Italy

Tag Archive | "“Eats: A Folk History of Texas Foods”"

Griffin to Go: It’s Oh So Good — and It’s Pie


Fall weather has arrived, and it’s time to change up our pie baking to match the season.

Osgood Pie

Osgood Pie

This is the time of year when we love pies filled with apples, pumpkin or sweet potato, but why stop there? Why not make an Osgood pie?

What, you may ask, is that?

Some cookbooks say to think of a chess pie or vinegar pie with the addition of raisins, nuts and spice in sweet custard. That certainly sounds good, but it somehow shortchanges the uniqueness of this pie. The version I made reminded friends more of a fruitcake pie, only without the hated waxy citron cherries and pineapple.

There was no Osgood, at least so far as culinary history can show. Several cookbook writers, including Betty Furness, call it an oh-so-good pie, which leads many to think Osgood is merely a condensed version of that. That may also explain why this old-fashioned wonder is also known as allgood pie in some quarters, according to The Big Apple, a online compendium of food references.

But no one knows who made the first oh-so-good pie or where. Some legends point to Texas, others merely to some Southern region in which pecans grow.  In the news clippings references on The Big Apple, the earliest mention dates back to neither; it is from the Indianapolis Star in 1911. More mentions arose in the 1920s and 1930s, suggesting but the pie’s popularity seems to have dropped off the charts in the 1950s.

By 1970, the Associated Press’ food editor, Cecily Brownstone, professed she had never heard of the pie, The Big Apple reports. According to an article she wrote that appeared in the Dallas Morning News, “A Greenwich Village restaurant in New York City, specializing in Tex-Mex cuisine, serves an interesting dessert called Osgood Pie. When we first ate the pie there we didn’t remember ever seeing a recipe for it. But searching among our 3,000 cookbooks yielded results: two cookbooks from Texas and one devoted to Southern cookery had versions of the dessert.”

Osgood, or Allgood, Pie

Osgood, or Allgood, Pie

In my own collection, I found five versions of Osgood Pie in cookbooks as diverse as Morton G. Clark’s “The Wide, Wide World of Texas Cooking” and “We Make You Kindly Welcome,” a collection of Shaker recipes from Pleasant Hill, Kentucky.  Both books appeared in 1970, the same year as Brownstone’s article. Furness included Oh-So-Good Pie in her widely used 1954 “The Betty Furness Westinghouse Cookbook,” and Woman’s Day offered a version in its 1978 collection, “Old-Fashioned Desserts.”

The 1989 “Eats: A Folk History of Texas Foods,” by Ernestine Sewell Linck and Joyce Gibson Roach, offers no background on the pie, but the authors do make this observation: “Any of the molasses, raisin, chess, Osgood pies and their like — sticky, syrupy, often open-faced — could be called ‘shoo-fly pies,’ so called because of the worrisome winged visitors that came to the table uninvited. The children were given white cloths that they waved about to keep flies off the food.”

They also quote a 1941 article from Virginia Walker on “Pie Suppers in East Texas” that sheds a little light on why Osgood pie was so highly regarded in the Depression era: “The people who lived a cut above the folk would bring some pie with a store-bought ingredient like raisins or coconut.” It was a rare treat at a time when most people had to make do with what they had. It’s still a rare treat that’s worth the time it takes to make it.

Below are two variations on Osgood pie to get you started. I made the version from Woman’s Day, which came together easily, except I don’t have an 8-inch pie pan, so the filling in mine was a bit thin. No one seemed to mind it, especially when topped with whipped cream.

Few recipes for this dessert are alike, though most use raisins and pecans mixed with eggs, sugar and butter. Several versions add dates. Some call for vinegar, others for lemon juice. As for the spices, the choice of cinnamon, nutmeg or cloves is up to you. I may add different dried fruits, such as cherries or cranberries, the next time I make one. Or you could add chocolate chips, which is what a friend told me she expected when she saw the dark pieces in the pie filling before learning they were raisins; it may not be old-fashioned, but it would be oh so good.

Texas Osgood Pie

1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
3 eggs, separated
1 cup pecans
1 cup pitted, cut-up dates
1/2 cup white raisins
1 pinch salt
1 (9-inch) unbaked pie shell

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Cream butter and sugar and beat in the egg yolks. Fold in nuts, dates, raisins and salt. Beat egg whites until stuff and fold into the mixture. Turn into pie shell and bake until done (about 45 minutes). Serve hot or cold.

Makes 6 or 8 servings.

From “The Wide, Wide World of Texas Cooking” by Morton G. Clark

Woman’s Day’s Osgood Pie

Sugar, raisins, pecans and spices are stirred in the batter.

Sugar, raisins, pecans and spices are stirred in the batter.

“Though the origin of this pie is unknown, recipes occasionally appear in regional cookbooks of Southern states where pecans are grown,” according to Barbara Myers in the 1978 cookbook, “Woman’s Day Old-Fashioned Desserts.” “The chewy filling, which includes raisins as well as nuts, has a thin, crisp meringue crust that develops while baking.” I thoroughly and gently folded the entire mass of egg whites into the dough and it formed no meringue on mine.

2 egg yolks
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons melted butter
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cloves
2 teaspoons vinegar
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup chopped raisins
2 egg whites
1 (8-inch) unbaked pie crust

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Beat the egg yolks slightly. Add the sugar, melted butter, cinnamon cloves and vinegar. Blend well. Add the pecans and raisins. Mix well.

Beat the egg whites until stiff, then fold in.

Turn the filling into the pie crust and spread evenly. Bake in oven for 30 to 35 minutes, or until set. The egg whites will rise to the top, forming a thin crust. To test the filling, insert a toothpick halfway between the outer crust and the center; it should come out clean. Also, when done, the meringue will pull slightly away from the rest of the pie.

Cool on a rack and serve warm or at room temperature. Cut with a thin, sharp knife to avoid crumbling the meringue crust.

Makes 6 or 8 servings.

From “Woman’s Day Old-Fashioned Desserts” by Barbara Myers

Posted in Cookbooks, Griffin to GoComments Off on Griffin to Go: It’s Oh So Good — and It’s Pie

Griffin to Go: On the Trail of Slang Jang


When Bonnie Walker and I were driving across the state to research our new book, “Barbecue Lover’s Texas” (Globe Pequot Press, $21.95), we learned about Texas culinary treats that went far beyond brisket and the pit. One was a dish that bore the odd name of slang jang.

Slang Jang made with fresh ingredients.

Slang Jang made with fresh ingredients.

I never encountered it at a barbecue joint. I came across it, instead, in the “Eats: A Folk History of Texas Foods,” by Ernestine Sewell Linck and Joyce Gibson Roach. It was in a chapter on Central Texas foods, and the authors included a recipe but little context, except to say it was part of a proper Sunday dinner and was served over peas. Not green peas, mind you, but cream peas or black-eyed peas.

The recipe looked good, really good. It was a mix of items fresh from the garden, including tomato, green pepper, celery and onion dressed in vinegar and a little hot pepper.

I wanted to learn more, so I turned to the Internet. That’s when things started to get weird.

Mary Anne Thurman, in a post on the northeastern town of Honey Grove, Texas, said the dish originated with a bunch of men in a grocery store who just started mixing things together. Their recipe didn’t include too many fresh ingredients, as her recipe illustrates:

Mix undrained canned tomatoes with chopped dill pickles and chopped onion to taste.  Add a can of oysters, chopped.  Add Tabasco, salt and pepper to taste.  Add ice cubes to chill.  Serve with saltine crackers.

Many people vary this recipe.  Some add canned salmon or Vienna sausage in place of the oysters, or in addition to the oysters.

Thurman goes on to offer a vegetarian version that included crumbled saltines to thicken the mix.

Really? No, really?

No answers were forthcoming in September 2006 article in the Dallas Morning News, in which Angie Rhodes of another northeastern town, Malakoff, talks about the dish. But she did add a hyphen to the name:

“My dad grew up in a small town in northeast Texas in the ‘30s. During warm months, families in the community would come together on Saturday nights to visit and play dominoes. Each would bring an ingredient that would be mixed in a giant washtub for dinner. It was a sort of cold stew called ‘slang-jang.’ The ingredients were canned salmon, oysters, green onions, dill pickles, Vienna sausages and canned tomatoes.”

The recipes began to vary wildly, too, such as the Oxmoor House version, which calls for three tins of oysters mixed with three heads of cabbage, apples and hard-boiled eggs. Recipe Binder‘s version calls for tequila, Dijon mustard and barbecue sauce in addition to the tomatoes, onions and peppers, and you can use it on “burgers, dogs and sausages.”

The articles on slang jang go back to the Lawrence Journal-World of 1922, which describes the dish as “neither liquid salad nor chop suey, but a combination with a Mexican piquancy and a sufficient relish to satisfy a healthy appetite.” It goes on to quote a newspaper publisher’s wife, Mrs. J.R. Ransone Jr. of the Dallas area town of Cleburne, as being “a square meal, which will put so much pep in a person that he will feel he has supped from the fountain of youth, for what one ingredient fails to give, another furnishes fully.”

Ransone’s recipe includes a host of canned and preserved items, including oysters, tomatoes, sweet pickle and Tabasco as well as saltines.

The article does make a veiled reference to another legend about the recipe’s origin, which is that those men in that grocery store Thurman referred to were actually a bunch of guys who tied one on and wanted something to ease their hangover. That would explain the mix of ready-to-eat foods easily grabbed off shelves, from oysters to tomatoes, and the welcome touch of something spicy, which can help take the edge off.

So, is slang jang something made with canned goods or fresh foods? Of course, it’s made however you want to make it. No two recipes are alike. It is what you want to make it.

But that didn’t stop my research. In fact, it made me want to find other variations. So, I turned to my collection of community cookbooks from across Texas. No mentions of slang jang were found in any of cookbooks from towns west of the Piney Woods, but it was fairly common in those from East Texas. That sent me to the Deep South to see what I could find. Sure enough, there’s a version in the hefty “The Cotton Country Collection” from the Junior Charity League of Monroe, Louisiana.

Not all of these community cookbooks were easy to search. Not all have an index at the back, so I found myself leafing leaf through volume after volume to see if a slang jang recipe might be tucked in among appetizers (usually the version with smoked oysters) or grouped with relishes, pickles, condiments or accompaniments, which means it you might find it categorized with recipes for spicy broiled grapefruit, cherry sauce for ham, mustard pickled relish and even barbecue sauce.

But several of these recipes did feature another odd ingredient, Accent, otherwise known as monosodium glutamate, or MSG. Do you really want that in your food? That’s up to you.

Part of the fun of such research is experimentation, so I tried several of the recipes, including the oyster combination. It may sound bad and it lacked visual appeal, but it worked as a snack and the flavors blended together surprisingly well. I wouldn’t eat a lot of it, but I also wouldn’t try it with salmon and most definitely not Vienna sausages. I preferred the fresh version, such as the one in the recipe below. It is great by itself on a saltine or over black-eyed peas. That’s slang jang to me.

Mama Perkin’s Slang Jang

If you have a dish that needs a little zip, slang jang will do it. It’s traditionally served over freshly cooked purple-hull or black-eyed peas or butter beans.

2 fresh tomatoes, finely chopped
1/2 medium bell pepper, finely chopped
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
2-3 hot peppers, seeded and finely chopped
1 to 1 1/2 cups cider vinegar
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste

Combine vegetables in a medium bowl. Add vinegar, salt and pepper, and mix well. Refrigerate.

Makes about 3 cups.

From “More Tastes & Tales From Texas With Love” by Peg Hein

 

Posted in Griffin to GoComments (2)