Old-Fashioned Raisin Meringue Pie Recipe (Funeral Pie Recipe))

18-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Wednesday, November 19, 1913:  Ditto

raisin meringue pie (funeral pie)

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Huh???? The previous day Grandma wrote “nothing much,” so I guess that it was another slow day from Grandma’s perspective; but two days prior to this entry Grandma’s maternal grandfather, John Derr, died in the nearby town of Turbotville.

I hope no one’s upset, but  I broke a rule I have and peaked ahead in the diary–Rules are made to be broken, aren’t they?—so I know that Grandma will attend his funeral on November 21.

Perhaps Grandma wasn’t doing much, but I bet that friends and neighbors were preparing food to serve for the traditional family gathering after the funeral.

Were they making funeral pies? In the old days in Pennsylvania, raisin pies were often served at funerals and they were called funeral pie.

I’ve seen other blogs that give recipes for a funeral pie that is basically just a two-crust raisin pie.  But my memory is that old-fashioned raisin pies in central Pennsylvania generally were raisin custard pies with a meringue topping, so I’ll give you that recipe.

Old Raisin Meringue Pie (Funeral Pie) Recipe

1 cup raisins

water

1 tablespoon flour

1 tablespoon corn starch

3/4 cup sugar

1 cup milk

2 egg yolks, slightly beaten

2 egg whites

1 9-inch pie shell, baked

Put raisins in small sauce pan, and just barely cover with water. Bring to a boil, then remove from heat and cool. Drain the cooled raisins. Stir the flour, corn starch, and sugar into the raisins; then add the milk and egg yolks. Stir and cook over medium heat until the mixture thickens (comes to a boil). Pour into a pie shell which was previously baked.

In a separate bowl make the meringue. Place egg whites in the bowl, and beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Then spoon on top of the pie. Bake at 350° for 15 minutes or until the meringue is lightly browned.

This pie is different from the typical modern pie, but I really like it. I want to say that this pie will appeal to sophisticated palates—but somehow that doesn’t quite seem right when I’m talking about an old-fashioned food from rural Pennsylvania.

The delicate custard filling has a subtle and nuanced raisin flavor. And, the juicy plumped raisins provide a nice texture contrast to the smooth custard and the airy meringue.

I’m definitely going to make this pie again—and I don’t plan to wait until a funeral to serve it.

26 Responses

  1. How interesting that there was a special pie for funerals.

  2. Never knew there was a funeral pie…!
    I was a little surprised at Grandma’s use of the word “ditto” (perhaps she’s used it before in her diary, and I had forgotten). It just seems like a more modern word.
    I’m sure they were having lots of company and food – including pies.

    • She’s used it a couple of times previously–though like you– it always surprises me. I tend to associate ditto with talk radio, but it apparently was around long before that.

  3. I have an old recipe from my wife’s grandmother for rhubarb custard pie. It uses the same basic ingredients, but for raisins. I make two or three a year. Add some strawberry to the rhubarb. Serve warm with ice cream on the side. mmmmmmmmm…

    • I love rhubarb. The pie sounds delicious.

      I recently was browsing through some old cook books and noticed that there were a lot more cream/custard pie recipes years ago than what there are in modern cookbooks . . . raspberry cream pie, blueberry custard pie, elderberry custard pie, etc.

  4. I think you’re correct is saying this would appeal to sophisticated palates–it’s a sophisticated blend of textures and ingredients. Our grandparents’ palates were quite sophisticated–especially when compared to the bland homogenous white-flour/white-sugar/salt/corn processed-food diet that makes up the mainstay of American eating. Grandparents, on the other hand, ate a wide variety of foods (many home-grown, home processed, home made, and/or hunted/gathered), and they ate seasonally.

    • That makes sense. I’ve also noticed that the recipes from our grandparent’s era often require fewer ingredients than many modern recipes.

  5. Oh, I’m sorry, but no raisins for me, thanks. Interesting, though, in theory. You peeked! haha, I would be peeking all the time.

    • Sometimes I wish that I’d look ahead more than I do. For example, when I was doing all those posts on husking corn earlier this fall I did a post where I estimated how many bushels she’d husked based on her comments about how many wagons she’d filled, then a few days later she wrote how many bushels she’d husked and my estimate wasn’t even close to what she actually did. . . oops.

  6. I sometimes wonder what your Grandma would’ve written if she knew we would be reading it today? Would she include more? or less? Perhaps more details on things she thought would interest us. This entry being so short, maybe she was feeling a bit sad, especially for her Mom. Just wondering.

    • I also think that she probably would have tried to provide more details about things that she thought would interest us. (It would be interesting to know what she might have thought that we’d be interested in.) But, at the same time, the authenticity and naturalness that make the diary special would have been lost.

  7. I’m not a big fan of cooked raisins but I love custard pies so maybe . . . I lived in central PA for several years–they have some interesting, unusual foods!

  8. Thanks for this version of raisin pie. I haven’t had raisin pie in years!

  9. Yummy…but a renaming of the pie would be good! Got curious about the word ‘ditto’ too and apparently it has Latin origins and has been around since the 17th century !

  10. I’m going to have to try this, maybe for Thanksgiving, but probably not for a funeral!

  11. I have never seen this pie before :D oh that sounded like I was being accused of eating it, LOL. But I guess it might be a recipe unique to your area?

  12. funeral pie will not work in the chinese community. i have to rename it to something more auspicious if serving this delicious looking pie :D

  13. I’ve never heard of a funeral pie before. I wonder if it has another name? It sounds way to delicious to only eat at funerals!

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