Grit Blogs > The Open Book

Foodie Thoughts

By Jean Teller, Sr. Assoc. Editor

Tags: recipes, macaroni and cheese, Vinegar Pie, Gravy Train,

Talking food doesn’t take much effort around the GRIT office. Food days and special occasions come fairly frequently in these parts, and, of course, no one protests. We’ve even had cookoffs that encompassed a number of cooks and tasters from every department in the building. Our Great Potato Salad Debate comes to mind.

Join the Great Mac 'n' Cheese Debate!Guess what? We’re in the process of organizing a mac ‘n’ cheese cookoff to rival the potato salad effort. As you know, we published the winning recipes in GRIT’s January/February issue’s Recipe Box, and we’ll do the same with the mac ‘n’ cheese entries. So be on the lookout.

In one of my previous posts, Recipe Box Secrets, I talked about how we organize Recipe Box. It seems like a good idea to let you in on some of the recipes we receive, too. Enjoy, and let me know what you think of the recipes for vinegar pie and hamburger gravy.

Without further ado, recipes!


Winter Pie

Travis Massey, Idabel, Oklahoma, requests a recipe for Vinegar Pie. A popular request among Grit readers, vinegar pie has appeared in Recipe Box before.

Connie Moore, Medway, Ohio, wrote a food column for her hometown newspaper. She talks vinegar pie in a 2004 column and sent a copy to us. “All things have a season,” she wrote. “Vinegar pie is a March pie because the spring rhubarb is not up yet and the winter supply of fruits is gone. … It was an ‘adversity pie,’ there were no freezers, no fridges, no pressure canners or rings and lids to seal autumn’s bounty in Mason jars.”

Shirley Alston, White City, Oregon, added this note: “Rumor has it that Vinegar Pie originated in the Texas Panhandle in imitation of lemon pie, lemons being hard to come by in the old days many miles from nowhere. New Englanders and Southerners counted it a favorite, too, so wherever it came from, it was popular in 19th-century West Texas.” The recipe she sent came from The Wide, Wide World of Texas Cooking by Morton G. Clark.

Vinegar Pie starts with a great pie crust.1889 VINEGAR PIE

1 1/4 cups sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 1/2 cups hot water
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1 tablespoon butter
2 eggs, separated
1 8-inch pie shell, baked
1/4 cup sugar, mixed with 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar


In saucepan, mix sugar, cornstarch, water, vinegar and butter. Bring to boil, stir constantly until thick and clear. Remove from heat.
Stir small amount of hot mixture into beaten egg yolks, return this to saucepan and cook another 2 minutes.
Cool to room temperature and pour into pie shell. Beat egg whites with sugar/cream of tartar mixture until very stiff. Apply meringue over pie, seal meringue to crust edges. Bake 10 to 12 minutes in 325°F oven until lightly brown.
Note: Old pie tins were 8 inches. A 9-inch pie shell makes a thinner pie.


Sharon Threatt, Booneville, Arkansas, sent a cobbler recipe I thought you all might be interested to see.


3/4 cup cider vinegar
2 cups sugar
2 cups water
2 teaspoons cinnamon
Biscuit dough


Heat oven to 350°F.
In deep casserole dish, mix vinegar, sugar, water and cinnamon. Cut out biscuits and place on top of liquid mixture. Wet top of each biscuit with liquid. Bake 20 to 30 minutes.
This tastes like apple cobbler without the apples. Some people use pie dough sprinkled with sugar, covered with hot liquid and baked in a 350°F oven until pie dough is done. This was a treat only enjoyed during canning season.


School-time Favorite

Joyce Woods, Guthrie, Oklahoma, is looking for a recipe for Gravy Train, a recipe that was served at her local school.

A number of readers remembered the same recipe, as do I, and we received a lot of recipes. Alice Knox, Rochester Mills, Pennsylvania, sent one that might have appeared in an old social cookbook.


Hamburger Gravy, or Gravy Train, is great on mashed potatoes.SCRAMBLED STEAK (HAMBURGER) OVER MASHED POTATOES

According to the amount of people you want to serve.
Brown hamburger and chopped onion in skillet; salt and pepper to taste. When the meat is brown and the onion soft, add enough water to continue cooking until boiling a few minutes. Thicken as if you were making gravy with either cornstarch or flour. Serve over prepared mashed potatoes. Very good.


Terry Ball, Neehan, Wisconsin, sends another recipe for Gravy Train. She writes, “We ate this too, probably at least once a week. Plus, we raised four children on it as well. A great way to stretch a pound or two of hamburger. The six of us ate a good supper that filled everybody up on 1 1/2 pounds of hamburger. With three boys, there were no leftovers.”


1 to 2 pounds hamburger
1/2 cup chopped onion


In hot skillet (you have to have a black iron skillet, no substitutes, Terry adds with a smile), brown hamburger with onion. Some crumbly pieces in the bottom are a good thing. If you used hamburger that wasn’t too fatty, don’t drain the meat. If you have some real fatty meat, then you will need to drain some, but not all, of the grease.
The next step is the tricky part. Are you going to eat this over mashed potatoes or bread? (We do either/or.) If cooking potatoes, you will use the drained water for the gravy. If eating it on bread or toast, I use milk instead. If there isn’t enough potato water to make enough gravy, add some milk, water or beef broth. Stir a couple rounded tablespoons flour into the hot hamburger, and let it cook for a minute. Then pour in the water or milk and cook until thick. Salt and pepper to taste.


Betty Maclam, Mikado, Michigan, sends another version.


1 pound ground beef
1 can (14 1/2 ounces) beef broth, divided
2 tablespoons dried parsley flakes
1 small onion, chopped
2 tablespoons dried basil
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons cornstarch
Hot mashed potatoes or pasta


Cook beef over medium heat until no longer pink. Drain. Add 1 1/2 cups beef broth, onion, parsley flakes, basil, garlic powder, season salt and pepper.
Simmer, uncovered, 5 to 10 minutes, or until onion is tender. In small bowl, mix remaining broth and cornstarch until smooth. Stir into beef mixture. Bring to boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes, or until thickened.
Serve over hot mashed potatoes or pasta.
To prevent lumps when thickening with cornstarch, don’t mix cornstarch with a hot liquid. Combine it with a cold or room temperature liquid and add gradually to hot mixture.


Images: Macaroni and cheese,; Pie crust, Grit photo library; Hamburger and onions,