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Nannie Davis' Southern Buttermilk Pie

You've heard me write about Nannie Davis in the past. I think of her every time I eat southern food, hear a southern accent, shuck corn, string beans and see vine-ripened tomatoes.

In short, I think of her a lot.

Nannie Davis was 91 years old when she passed away. I knew her a sum total of 1-1/2 years and she completely and irrevocably touched my life. Because family are relations by blood but sometimes if you get very lucky, the family are relations by bond. People who adopt you into their fold. The most unlikely of people who at the most unlikely of times invite you into their lives and engulf you in their warmth. It doesn't matter that she's a 91 to your 30.

This is your tribe.

She was our neighbor that year and a half. And the walls between our homes disappeared. We cooked together, sat on the back porch and shucked corn, sipped icy cold lemonade, swapped recipes and did Lowe's runs together.

She also braved my uber spicy curries & Jambalaya - bless her heart!

People always looked at us funny when we were together. I guess they thought what an odd pair we made and we often chuckled about that. I guess they couldn't quite tell how we were related!

She was with me for almost my entire pregnancy with my first son. Unfortunately, she passed away a week before I gave birth and never met him.

She did however leave me with many many precious gifts - an invaluable friendship with her granddaughter Beth who selflessly cared for her and lived with her and whom I love dearly.

She taught me everything I know about true Southern food - she'd always remind me that she grew up on a farm in North Carolina and they had to raise their own chickens and grow their own vegetables and that I needed to learn how to do it right with all the fixin's.

And boy did she teach me how to make her pies. Like her Million Dollar Pie.

And this gorgeous, custardy, lemony, rich and creamy buttermilk pie.

"The secret is lemon zest" she'd always say "that and love & homemade pie crust".

"Yes ma'am!"

So here's to Nannie Davis and to wonderful moments and people that life gifts us. To the many nameless people who touch our lives in myriad ways, who sacrifice for us, who do the right thing at the worse of times because they represent the very best of our humanity.

And to pie.



Recipe for Nannie Davis' Southern Buttermilk Pie

Makes 1 qty 9" pie

Shopping list:

Pie crust:

1-1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1 stick chilled butter cut into chunks

2 tbs chilled vegetable shortening

1 large egg

1/2 tsp salt

1 tbs sugar

1-1/2 to 2 tbs chilled water


1-1/2 cups buttermilk

4 large eggs

1-1/2 cups sugar

2 tbs flour

zest of 1 lemon

1 tsp lemon emulsion (if using)

2 tsp pure Vanilla extract

1/2 cup unsalted butter - melted and cooled

1/2 tsp salt

Also required is a 9" pie dish - use one a good quality one like Emile Henry for uniform baking

Method: Pre-heat the oven to 325 deg F.

Pie crust :

In a food processor fitted with a metal blade, add the all-purpose flour,  cold butter chunks, vegetable shortening, egg, sugar & salt.

Pulse for about 20 seconds to combine to a texture of soft breadcrumbs.

Add 1-1/2 tbs chilled water and pulse for about 25 seconds until a ball has formed. Remove from the food processor.

Flatten the dough ball into a smooth disk and wrap in plastic cling wrap. Freeze for about 15 minutes.


Butter : In a microwave-safe bowl melt the butter and set aside to cool.

In a large mixing bowl, crack the eggs, discarding the shells. Whisk to combine.

Zest the lemon and add to the mixing bowl. Add the vanilla extract, lemon extract & flour. Whisk to combine.

Also add the buttermilk, sugar, and melted butter. Whisk until the mixture is combined. Set aside.

Liberally flour a clean working surface with about 1/4 cup all-purpose flour.

Roll out the dough evenly, giving a quarter-turn as you go, to a diameter 2-1/2" larger than the base of the pie dish.

Roll the pie dish onto the rolling pin and unroll onto the pie dish centering as much as possible.

Using cream hands, gently press the pie crust onto the bottom and sides of the dish to remove air bubbles.

Pour the filling into the pie dish. Using a knife, trim the edges of the pie crust. Using a knuckle as a guide, pinch the edges of the pie crust for decorative edging.

Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes. Protect the edge with aluminum pie edgers or aluminum foil to prevent burning the crust on the edges.

Increase the oven temperature to 350 deg F and continue baking for another 50-60  minutes.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool for at least 30-45 minutes before cutting into the pie.

Serve at room temperature or refrigerate to chill.




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