rack.  It will always be a bit jiggly but it will set up some as it cools. Serve at room temperature.
* to make vanilla sugar, place the following in an airtight container and let sit 8-14 days. 
- 1 vanilla bean, whole or scraped
- 2 cups granulated sugar 


  1. Missed the 'food pron' warning!


    Looks yummy!


  2. The pie looks outstanding...I need a new keyboard! The Amish country is up around Elkart as I recall. Back when the dinosaurs were still about, we spent some vacation time up there while my Dad was having his motor home serviced at the factory. Beautiful area, great food!

  3. A Friday toast to RC.
    I guess (hope!) I would be the modern equivalent, although several decades younger.
    Thanks for an uplifting Friday blog entry.

  4. GROAN....just looking at that made my A1c go off-scale.

  5. Every family needs a black sheep uncle like your Royal. God bless him, and allow just enough per generation.
    Not too many, that would just be silly, but pour encourager les autres.

  6. Having gone means nothing, I think your uncle does like you, very much. In some ways you are more like him then your father. We... all end up where we are in part through choices, in part through fate and other things. I suppose it is more about how we live, love, than how things turned out... in the worldly sense.

    Num, that pie... Yeah... Thanks for making an ol' dog drool. No, really. I love to drool. *smiles*

  7. Loved your comment about your dad "not having rules on how someone should live for them to be family." We learn so much about how to love when we have such examples.

    Any substitue for vanilla sugar when there's not 8-14 days to make it?

  8. Loved you comment about how your dad had no rules for how someone should live to be accepted as family. We learn so much about how to love with such great examples.

    Do you have a substitute for vanilla sugar? I'd love to try your recipe but don't have 8-14 days!

  9. Guffaw - sorry I didn't give you the early telephone warning system. Hope J's Mom is comfortable and they both are doing OK.

    Bob - there are some neat places around there, I'm going to start scouting land to buy next year, well after the election. The building won't be for a while. I don't want to be in the middle of that while taking care of Dad. He's more important, I have a nice little rental and a crash pad near work, I'm doing fine.

    thecartman - thanks for visiting. I'm sure he appreciated the toast.

    drjim - It's not chocolate frosted sugar bombs but it is indeed sweet and rich, a little slice really satisfies.

    JC - yes indeed.

    Doom - you're wiser than many, thank you for that.

    Bridget - the vanilla sugar is my little touch, the typical pie just uses the same amount of plain sugar. Dad said to tell you hello, he enjoyed the last of the bottle of wine you gave us.

  10. Living next door I never knew about Indiana's State Pie. It sure looks like a winner. :)

    Love the family history. Thanks for sharing.

  11. Curses!

    Another threat to my weight loss program!

    I'll have to give this pie a try in a couple of months.



  12. Having an uncle named Royal Crown Brown really takes the

    I'm headed to the grocery store.

  13. I thought the orange cone was the national flower: blooms in every state, all construction, every summer all summer long!

  14. Thanks for the tip! Although i'd love to lay claim to the wine, you must have a different Bridget in mind! Im relatively new to your blog and have found irony in that we're both redheaded Bridget/Brigids with doctorates who love to cook and shoot! Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  15. How is it that I lived in Indiana most of my life and never knew the state pie was Sugar Cream Pie?? I

  16. leadchucker - you aren't the only one that didn't know, until I kept seeing the ready made ones in the store I'd never seen one, just heard of them from grandma.

    Bridget - I thought the spelling was different but figured I was just tired. Brighid from Brighid's Place brought the wine to my Dad's (her son and his family live real close to my Dad so I get to spend time with her when I'm visiting, she's really a great gal). Thanks for the comment and WELCOME!

    OnaWing - they migrate, I think they winter in Ohio.

    MSgtB - Thanks, listening to the stories has always been fun.

    Lois - you will have to try the pie sometime when you are both on land.

    idahobob - I had a tiny slice yesterday and none yesterday. I love cooking but dessert for me is a small bite or two once a week. It's either that or give up good ale, and that would be hard to do

  17. I'm a sucker for egg custard pie, but this looks yummy. I'd never heard of sitch a thing before today!

  18. Here's a recipe you might try.

  19. I just stumbled upon this recipe on Pinterest and made it as my very first sugar cream pie--- and holy cow. It is awesome. Bless you for not taking it easy on the butter. :)

  20. Dana Dee - welcome to the Range! I'm glad you enjoyed it.

  21. It's a family favorite of ours. We are from Indiana. Thank You, for another Good Recipe. 😀


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