What in the World is Vinegar Pie: Recreating a Historic Recipe



Stumbled across this looking at other resources on the Western History website and am so intrigued! I love how productive the comments section has been and am honestly now curious to try this out just to see :) 'Tis the season for pie baking!

Hi Sarah, thanks for your comment. Our readers are really the best: helping solve mysteries and sharing their own knowledge! I'm planning on trying a few of the comments section suggestions as well. If you do, let us know how it turns out!


You made my night, truly. We have wondered about vinegar cobbler (virtually the same premise) for years - largely due to an obscure reference that popped up in a family history as a favorite. Ten years ago, I stumbled upon a recipe out of Llano, Texas (where said family was from) and thought I'd give it a whirl. 1/2 cup vinegar, 1 1/2 cups sugar, 2 cups water, a pinch of nutmeg and "lots of butter" topped with pie dough later, I had something that tasted like pecan pie without the pecans. Said I, "Why would a family of pecan farmers make something akin to pecan pie without the pecans?" Our family saga continues. It could be that folks during the Great Depression were low on tree nuts...

That's a mystery indeed! Pecan pie is so delightful, I don't think I could bring myself to leave out the pecans. Perhaps, as it was Depression-era, the pecans were strictly for selling.

Thank you for sharing your story, and for your comment!


When I was growing up in Florida, every summer we'd travel to Franklin, NC for a stay in the Smoky Mountains. Along the way on Hwy 441, just south of the NC state line, we'd always stop at an inn in Dillard, GA (not the Dillard House) to have a meal and vinegar pie. This is over 50 years ago and I don't think the inn is there anymore. The vinegar pie had no meringue, had the consistency of a pecan pie without the pecans, and was baked in a top and bottom crust. It was the most delicious pie I've ever had and recipes are few and far between. I have yet to find one just like the one we enjoyed in Dillard.


There are many , many recipes for this pie .. call it Vinegar Pie , Preacher or Pastor Pie or Transparent Pie.. and made correctly it is very good . Some tasting like a key lime ( vinegar used instead or lime or lemon ) , with added raisins or nutmeg ,, as I said many versions .. and not with a store bought graham cracker crust . when trying your hand at an old recipe it is wise to check out and research other recipes of the same name.



I am reading a cookbook right now called The Black Family Reunion and they have a Vinegar Pie labeled as a Heritage Recipe that is pretty neat and quite different than this one. I came across your post as I was trying to research the origins of this one. It doesn't have meringue and uses what looks to be like pumpkin pie type spices, cinnamon, cloves, allspice. It also uses only 2 tablespoons of cider vinegar and only 1 egg. Thought you may find this interesting. Oh and its 350°F for 45 minutes.


Here's a recipe for you to try, if you're not burned out on vinegar pie. I've found folks won't even try this if you call it 'vinegar pie'---so, since it was often made on cattle drives, I renamed it 'cowboy pie.'

Cowboy Pie (aka: Vinegar Pie)
1/3 c. flour
3 t. cider vinegar (must use cider vinegar, gives pie apple taste)
1 T. butter
1 c. sugar
1 t. nutmeg
1 1/2 c. water

Crumble butter and flour together (mix with fork until crumbly). Add sugar and nutmeg then vinegar and water. Stir. Pour into unbaked pie shell. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake until bubbles form on top.

An old timey recipe when folks didn't always have eggs or fruit for desserts. Try it--it's good!


additional info. re: cooking in a Dutch oven--
If you are cooking with a wood instead of charcoal briquettes---here’s
how to tell the temperature of your Dutch oven:
use the back of your hand near the oven counting "one thousand one, one thousand two, etc.---
a count of 6-8 seconds = 200-250 degrees (a "slow" oven)
4-5 seconds = 350 degrees (a "moderate" oven)
2-3 seconds = 400-450 degrees (a "quick or sharp" oven)
1 second = 500+ degrees (and is too hot to cook in)

Or, you can put a teaspoon of flour in a small pan & place into a pre-heated Dutch oven. After 5 minutes:
---if the flour has no color, the oven is less than 300 degrees;
---if it is light-golden brown, the oven is 350 degrees;
---if caramel/darker brown, the oven is 450 degrees;
---if dark brown after 3 minutes, or burned after 5 minutes,
the oven is too hot to cook in.

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