Shoo-fly Pie and Molasses
by Lynn Kerrigan
"A plump wife and a big barn never did any man harm."
...Old Pennsylvania Dutch saying.
It's gooey sweet and unadorned by a top crust. What better invitation to come join the party does a hungry insect need? It should be called "molasses pie," but it's whimsically named shoo-fly because its "open" structure lures flies that must be shooed away. Shoo-fly pie is a Pennsylvania Dutch creation—a direct descendant of "Centennial Cake" introduced at the first World's Fair—the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exposition.
The Pennsylvania Dutch are children of German immigrants who settled in and around Lancaster, Pennsylvania, USA. Some Pennsylvania Dutch belong to the Mennonite or Old Order Amish religions. The word "Dutch" is misleading—the people have no relation with the Netherlands. It's a derivative of "Deutsche" (meaning German). It's believed that outsiders, unable to pronounce the word "Deutsche, used the term "Dutch" instead. Lancaster, Pennsylvania is known as Pennsylvania Dutch Country, Amish Country, or the "Heartland" and is the home of many simple yet delicious recipes.
Pennsylvania Dutch Cooking
Traditionally, "plain folk," Amish or Pennsylvania Dutch cooking is simple, relying on readily available ingredients—many grown or made on the family farms. Favorite foods include scrapple, pig stomach, shoe-fly pie, eggs (eaten with extra salt, pepper, and ketchup), funnel cakes, chow-chow, and cup cheese.
Molasses is the thick, dark-colored byproduct of either raw sugar milling or refining; it is a heavy, viscous liquid from which no further sugar can be crystallized by usual methods. Early shoo-fly pies contained "baking molasses" purchased from Amish grocers. Patrons toted empty quart jars to food purveyors that were filled with the thick syrup from barrels. Customers purchased "eating molasses" the same way.
Today, it's hard to find baking molasses. To make tasty Shoo-fly Pie use unsulphered molasses. Steer clear of any product labeled "blackstrap" as it has an overpowering flavor that's not appropriate for this simple pie. Blackstrap is used mainly for cattle feed or as a source of ethyl alcohol—it's that strong.
"Kumm Esse" (Come Eat) these recipes:
- Cake-like Shoo-fly Pie
- Gooey Bottom Shoo-fly Pie
- Lancaster County Wet Bottom Shoo-fly Pie
- Modern Shoo-fly Pie
- Spiced Shoo-fly Pie
- Traditional Shoo-fly Pie
- Wet Bottom Shoo-fly Pie
Illustration Copyright 1999 by Alma Shon
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This page created April 1999
Copyright © 1998-2001, Lynn Kerrigan. No portion of this article may be reproduced for publication without express, written permission of the author.
This page modified February 2007