Canadian Thanksgiving was this past weekend, and I was feeling a little nostalgic. My father’s birthday, October 12th, always fell on, or close to the holiday. If he were here, what would I make for him on this special day?Raisin pie. Yes, it’s an old-fashioned dessert that might be an acquired taste. It was one of Dad’s favorites. I can’t remember the last time I had raisin pie, and I have never baked one before today. I had to do considerable research to find just the right recipe. There are many variations on the theme of raisin pie; some modern versions are more like a raisin-studded custard pie. Mine is the original: lots of raisins, cooked with water, cornstarch, sugar, spices, and vinegar, and baked in a double crust pie. I made a few simple changes to amplify the flavor and balance the sweetness of the pie. Mine has a fifty-fifty mix of dark and golden raisins, the addition of candied ginger, warm spices, and lemon and orange zest. After I rinsed and plumped the raisins in a warm water bath, I gave them a little sprinkle of single malt Scotch. The pie’s flavor is reminiscent of mincemeat, and a scoop of vanilla ice cream is the perfect addition. I think Dad would approve.
Old-Fashioned Raisin Pie
- Your favorite pastry recipe, for a double crust pie (I used all-butter pastry)
- 1½ cups dark raisins
- 1½ cups golden raisins
- Single Malt Scotch whisky or dark rum (optional)
- 2 cups of cold water
- 2½ tablespoons cornstarch
- ¾ cup granulated sugar
- 3 tablespoons cider vinegar
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
- ½ teaspoon finely grated orange zest
- ¼ cup finely minced candied ginger
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 tablespoon milk or cream
- Vanilla ice cream, for serving
- Roll out half of the pastry and fit it into a 9-inch pie plate. Trim the overhang to ½-inch beyond the rim of the plate. Place the pie shell in the refrigerator while you make the filling.
- Place the raisins in a wide, shallow bowl and cover with lukewarm water. Let stand for 10 minutes, then drain through a sieve and return to the bowl. If you like, sprinkle the raisins with some Scotch or rum (just a teaspoon or two).
- In a medium, heavy saucepan mix the raisins with the water, cornstarch, sugar, vinegar, salt, spices, butter, citrus zests, and candied ginger. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat and simmer for two to three minutes. The mixture will be thick so stir constantly to avoid scorching. Remove from the heat and allow to cool to lukewarm. While the raisin filling is cooling, heat the oven to 425°F.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolk and milk or cream. Quickly roll out the other half of your pastry to an approximately 11-inch round. Pour the raisin filling into the chilled pie shell and smooth the top. Brush a little of the egg yolk mixture on the edge of the lower pie crust and place the top crust over the filling, pressing the edges together. Trim the edges even with the lower crust and turn under; firmly crimp the edges of the pie crust. Brush the top crust with the egg yolk mixture and cut several decorative vents in the surface of the pie crust.
- Place the pie, on a large baking sheet, in the preheated oven and bake for 20 minutes. Lower the heat to 375°F and continue baking, until the pie is handsomely golden brown and the filling bubbles through the vents; this will take about an additional 30 minutes. Cover the pie crust edge if it seems to be getting too brown before the pie is completely done.
- Remove the baked pie to a rack to cool. Serve warm, or at room temperature, with vanilla ice cream.