Jule Ann (formerly Jefferson Davis)

Jule Ann (formerly Jefferson Davis)

Ugh. I haven’t even baked this pie, and I already hate it. First, a disclaimer: I am a white, Southern man with ancestors who fought for the CSA. Three-quarters of my blood comes from North Carolina and south, dating back to Revolutionary times. (The other from Illinois.) I grew up eating sweet potato pie, home-grown, -picked, -canned green beans, and cornbread cooked in an iron skillet. Over my 43 years, I’ve spent less than three of them north of the Mason-Dixon. Basically, I’ll put my Southern bona fides against anyone’s. And like Patterson Hood, I recognize being Southern is a complicated dance of cognitive dissonance.

But I work in Charlottesville. I know that statue of Lee was probably put up to remind blacks “of their place.” The rebel flag was added to state flags in protest integration. And as a culture we haven’t confronted the enormity of everything that went down over the centuries.

So, I’ll address the name of this pie. It’s named after the president of a bunch of traitors, who lost a war defending their right to own other people. Jefferson Davis Pie. I honestly cringe when I type that. So that’ll be the last time I do. Jesse Farrar at Deadspin has a lovely little write-up about him and the pie.

The pie, like so much Southern food, is attributed to a slave cook. (I didn’t verify the veracity of the claim, but then we’re talking about a pie named for the president of a rebellious nation based on white-supremacy so who f’ing cares.) So from here on out, I’m naming it Jule Ann pie.

The pie itself is in the transparent/chess family—butter creamed with sugar, thickened with eggs, and made rich with some dairy. It’s akin to the pecan pie, the coconut chess, the Kentucky transparent pie. This one is a little more unique in that Jule Ann, the enslaved cook, added spices, pecans, raisins, and dates, reserved the egg whites and topped the finished pie with meringue. I haven’t baked it yet, but it the holidays, and it sounds fitting.

Post-Bake

The pie was surprisingly good. Between the dates, two cups of brown sugar, and a meringue, it was a bit too sweet. I can see making this again, but cutting the brown sugar by a half cup and doing a 1:1 meringue. It could use a little more salt, too.

Also, while researching this, I came up the amazing Southern Culture, a quarterly academic journal dedicated to us.

Ingredients

Pastry

  • 9” blind baked pie shell

Filling

  • 2C brown sugar, lightly packed

  • ½C Butter

  • 1tsp cinnamon

  • 1tsp nutmeg

  • ½tsp allspice

  • ⅛tsp salt

  • 4 Yolks

  • 2Tbls Flour

  • 1C Heavy Cream

  • ½C Chopped Dates

  • ½C Chopped Pecans

  • ½C Raisins

Topping

  • Your favorite meringue with the whites. I prefer a Swiss meringue with a 3:2 ratio of whites to sugar by weight.

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350˚.

  2. Lightly cream the butter, brown sugar, spices, and salt in a bowl.

  3. Incorporate the egg yolks, one by one, into the butter-sugar mixture.

  4. Stir cream into the butter-sugar mix.

  5. Fold the dates, pecans, and raisins into the filling.

  6. Pour into the blind baked pastry shell.

  7. Bake at 350˚ for 40-50 minutes till filling souffles up. The filling will firm up as it cools.

  8. Remove and cool. Once near room temp, top with meringue, toast, and finish cooling.

  9. Best with a black cup of coffee.