The Times West Virginian

My Favorite Recipe

June 15, 2011

Making it perfect

BUTTERMILK PIE

BAXTER — (Editor’s note: The “My Favorite Recipe” food for June is pie. Send your favorite homemade recipes to Debbie Wilson at dwilson@timeswv.com.)

When Judy Broadwater tried a piece of pie at a local restaurant one day, she liked it so much she asked for the recipe. The menu didn’t say what kind of pie it was, but it was different and she liked it.

“We don’t give out the recipe for our buttermilk pie,” the waitress said.

“Buttermilk pie.” That’s all the information Broadwater needed. Like any good culinary detective, she started digging around in her vast arsenal of cookbooks for the perfect recipe.

“I thought, ‘Buttermilk pie? Eww, that sounds terrible.’ I hadn’t heard of a buttermilk pie in as many years as my mother made pie. But I opened a cookbook and there it was.”

And even that recipe wasn’t good enough. Just as her mother had taught her, she worked it and tweaked the recipe until it was hers.

She’s been a foodie from way back.

“I can remember when I was about 5, standing on a stool and stirring gravy,” she said. “Yeah, my mom started me very young.”

She was learning tips and secrets from her mother, Nellie Toothman, who was an excellent cook herself.

“She was famous for her cream pies with big, high meringue,” Broadwater said. “I make cream pies but they’re not as pretty as hers.

“My favorite of her pies was her coconut cream with graham cracker crust. It was wonderful ... rich, but wonderful. And her mashed potatoes were like clouds. Everything she made was wonderful.”

She comes from a family of good cooks, including her sister, Jane Russ, and her late sister-in-law, Edna Toothman.

The secret to good cooking is simple, she said.

“The best food comes from scratch. Everything we make is from scratch. My mom had her own recipes. She made wonderful potato salad dressing. I make my own minced meat.

“My mother also taught me to take a recipe and tweak it, to make it how you thought it should be. I’ll tweak everything ... except her recipes.”

She likes to cook and bake.

“I like to make what I call ‘American meals,’ meat and potatoes,” she said.

“You have to like to cook. I like cooking for people and watching them enjoy it, and with baking, sharing it. I make a lot of pies and take to work.

“With this recipe, the only thing I did was add more coconut and more nuts. It was a very thin pie. I added more to it to make it bigger. They had walnuts and I changed that to pecans, which have a richer flavor and taste better.”

She delves into her many cookbooks for inspiration.

“I have a lot,” she said. “My favorite are from local organizations ... churches, Boy Scouts, that sort of thing. I also have Amish cookbooks.

“My favorite is this old, old Good Housekeeping cookbook I got for graduation in 1967. It’s a little tattered, but I still have it.

“We have a meal every night. Something quick. When you work, you come home, run through the door and fix something. So you take recipes and tweak them to make them faster.”

Her husband, Larry, likes chicken and her homemade noodles.

“That’s his favorite, but he’ll eat anything ... and everything. He eats 24/7, but that’s his favorite.

“I like chicken and noodles and potatoes and rice, and all those things you’re not supposed to eat. And cake. Cake’s my weakness. Cake is good. I’m a sweetaholic. I like sweets.

“If you only go around life once, I’ll go around in a bag of sugar,” she said, laughing.

She has taught her son, C.J., to cook.

“He used to wake us up when he was around 7, making us blueberry muffins. And one time, he and this little girl across the street he grew up with, Kirsten, they must have been around 7 or 8. I was at work. They came over here and made a cake and didn’t know how to make icing. So they called the number on the Hershey’s can and the woman talked them through it.

“I come home and there’s this lopsided chocolate cake! It was good.”

She uses actual buttermilk in this pie, none of that powdered stuff, thank you very much.

“It makes almost like an egg custard,” she said.

“I do like this pie. It’s different. I hate when somebody says a pie is too sweet. It’s pie. It’s supposed to be sweet.”

When it comes to baking pies, “It’s all in the crust,” she said.

“I was having problems with that and then my sister-in-law taught me how to make pie crust with warm water. Everybody says to use ice water, but warm water makes the difference. It makes the shortening softer and makes a really soft crust that’s easy to roll out.”

And that advice about not working the dough too much?

“I never heard that, either,” she said. “I always mix it together and stir it and squeeze it and jump up and down on it, and everything.”

And the crust turns out light and flaky.

The contest for June is pie. To be featured on the “My Favorite Recipe” page, contact Debbie Wilson at 304-367-2549 or dwilson@timeswv.com.

Email Debra Minor Wilson at dwilson@timeswv.com.

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