The Retro Pie Contest

For a couple of years now, I’ve wanted to attend Barbara Swell’s Retro Pie Contest but one thing or another kept me from it.  This year–thanks to young Mr. Martin of West Virginia–I had an idea for an unusual pie and I was determined to get to the contest.

Tricky because it was a fraught week–death of a friend, long and stormy return from St Louis, another full day of travel on Thursday, a wedding on the day of the contest.

Still, I thought I could manage it–and I did!

It was Great Fun.  I haven’t uploaded my pics yet so will do that later.  I didn’t win anything but a couple of people who didn’t know me said they liked it and it was mostly eaten at the end of the day.

Here it is–

Smoky Mountain HooDoo Pie

(a fragrant Appalachian egg pie that’ll put a spell on you)

I adapted this recipe from a standard quiche recipe because I wanted to see what ramps and stinging nettles would do to the rich eggy goodness.


(adapted from Mollie Cox Bryan’s wonderful Southern pies book, Mrs. Rowe’s Little Book of Southern Pies)

2 cups Martha White plain flour, sifted with

1 tsp salt

2/3 cup butter-flavored Crisco

About 7 tbsps of ice cold water

Chill the Crisco. Gently work it into the sifted flour and salt mixture. When the fat is incorporated, place the mixing bowl in the freezer for 10 minutes. Then add in the water, one spoon at a time until it easily incorporates into a ball. Put that in the freezer for half an hour. Roll it on a cool board with a cool rolling pin. Move into a 8 or 9 inch pie pan and crimp the edges. Prick the crust with a fork, add a sheet of parchment paper on top and put pie beans on the paper. Bake at 375 for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and take out the beans and paper. Return to oven to parbake until just turning a light golden color. Reduce oven temperature to 350.


Clean and chop a good handful of young ramps—about ¾ cup worth. Put 3 tablespoons of butter in a cast iron pan on low heat and when the butter has melted, add the chopped ramps. Cook them long and slow. After about 10 minutes, add in ½ cup of dried stinging nettle leaf, chopped. Add 1 tablespoon of butter and return to low heat. Cook until nettles are soft and pliable.

Grate ½ cup sharp cheddar cheese

In a bowl, stir up 4-6 large eggs (depending on the size of your pie plate). Add salt and pepper to taste. Add in 1 cup full fat buttermilk and ½ cup of half and half. Stir.

Pour the egg mixture into the parbaked crust. Sprinkle the grated cheese on top. Add the ramps and nettle leaf on top of that and pat it into the egg mixture with a fork.

Bake at 350 for about 45 minutes, until the eggs have set in the middle. Cool.


1 cup sour cream

½ cup full fat buttermilk

3 tablespoons “corn”

Chill before using.

After the pie has cooled to warm, garnish with a dollop of the topping and a little sprig of ramp greens, and serve a slice of pie with a salad. If you don’t have any “corn” or are teetotal, you can do without it in the topping.

Byron Ballard


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