A Butterscotch Pie Recipe for the Ages

Cherished heirloom recipes come with beautiful stories about family gatherings, memories of love and loss, and recollections of old times. Sometimes however, the recipes themselves can be hard to decipher. They may have limited instructions or outdated techniques. On My Family Recipe, guests grappling with passed down dishes have struggled to pin down the right taste or texture in their attempts to bring tradition into the kitchen. Sometimes, a balance must be struck between recreating a family dish and making it your own with a modern twist.

On Episode 12, host Arati Menon welcomes Jennifer Justus and Rebekah Turshen to talk about exactly this. Jennifer is a food writer who was curious about making her grandmother’s butterscotch pie. She enlisted her friend Rebekah, the pastry chef behind Nashville’s City House for assistance in bringing the butterscotch pie up to date and making it as tasty as possible. Rebekah got comfortable with translating vintage recipes in the process of studying her own grandmothers' cookbooks and was eager to help out.

Here are Rebekah’s suggestions to consider when approaching older recipes as well as her updated version of Jennifer’s family’s butterscotch pie.

  • Keep an eye out for flour types and weights: Different types of flour can have varying weights so a quick comparison between the vintage recipe and a modern recipe that you’re familiar with can help you average out the difference and avoid major discrepancies between expectations and reality 
  • What fat is called for? There's a lot of shortening in vintage recipes, compared to butter. Sometimes if you're trying to recreate something, you might actually like to keep something like margarine or shortening, because it will give you that authentic flavor of a recipe you are nostalgic for. Other times, you might want to update the recipe with unsalted butter. 
  • Add salt: It often helps to increase the amount of salt that’s called for. Plus, you may want to use kosher salt which is more commonly used today.
  • It’s always useful to compare and contrast. Take a look at a similar recipe from a contemporary cookbook, notice whether there are big differences, and adjust accordingly 
  • It’s okay to use what you know. Rebekah always uses her own pie crust recipe for example and then uses the filling from an original recipe. It’s okay to balance what you’re comfortable with and what the recipe calls for.

Mrs. W.C. Posey’s Butterscotch-Pecan Pie, The Little Blue Cook Book [made lovingly by Jennifer Justus’s grandmother and adapted by Rebekah Turshen]


12 oz pie dough 
2 1/2 cups whole milk
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
1/3 cup all purpose flour
3/4 tsp kosher salt
3 or 1/3 cup eggs 
3/4 tsp vanilla
2 Tbs unsalted butter
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 cup toasted pecan halves

Line pie dough in 8 or 9" pan with parchment and weights of your choosing
Bake 35-45 minutes, until baked through
Gently heat milk in a medium saucepan till warm, turn off heat
Combine 1 1/2 cups sugar, flour and salt by hand till uniformly mixed
Drop eggs in a shallow bowl and hand whisk in dry ingredients till smooth
Temper and whisk a bit of warm milk into egg mix then whisk back into remaining milk 
on medium heat steadily whisk custard as it thickens and comes to a rolling boil
Pour pudding directly into pre baked pie shell
Rest at room temp or in fridge till set a couple hours or overnight
Cool on plate 
To serve garnish whole pie or slices with pecan mix

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