While baking, tangy lingonberries, also known as lowbush cranberries, rise to the top of a custard-like pie filling. The combination of the tart berries and the sweet, creamy filling all in a crispy pie shell is possibly the best reward for shoveling out a driveway’s worth of fresh snow.
It’s been endlessly snowing for the past day. Our Alaskan home now resembles the Alaska home I imagined before we moved to this famously frozen state. As I left home this morning for my very short walk to school, I was surrounded by blinding white. The trees were covered. Rooftops were blanketed and fringed with shimmering icicles. A splash of bright red peeked through two feet of snow where our ATVs are parked. My first-floor classroom windows have shoulder-high drifts piled a quarter of the way up. The plow crews can barely keep up, and Jack has become the John Henry of snow shovelers. Sitting on her trailer, Gillie is up to her gunwales in a sea of white. We’re socked in with snow like we have never before been socked in. I love it!
With only two months of school remaining (unbelievable!), we are at that time of year where we challenge ourselves to empty out our freezer and pantry. There is one lonely gallon-sized bag left from one of our treasured fall harvests – lingonberries. Most of the lingonberries we picked have been baked into muffins, upside down cake, and fruit breads or pressed into juice for hot lingonberry tea. The snow outside spurred me to action last night. Baking is not only entertaining but also has three wonderful outcomes – a warm house, a delightful aroma, and of course, the delicious results. This recipe was slightly adapted from my favorite baking book, The Williams-Sonoma Baking Book. According to the recipe book, chess pies may be named such because they keep well in traditional storage cabinets, otherwise known as pie chests. Another explanation is that “chess” is a corruption of the word cheese, derived from a chess pie’s cheese-like filling. Whatever the etymological origins may be, the way the folded in lingonberries all rise to the top of the pie during baking is magical – and visually quite appealing. The effect when you eat the pie is interesting as well: The sweet and the sour are notably separate and in so become complementary flavors.
As to the shelf life of chess pie… It’s unlikely one has ever lasted long enough to tell!
Lingonberry Chess Pie
- dough for a single crust pie
- 1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
- pinch salt
- 3 eggs
- 1/4 cup all purpose four
- 1/3 cup plain yogurt
- 1 tsp cider vinegar
- 1 tbsp orange zest, finely chopped
- 2 cups frozen or fresh lingonberries
- Roll out pie dough to cover a 9-inch pie dish.
- Trim off excess. Leave plain or pinch edge to decorate.
- Chill dough-covered pie dish in refrigerator for 30 minutes.
- Place oven rack in lower third of oven. Preheat to 375° F.
- Blind bake pie by covering it with foil, weighting down the foil with rice or pie beads and baking for about 20 minutes. Crust should be very lightly browned and no longer look wet.
- Leave oven on and slightly cool crust on a wire rack while making the filling.
- In a large bowl, whisk together sugar, butter, salt, eggs, flour, yogurt and vinegar.
- Stir in orange zest.
- Fold in lingonberries.
- Pour the filling into the pie shell.
- Bake pie until top is golden brown and filling is firm, about 50 – 60 minutes.
- Cool on wire rack completely before serving.