Virginia has Chess Pie, and Pennsylvania has Shoofly Pie, but in Indiana, there’s Hoosier Pie.
“You could always make Hoosier Pie as long as you had a cow and a chicken,” says Susan Haller, executive director of Indiana Foodways Alliance, which promotes Indiana food tourism and even has a Hoosier Pie Trail.
Also known as Sugar Cream Pie, Hoosier Pie differs from other American custard pies in that it has a lighter and clearer custard filling. Though no one knows exactly when it was first made, it is believed that the first Hoosier Pies were made in the early to mid-1800s, says Joyce Newby, program coordinator for food and gardening at Conner Prairie, an outdoor history museum. Some recipes call for adding a meringue on top, but that isn’t a requirement.
“When farm families could afford it, they would add nutmeg and cinnamon, and when they had vanilla beans, they would add vanilla,” Newby says. “Back in the 19th century, they used to have these special little stills to make rose water, so sometimes they would add rosewater. And when they had lemons, they would add those, too.”
While Hoosier or Sugar Cream Pie is on menus across Indiana, it’s more prevalent in the northern half of the state than the southern portion, which is known more for its fruit pies, especially blackberry cobbler, Newby says.
When making Hoosier Pie, it’s important to use very fresh eggs and cream. “That will allow the caramelized sugar to show through clearer,” Haller says. “And that’s what you’ll be tasting.”
By Jean Kressy, a food writer in Ashburnham, Mass.