If you couldn’t tell, we’re swimming in blackberries up here. My father doesn’t like them (gasp), so my mom and I have license to do whatever we please with them. My dad had requested a “Grammy Pie” for his birthday week, so we decided to make a blackberry sauce to go on it. But what is Grammy Pie, you ask? It is a graham cracker custard pie that my grandmother was famous for. She made it often for my father when he was growing up, and didn’t stop when we kiddos came along. Unfortunately, until I made this one the other day, I hadn’t had a Grammy Pie since my grandmother passed away over a decade ago. This is mostly due to the fact that she memorized her recipe, leaving no trace of it behind, and, as is the nature of Maine family recipes, hers tasted so, so much better than any imitation pie could. All that said, here’s an imitation recipe. Try it and help my grandmother’s spirit live on!
Graham Cracker Cream Pie
Adapted from Dishing Up Maine by Brooke Dojny. She includes a merengue topping and other additions that are not concurrent with the grammy pie I grew up with.
For the crust:
12 graham cracker sheets
5 tbsp butter, melted
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
For the custard:
1/2 cup sugar
3 tbsp corn starch
1/4 tsp salt
2 cups whole milk
3 egg yolks (separate these out and lightly beat them before you start making the custard…it will make your life easier)
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Pulverize graham crackers with food processor or with a rolling pin in a bag until they resemble coarse sand.
3. Mix in the cinnamon and melted butter and stir until combined. Press into a 9-in pie plate. It will be fairly loose, so you do not need to pre-grease the pie plate.
4. Bake in the oven until toasty, about 5 minutes. Turn the oven off after you take the shell out. You will not need it again.
5. In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, corn starch, and salt, and slowly whisk in the milk until smooth. Turn heat on to medium (Dishing Up Maine says to do medium-high, but I found mine burned very quickly at this heat) and whisk constantly until the mixture boils. Stirring constantly is important because of the whole burning thing. It should begin to thicken quite quickly.
6. After the mixture thickens, turn the heat way down and take the saucepan off of the heat. Add about a third of it to the egg yolks to temper them and then pour the mixture back into the saucepan.
7. Stir in the vanilla and whisk constantly until the mixture boils again (at the low heat, you should be able to avoid burning).
8. Pour the mixture into the pie plate. If you wish to prevent a (perfectly normal, tasty, and harmless) skin from forming, immediately clap on a piece of plastic wrap. Allow the pie to cool, and the custard should set up. I find the pie tastes best chilled, so I refrigerate it.
Blackberry Sauce (Reduction, Half Jam, whatever you like to call it)
Adapated from Joy of Cooking, 1962 edition
2 cups blackberries, thawed or fresh (should yield about 1 cup juice)
1/2 cup sugar (can be adjusted for sweeter/tarter…this amount was just this side of too sweet for me)
1 tbsp corn starch
1/2 a lemon or lime, juiced
1. Liquefy the berries with a food processor and strain the seeds out using a fine-mesh sieve over a saucepan.
2. Add the sugar and whisk over medium heat.
3. When the mixture is about to boil, add the corn starch and whisk vigorously to combine.
4. Simmer until thickened. This is, of course, subjective, but I followed my cranberry-sauce-making instincts and cooked it until a wooden spoon dipped in the liquid formed two thick drops that hang off the spoon.
5. Remove the pot from the heat and add the citrus juice.