Who can resist Jefferson Davis pie?

Published 11:59 pm Friday, June 5, 2009

Jefferson Davis was born June 3 in Kentucky. The year amazingly enough is not precisely known. Davis would plead, with a faint sparkle of wit, “I am not a competent witness in the case.” 1808 has been officially accepted and therefore it was last year that Mrs. Grundy followed the Jefferson Davis celebrations during the 200th anniversary of his birth in “her” column in The Andalusia Star-News. This is for you Mrs. Grundy.

Samuel and Jane Cook Davis settled in the Mississippi Territory in 1810 near Woodville in the far southwest of Mississippi. They came with their children, the youngest being the 2-year-old Jefferson. Their Rosemont Plantation home is about 10 miles from where I now live. It was there that Davis in the latter years of his life recalled “my memories began.”

Davis graduated from West Point. He was a decorated military hero in the Mexican War. He would later serve in both houses of Congress from Mississippi. He was Secretary of War under President Franklin Pierce. He was inaugurated as the first and only president of the Confederate States of America in Montgomery, Ala., on Feb. 22, 1862. Davis died in New Orleans, La., on Dec. 6, 1889 and was buried in Metairie, La., but was later moved in 1893 to Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, Va.

Each June, Davis family descendants gather at Rosemont. One of their favorite culinary treats is a special pie called the Jefferson Davis Pie. A story is told by the United Daughters of the Confederacy that the pie was created in Missouri during the War Between the States by a spirited plantation cook. When Union officers requested dinner, the plantation master, who was decidedly pro-Confederacy, cautioned his family and servants to refrain from mentioning politics. The family cook produced this delectable pie and served it in silence to the soldiers. They devoured it with gusto and praised it to the skies. When asked what she called it, the cook could resist no longer, “Jefferson Davis Pie!”

Jefferson Davis Pie

(from a recipe furnished by the Mississippi Division of the United Daughters of the Confederacy which I located in Audubon Plantation Country Cookbook by Anne Butler.)

½ cup butter

2 cups light brown sugar

4 egg yolks

2 tbsp. flour

1 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. nutmeg

½ tsp. ground allspice

1 cup cream

½ cup chopped pecans

½ cup raisins

½ cup chopped dates

1 10” pie shell

Whipped cream

Cream butter and sugar together. Beat in egg yolks. Sift flour and spices into mixture. Add cream, pecans, raisins, and dates. Brown crust in 450 degree oven for five minutes, then add filling. Cook until set at 350 degrees. Serve topped with whipped cream.

This Jefferson Davis Pie is to me a chess pie with pecans. I found that chess pie, which is considered a Southern dish, really originated in England but became popular in the South and New England. James Beard, just to be contrarian (or authoritative), says that chess pie traditionally included brown sugar instead of white, as well as walnuts, raisins or dates and orange juice, grape juice or sherry. He says the Jefferson Davis Pie, with evaporated milk or cream, egg, sugar, flour and salt is what became known in the South as the chess pie. In any event, the dessert most of us call chess pie is a very simple custard in a pie crust.

There are many theories how the chess pie got its name but my favorite theory is a little Southern homemaker drawling to her husband that, “It’s jes pie.”

Another Jefferson Davis Pie without Pecans

1 cup butter, softened

1 cup white sugar

1 cup packed light brown sugar

1 cup heavy cream

2 eggs

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 recipe pastry for a 9-inch single crust pie

Topping: Whipped Bourbon Cream

1 cup heavy cream

3 tablespoons white sugar

2 tablespoons Bourbon whiskey


Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

In a large bowl, mix white sugar, brown sugar, and flour.

Add softened butter, cream, eggs and vanilla. Mix until well blended. Pour into 2 unbaked pie shells. Bake at 425 degrees for 10 minutes, then reduce temperature to 350 degrees, and continue baking for 50 minutes.

Bourbon Whipped Cream:

Whip cream and add sugar gradually until stiff peaks form. Once cream is whipped, gently fold in the bourbon.