1 cup sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
2 tablespoons cornmeal
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup finely shredded sauerkraut (drained, if necessary)
1 10-inch graham cracker crust
Preheat oven to 350. In a large bowl, whisk together the sugars and cornmeal. Add the buttermilk, milk, eggs, and vanilla. Mix until well combined. Fold in the sauerkraut. Pour into prepared crust and bake for 45 minute or until “set” (even in the very center) and lightly browned. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack.
The other day I received a tweet from a former Baltimorean asking if I had ever had sauerkraut cream pie. My response was a disappointed “no” but I can’t say that anymore! Unlike some sauerkraut “pies” I’ve come across before, the sauerkraut cream pie is sweet, not savory. I love sauerkraut and am always interested in hearing about new ways to use it so I knew I had to make this pie. The origins of the sauerkraut cream pie is a bit murky but it seems to hail from the midwest where perhaps it won a contest at a sauerkraut festival. Or maybe it was an Amish recipe. No one seems to know. If I had to guess, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was one of those budget and ration-stretching wartime recipes that used unexpected ingredients in place of ingredients, like in this case, I’d bet coconut, they were unable to get. The finished product is very similar texture to a coconut cream pie. If you know more about the origins of the pie, let me know in the comments.
She found a recipe in an old Baltimore Sun article and further googling uncovered a few more recipes but they all appeared to be the same. The few people who appeared to have actually made the pie seemed to find the recipe lacking: too little sauerkraut, a funny texture or the recipe made too much. Even though I hadn’t had the pie before from the recipe and descriptions I could tell it was basically a chess pie with sauerkraut added. My source also said she remembered it tasting sort of like a buttermilk pie, which also pointed towards a chess pie, which tastes very similarly.
Since I couldn’t find a satisfactory recipe, I set out to create my own ultimate sauerkraut cream pie. Chess pies are made with milk, eggs, cornmeal and an acidic ingredient like lemon juice or vinegar. I didn’t need to use an acidic ingredient because I was using sauerkraut. I wanted to add a bit of additional depth to the flavor to help balance the robust sauerkraut so I used buttermilk and brown sugar. Both chess pie and sauerkraut pie are traditionally made with a pastry crust but I thought it might be tasty and lighter in a graham cracker crust. I just used a store-bought crust because I didn’t have graham crackers on hand and even buying a fancy organic graham crust was cheaper than a box of graham crackers or crumbs and I’d still have to make make the pie. Save yourself a bit of effort, especially if you’d use store-bought graham crackers anyway. It doesn’t make a difference in this pie.
As for the taste? Not sour or salty at all.It is sweet with a hint of vanilla and very creamy. One could even call it “Mock Coconut Pie”. Everyone who tasted it, guessed it was a coconut cream pie.