Okay, you’re about to read one of the most delicious sentences I’ve ever written. I made a Tomato Pie. Those five words make my mouth water. Tomato Pie- and not just any tomato pie, my sister’s tomato pie is the best recipe. I use it every time I make one. I always say a prayer with that first bite- ‘Oh Lord, I think I’ve died and gone to heaven.’
Now, maybe you’ve never eaten a southern tomato pie and if you haven’t? You don’t have any time to waste because it must be made with the freshest possible summer tomatoes. There are about 6-10 weeks in the summer when this is possible.
Tomato pies aren’t new, I personally can’t recall the first one I ever ate, but finding a recipe for a real one isn’t easy; of the many cookbooks I own- I think I found 2 recipes for tomato pie. Southern Living® Magazine has published several with a few variations. I found myself asking- why are tomato pie recipes so hard to find? Here’s what I’ve come up with…
- Tomato Pie is a very seasonal recipe.
- Tomato Pie requires very few ingredients and none that are exotic.
- Tomato Pie is like so many other southern recipes, as common to the southern cook as cornbread, fried okra, steamed crowder peas, squash casserole and fried green tomatoes.
- The origins are obscure, some think variations of Tomato Pies began in the early 1800’s, others think it became more common in the 1940’s.
- Still others think it was a ladies’ luncheon food, had to be served right away and then we’re back to the seasonal aspect- a short season for making them.
- And there is this- some Southerners have never even heard of tomato pies.
I’ve recently been told by a friend that at an upscale farmers’ market- she recently purchased a tomato pie. I’m told tomato pies seem to be too labor intensive, I personally think it just falls in that category of how much you want one and are willing to take the time to make a tomato pie. There’s even a few shortcuts that can help you make one a bit faster, like using a purchased pie crust and bagged grated sharp cheddar cheese.
Folks in South Carolina, Georgia and Alabama seem to know about tomato pies. Here’s the thing about a tomato pie that I find interesting… Tomato pies are equally at home on the brunch table, a ladies luncheon or Sunday Dinner; make one and put a simple salad on the side and it’s a full meal, or fry up some pork chops, steam crowder peas, slice up some fresh cucumbers and sweet onions- maybe add a jalapeno pepper on the side and it’s one of our famous Southern Plate lunches.
For Sunday Dinner it’s equally good with fried chicken or baked ham, tiny yeast rolls and fresh cooked pole beans or baby lima beans. Tomato Pie has enough confidence to sit alongside flash fried softshell crab, pickled shrimp or broiled red snapper for an elegant meal. Crumble crunchy bacon in it or over the top and you have a delicious variation of Tomato Pie.
If you’re tempted to make a tomato pie- you must use the recipe for my Sister’s Tomato Pie! I wish I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard-
- ‘I made your sister’s tomato pie!’
- ‘I’m having company over, I’m not sure whether they’ll like everything I’m fixing but I’m not worried because I’m making your sister’s tomato pie!’
Really! I’m not kidding…her recipe is renowned- maybe I’ll help make it even more famous- that depends on you! I’ve kept her original directions written out for me. Here’s how to make –
Sister’s Tomato Pie
1 Deep Dish piecrust. Bake for 10 minutes at 400 til lightly brown. Peel and drain on paper towels 3-4 medium tomatoes. Cut and rinse and drain and julienne 5-6 basil leaves. Meanwhile, mix 1/2 cup of mayo with 1/2 cup of sour cream. Place drained tomatoes in layers in pie crust. Sprinkle with salt and black pepper. Then sprinkle with basil. Top with mayo/ sour cream mix- then top with 8 oz. of fine grated sharp cheddar cheese. Bake for 45 minutes at 350. It is so good, making me hungry. Great by itself with salad or with baked chicken, pork etc. Enjoy, Sis
*Note- I often add chopped green onion tops to the sliced basil. And because I’m not as good at making a tomato pie as Sis is, I put 2 oz. of the shredded cheese on the bottom of the hot pie crust – then allow it to melt as it cools…to keep mine from getting soggy- hers never is- but hey, she’s the expert! I also spread the sour cream mixture to the edges of the tomatoes and make sure the grated sharp cheddar also covers the entire pie! And because oven temperatures vary- I often bake it at 375 for 30- 40 minutes or until the cheese is melted and bubbly. Allow to cool a bit before serving I used an 8 inch pie crust so mine makes 6 nice wedges. Oh my, Sis is right- it’s making me hungry…it’s so good! Here’s a pictorial of how mine came together…
I had some fresh grown tomatoes in our garden – our regular summer tomatoes and some very special San Marzano tomatoes, which we grew for the first time this year! Some use heirloom tomatoes in various colors. The main thing is- use fresh summer tomatoes, peel and drain well! Others add a bit of finely chopped garlic and vary the herbs- but please don’t mess with it too much! And as I mentioned before- feel free to fry several slices of good bacon and add to the pie or crumble on top before it’s served. This recipe also makes very good tartlets using very small tomatoes, like these cherry tomatoes and a cupcake pan- yield is about a dozen, great for serving a crowd! I did double this recipe to make two pies and it worked fine.
A reminder, you don’t have much time left this summer to make a tomato pie, but if you do- I hope you’ll try my Sister’s Tomato Pie… it’s southern and it’s so good!
Love y’all, Camellia
*photographs are obviously mine.