‘Tis the season, and I thought you might be interested in the humble beginnings of one of America’s favorite holiday desserts.
Transparent, or Syrup, Pie, has been around the US for eons – it uses the most basic of readily available ingredients and even the poorest usually have them on hand: eggs, butter, and a sweetener in the form of whatever’s local (honey, maple, sorghum, cane, molasses). The Industrial Revolution came along and the US began to have a surplus of corn, and of course, we had to figure out what to do with it, so, at the beginning of the 20th century, a cheap liquid sugar was invented using cornstarch, by the Corn Products Refining Company – and they called it Karo.
In the late 1920’s-early 30’s an executive’s wife (of the heretofore mentioned Corn Products Refining Company) made a transparent pie using Karo, and added pecans. Notice the wife’s name is not in the history books. As usual in a capitalist society, let’s create that need then fill it! The CPRC began heavily marketing KARO pie and an American staple was born.
This same pie, with added cream, is called syrup pie. It tastes (no WAY!) creamier and more custardy, but is still extremely similar to transparent pie taste. It’s a little runnier and you need to adjust your solids to your liquids if you’re going to try this avenue. A great way is to substitute only egg yolks instead of whole eggs as the yolks contain less water than whites.
My bottom line is – if you like historical recipes, go ahead and try Karo Pie (google google google!). But if you really want a great tasting Pecan Pie, use an original sweetener – my favorite being maple – but that’s for YOU to decide. I also add bourbon because I’m, well, me!