A Pie Enthusiast's Reflection on the Bluegrass Pie Swap

Written by Guest Blogger
    Wednesday, 07 January 2015
Shan and his award-winning pie Shan and his award-winning pie

Here at the Urban Ecology Center, we love to celebrate different events, activities and programs offered throughout the year. Back in November, we hosted our first ever Bluegrass Pie Swap, where attendees made and brought two pies: one to share and sample with the group, and one to swap with someone else to take home and enjoy. Not only were we excited about this program, but the attendees seemed to have a blast as well. One attendee, Shan, is a pie-enthusiast who recently wrote a guest blog that reflects on his experience at this program. Shan brought sweet potato pecan pie, which was voted fan favorite at the event! Read on to hear how Shan enjoyed this event due to the pie-loving sense of camaraderie, and enjoy Shan's very own pie recipe!

This blog post was written by Shan Nelson-Rowe, who is an avid pie maker and recent attendee of the Urban Ecology Center's Bluegrass Pie Swap.

I've been making pies for many years, but got serious about it four years ago. In all that time I never entertained the idea of entering pie contests at the Wisconsin State Fair or elsewhere. My main reason for this is that I never thought of pie making as a competitive event at which experts could decide which were the best pies. To me, pie making is more of an art to be shared.

photo 1When the Urban Ecology Center promoted their first Bluegrass Pie Swap event, I was immediately intrigued. Here was an opportunity to make some pies, meet some pie makers, taste the pies and swap stories and ideas, as well as take home a pie at the end of the evening. This is what pie making is all about--no experts, just fellow pie lovers with a wide range of pies to sample. There were fruit pies, cream pies, savory pies, nut pies and veggie pies. There were pastry crusts, graham crusts, filo crusts, gluten free crusts and vegan crusts. Most of all there was a real sense of camaraderie among the pie makers, some of whom made their very first pie to bring to the Pie Swap.

My own pie journey began as a kid when my Grammy introduced me to her cherry pie. I fell in love with it, and requested it for birthdays rather than cake. As far as I remember, Grammy made no other pie than cherry. At least she made no other pie for me than cherry. Later, with my own family I made pies for Thanksgiving. About four years ago, on a lark, I spent a month eating a slice of pie a day at a restaurant for a month (31 Days of Pie). That set me on my next journey of making a different pie each week for a year (52 Weeks of Pie). I learned a lot about pie in that year, mostly that there is almost no end to the variety of pies to be made (Vinegar Pie anyone?). I also learned that pie is a lot of fun to share with other people. That's what made the Urban Ecology Center Bluegrass Pie Swap so much fun--sharing pie and swapping stories.

Try Out Shan's Sweet Potato Pecan Pie Recipe!

2 C white flour
¼ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp brown sugar
2/3 C lard
2 T butter


2 large sweet potatoes
¼ C brown sugar
1 T white sugar
1 small egg, beaten
1 T butter, softened
1 T real vanilla extract
¼ tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp cloves
1/8 tsp nutmeg


¾ C white sugar
¾ C dark corn syrup
1 large egg
1 ½ T butter, melted
2 tsp real vanilla extract
¾ C chopped pecans

1. Preheat oven to 425 F. Peel sweet potatoes and wrap in foil. Bake for about an hour, or until soft when pierced with a knife.

2. While the potatoes are baking, combine the dry ingredients for the pastry in a large mixing bowl. Cut the lard into ½ inch cubes and add to the dry mix. Work the pastry mix with your fingers blending the lard into the flour creating a course meal with pea sized lumps. Cut the butter into ½ inch cubes and work it into the pastry mix. Be careful not to over work the mix. Add a few tablespoons of ice water to the mix, and toss with a fork. Continue adding water until the mix holds together when formed into a fist sized disc. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate.

3. When the potatoes are done reduce the oven temperature to 325 F. Place the potatoes in a mixing bowl with the other filling ingredients and beat until smooth, about 2-3 minutes. Set aside.

4. In a separate bowl, combine the syrup ingredients (minus pecans) and beat on slow speed until the syrup has a glassy look. Add the pecans and stir with a spoon.

5. Remove the pastry from the refrigerator. Roll the pie dough between two sheets of waxed paper into a 12-14 inch round. Remove one layer of waxed paper. Invert the pastry into a 9 inch pie plate, then remove the other sheet of paper. Fold the edges of the pastry under and crimp decoratively.

6. Pour the filling into the pie shell. Spread the pie syrup on top of the filling. Bake for about 1 ¾ hours, or until a knife inserted in the middle of the pie comes out clean.

7. Cool on a wire rack and serve at room temperature.

8.  ENJOY!

Tips: Spreading a little flour on the waxed paper before rolling the dough will making peeling the paper easier. If the crust begins to brown too much during baking, cover the pie with a sheet of foil.

(This recipe is based on the recipe of Paul Prudhomme in Chef Paul Prudhomme's Louisiana Kitchen, William and Morrow, 1984.)

Interested in learning more about the Center's upcoming events and activities? Check out our website for all the details.

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