Your Christmas may smell like pine boughs, or cinnamon, or chocolate, but mine smells like coconut. And liquor. But that was another post. Let’s stick with coconut for now.
I put coconut in everything at Christmas. There’s coconut in ambrosia, bourbon balls, Lane Cake, Coconut Cake, and on and on and on. Maybe it’s because it looks snowy all piled up on top of some fruit or mounded up on top of white icing. Maybe it’s because we used to didn’t get coconut all year long and even though now you can’t swing a dead cat in the Pig without hitting a bag of coconut, it still seems special. Maybe it’s because it’s just darn good.
My absolute favorite way to eat coconut is in my Mama’s coconut pie. It is very nearly pure, unadulterated coconut on crust with some egg to hang it all together. It’s about as simple as a pie can be. There is all the work of grating the coconut, but don’t let them fool you into thinking that bagged is just as good because it’s easier. It isn’t.
Her’s is a custard pie. None of that coconut cream pie business. No Cool Whip mixed in or slathered on top. No boxed pudding mix. No marshmallow creme. No fussy list of ingredients.
I called Mama to ask her for the recipe, and she told me that her recipe came straight down from her grandmother, Ada Rowell. She also told me about another coconut pie recipe she has from a cousin that she claims is as good as hers, although while I’m sure it’s tasty, I seriously doubt that it is.
When Mama sent me the recipe, I looked at the simple ingredients and wondered just what makes this pie so darn good. Just reading the list, it’s really nothing special. That’s why I have to chalk it up to what I firmly believe makes every family recipe a favorite — it’s good because my Mama (or your mama, or your granny, or your favorite aunt, or your daddy, or your cousin) makes it with love for us every Christmas.
Below is the whole email about the pies just like Mama sent it to me.
Here are two coconut pies:
Traditional Family Pie
1 whole coconut, grated, plus coconut milk
1/2 cup sugar
5 eggs, beaten
Combine all ingredients and bake in blind-baked pie shell until puffed up on top and golden brown.
Cousin Mildred Thompson’s pie. (She is one of the Brannan cousins.)
1/4 cups sugar
1/2 stick butter
3 eggs, beaten well
1/4 cup buttermilk (I think that I would use milk or half-and-half.)
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 to 2 cups shredded coconut (Her recipe calls for one can of coconut, but you can’t get it in cans anymore.)
Mix eggs, sugar, and butter (melted?). Add other ingredients and place in unbaked pie shell. Cook 1 hour at 325 degrees.
This is a very good pie.