Vinegar Pie | Example of Regionalism and Ingenuity

Vinegar Pie Cherokee Lake from 25E Overlook Clinch Mountain Lookout RestaurantJim and I were out exploring again and after finishing up a drive on the scenic roads along Lone Mountain and Log Mountain, we found ourselves on 25E with a good portion of the afternoon ahead of us, so we headed towards Morristown TN.

If you have ever gone that way, I am sure you stopped at the overlook to enjoy the fantastic view of Cherokee Lake and the surrounding mountains.  But you may not have stopped at the Clinch Mountain Lookout Restaurant that is off to its right.  We were both ready for a coffee and it was close.

As we got nearer, our first inclination was to turn around and move on – as the restaurant had definitely seen better days, but we have learned that you don’t get new experiences by keeping with the familiar.  Besides, the charming weathered sign outside that said “Hope You Loved Our Vinegar Pie” got me hooked (who says advertising doesn’t work?).

We ordered our coffee and then asked the waitress (who I think was the owner — but definitely was the cook, as she later knew details about the recipe) about the vinegar pie.  What’s It like?  She said they have been serving it for over 60 years and it is very similar to a lemon pie.

Fast forward…it was good.  It did taste very much like lemon meringue pie.  You could definitely taste the vinegar, but not in a bad way, but you could also taste lemon and I was curious how much lemon was in it.  The woman said that when she mixes up a batch of filling for four pies, she uses 1 1/2 c. of vinegar and only 2 T. of lemon juice!

I did some research and think I found the original recipe (shown below), using the proportions shared with me (read the history of vinegar pie).  Here is a highlight of what I thought was most interesting from that link:

“vinegar pie [… is an] example of culinary regionalism. Woys explains that vinegar pie is an adaptation, through substitution, of the baked lemon pudding introduced by confectioner Elizabeth Goodfellow (1767-1851) of Philadelphia and much commented on by her protégée Eliza Leslie.  Mrs. Goodfellow’s baked lemon pudding, now known as lemon meringue pie, was at one time a mark of great luxury in cookery in Philadelphia and New York, since it required many fresh eggs, sweet-cream butter and fresh lemons.  The vinegar pie reduces the lemons to a mere hint of grated zest and replaces them with vinegar. The result is a pie that looks like lemon meringue pie but the taste is not the same.”


Vinegar Pie Recipe
(Poor Man’s Lemon Meringue Pie)

  • 1 ½ cups cider vinegar
  • 2 cups water
  • 4 TBSP unsalted butter
  • 1 ½ cups plus 2 tsp sugar
  • Zest of ½ lemon
  • 5 eggs, separated
  • 3 TBSP all purpose flour
  • 2 9” pie shells

Preheat oven 325 degrees. Heat the vinegar, 1 cup of the water, butter, the 1 ½ cups of sugar and lemon zest in a saucepan. Beat the egg yolks with the remaining cup of water and flour until smooth. As the vinegar boils, whisk in the egg-and-flour mixture and continue whisking until it thickens. Pour the filling into the unbaked pie shells and bake in the preheated oven 35-40 minutes or until the filling sets. When done, remove the pies from the oven and  beat the egg whites until stiff. Sweeten with the remaining 2 tsp sugar and spread over the pies. Return to the oven and brown the meringue 10 minutes. Then remove the pies from the oven and set aside to cool.  Serve cold.

Life is an Adventure!