A few days ago, a person who shall remain nameless sent me a recipe for Shoo-fly Pie. This nameless person has a blog, and she lives in Pennsylvania. She’s very proud of her Pennsylvania heritage, especially the Pennsylvania Dutch. However, I don’t think she’s Pennsylvania Dutch. No, I think she’s ferhoodled.
Shoo-fly Pie is thought to have originated from the Pennsylvania Dutch shortly after the Civil War. At first it was a molasses crumb cake. But it evolved into a molasses crumb pie, after cast iron cookware and stoves became popular, and people abandoned the practice of cooking over a hearth. Apparently, cast iron was needed for making pie crusts.
Shoo-fly Pie gets its name from a brand of molasses from Philadelphia in the 1800s. In turn, this brand got its name from Shoofly the Boxing Mule, who was a popular circus animal that toured Pennsylvania in the 19th Century. And the mule itself was named after the song, Shoo Fly, Don’t Bother Me, which became a popular minstrel show song in the 1860s.
The person who shall remain nameless actually sent this recipe to my wife, and not me. You see, I’ve been teasing this nameless person for several years about Shoo-fly Pie, implying that it’s made from swarms of those pesky, black, flying insects we often find ourselves waving off.
Carolyn Shelton, er, I mean the nameless person, whose blog is at https://joyroses13.wordpress.com/, thought it would be amusing to send the recipe to my wife. She wanted my wife to bake it on the sly, without telling me what kind of pie it was until after I ate it. Then if I admitted I liked it, the joke would be on me.
But alas, this practical joke has fallen into more pieces than Carolyn’s scattered syntax in one of her typical posts. My wife had no interest in baking any pies. My wife is not the pie-baking type, you see, unless it’s one of those frozen types you buy from the supermarket.
However, I’ve been known to bake a few pies from scratch. Therefore, the arduous task fell upon me to bake this goddamned pie. And by baking it, I became acutely aware of each and every frickin’ ingredient that went inside it. So the joke is on Carolyn, I suppose.
And in fact, this recipe was not for one, but for two of these infernal pies. So two jokes are on Carolyn. Ha-ha, Carolyn!
Well, I got off my lazy ass and went ahead and baked them. And I must admit they taste heavenly. So I would like to share the recipe, in case anyone else would like to try the Pasty Pride of Pennsylvania, Shoo-fly Pie.
Ingredients: Actually, there are two sets of ingredients. One is for making a crumb mixture, and the other is for making a syrup mixture, as follow:
Crumb Mixture Ingredients
2 cups flour (I used all-purpose flour).
3/4 cup brown sugar.
1/3 cup butter.
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg.
1 teaspoon cinnamon.
About 100 or so dead, dewinged flies.
Syrup Mixture Ingredients
1 cup molasses.
1/2 cup brown sugar.
1 cup hot water. (Get it hotter than your warmest tapwater. Stick it in the microwave and nuke it ’til it boils like a water hole at Yosemite.)
1 teaspoon baking soda (which you dissolve in the hot water just as soon as you take it out of the microwave).
2 unbaked pie crusts are also needed. The recipe says these should be 8″ pie crusts. But the supermarket only sells 9″ pie crusts, so that’s what I used, and they seemed to work fine. In fact, I think if I had used 8″ pie crusts, they would have caused the ingredients to overflow into the oven while baking. When I filled the crusts, the level came up about 3/4 from the bottom to the top. But while baking, the ingredients rose to be level with the top.
I bought two Keebler Ready Crust Graham Pie Crusts. I don’t know if they were baked or unbaked, because the packaging didn’t indicate one way or the other. But I imagine they were baked, or how else could they be sold unrefrigerated, sitting on a store shelf? Nonetheless, the crust came out of the oven okay.
My calculations indicate that these ingredients will produce 2,400 calories per pie.
First, spend about an hour looking high and low in the kitchen and pantry, for the ingredients you’ll need. Cuss a lot, then finally ask your wife for some help locating the stuff. Then scrawl out a shopping list of the ingredients you still need.
Next, head to the supermarket and race your shopping cart up one aisle and down the other, frantically searching for the items on your list, so you can get the hell out of the store as soon as possible. Stores are the pits.
Curse under your breath a lot. Stop other shoppers and ask for help. Scratch your head in puzzlement when some seem to avoid you and scurry away as soon as you make eye contact and draw closer. Oh yeah, Covid.
Once you have everything on your list, wait in the long, dreaded line to purchase your items from the cashier. Or, shoplift them if you’re too impatient to wait. If you get caught, bribe the security guard with a $20 bill.
Get home and decide that you’re too tired, and need a nap, and that you’ll make the pie tomorrow.
The next morning, realize that you forgot to put eggs on your shopping list, the day before. Sigh mournfully and loudly until your wife takes pity and goes to the store to buy the eggs, for you.
They don’t sell dead flies at the supermarket, so while your wife is out buying the eggs, grab a flyswatter and head over to the Porta-Potty at the construction site where they’re building a house down the street.
My experience tells me that it only takes about 15 minutes to swat all the flies you’ll need, if the Porta-Potty is ripe for the pumping. The tedious part is pulling off all the wings. You don’t want any wings in your pie mixture, as they stick to the roof of your mouth, and sometimes cram between your teeth, requiring lots of gouging and digging with a toothpick to get the frigging little bastards out.
Now you’re ready for some pie-making.
Mix the crumb ingredients together, in a moderately-sized bowl. I used a big ol’ spoon, and was careful to swat down the big lumps, turning them into smaller, crumb-sized lumps. I got a lot of swatting practice while catching the flies. By the way, the dead flies are optional, so I hope you have completely read these instructions before beginning.
If you do use the flies, be warned that they come with the risk of catching several diseases, such as cholera, dysentery, gastroenteritis, salmonellosis, tuberculosis, typhoid fever, lumpjaw, tongue rot, projectile vomit, projectile diarrhea, sillybrainhemorrhage, and magatosis.
Now mix the syrup ingredients together. Don’t forget to make sure the water is heated to a scalding temperature of, let’s say, 5,000 degrees Kelvin. It’s got to be warm to melt all that molasses. And for God’s sake, don’t forget to dissolve the baking powder into the water, before pouring it into the syrup mixture.
Use the same big, ol’ gigantic spoon to swirl the mixture around until the syrup is thin and watery. And don’t forget the eggs, for Chrissake.
Throw some logs under your oven, and preheat it to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. While it’s a’heatin’ up, pour the syrup into the pie crusts. You’ll want to divvy it up evenly, using whatever divvying method seems fair to you. Then dump the crumb mixture over the tops of the syrup fillings, again divvying it up evenly. Dump it judiciously, so that you achieve a relatively smooth layer of crumbs spread completely over the top of the syrup, basically hiding the syrup.
Finally, shove the pies into the 400 degree oven. Well actually, place them in gingerly. The filling will want to slosh out a lot, as you move the pies around. Do not bake the pies if you’re expecting an earthquake. Bake for 10 minutes, and not a second more. Then turn the oven down to 350 Fahrenheit, by removing one or two logs from the fire. Bake for an additional 50 minutes, at 350.
After baking, try to remove the pies from the oven, then holler, “Ow! Shit! Fuck!” Then grab a couple of hot pads your wife stores in the drawer next to the oven, and try again to remove the pies.
They will be a little flimsy while hot, so ensure they are carefully supported as you transport them with your burnt, shaky hands to the top of the stove, or a countertop, or a windowsill. Leave them there to cool down. Do not cut the pies until they cool down, or you’ll have a runny mess of hot molasses lava. The pie filling needs to cool down in order to harden.
After cooling, wave your hands over the pies to shoo the flies away, then cover and store in the fridge. But before you do that, you might want to try a slice. As you’re eating it, with your mouth watering and your spirit on Cloud 9, reflect on the fact that you are not just eating Shoo-fly Pie. If you’re me, you are also eating crow.
Shoo-fly Pie is good!