Although my husband is from Nigeria and prefers iresi, obe ata, and dodo (rice, hot pepper stew, and roasted plantain) to any other meal in the world, all of his favorite desserts are from the American South: Pecan Pie, Italian Cream Cake, my Aunt Tootie’s Apple Cake, Iron-Skillet Cobbler, and just about anything my mother makes him. Among the deserts she served him during one of his first visits to her East Tennessee home was Japanese Fruit Pie. It took just one bite, and he was hooked. It is now his favorite dessert by far.
Don’t be fooled by the name; Japanese Fruit Pie is a distinctly Southern pie. Perhaps one day I’ll put my anthropologist hat back on and conduct a cultural history of Southern pies, but until then, I’m guessing this pie is called “Japanese” because it contains an ingredient that most Southerners would have considered exotic not that long ago: coconut. (This may also be the reason Italian Cream Cake is was dubbed “Italian.” We Southerners are often not real precise in our geographical characterizations.)
Japanese Fruit Pie is similar to the classic Southern dessert Chess Pie and also to Vinegar Pie--which is popular in the South but may have originated in the Midwest when 19th-century pioneers came up with creative ways to make pie during the winter months when no fresh fruits were available and the stores of dried fruits had run out.
This is an incredibly easy pie to make—not including the crust (which for me is the most challenging part of making any pie!).
Japanese Fruit Pie Recipe
Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350°.
Prepare the dough for a 9- or 10-inch piecrust. Roll it out and place in the pie plate. Set the plate in the refrigerator.
Whisk until blended:
1 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 cup white sugar
2 large eggs
2 large eggs
A pinch of salt
1 tablespoon white vinegar
A bit of vanilla extract and almond extract (up to ½ t. each)*
1 cup chopped pecans*
½ cup flaked coconut
½ cup raisins
· Remove the piecrust from the refrigerator and pour in the filling. Bake until set and lightly browned on top (30-40 minutes).
This pie freezes well. It is also a nice filling for small tart shells, if you prefer to use those instead of a 10-inch crust.
* My mother’s recipe does not call for vanilla or almond flavoring, and it only calls for ½ cup pecans. Although she would be scandalized by the mere suggestion of doing so, I have tweaked the recipe to suit my husband’s love of of these flavorings and of pecans. Feel free to adjust the recipe according to your own tastes and/or the tastes of those you love. For example, a chocolate lover might replace the raisins with chocolate chips. I promise not to tell mom!