Last Christmas I made dozens of chess pies to give. Each cost less than $1. Chess pie is sinfully rich but employs basic ingredients that go on sale during the holidays. The gift of a pie or cake leaves a bigger impression than a plate of cookies, however delicious they may be. It's also a lot quicker. Last year my salvage grocer had a closeout of "boughten" crusts--each two-pack cost 50 cents. To support the flimsy tins, I placed each pie in a wicker plate holder (yard sale). I swathed each package in after-Christmas-priced cellophane and cinched it with raffia and a tag.
Here's the recipe my family uses:
1/2 cup softened butter (can use margarine, but don't overbeat)
1 Tbsp. vinegar
3 eggs, beaten
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. flour
1 tsp. cornmeal
1- 1/2 cups sugar
9-inch pie crust, unbaked
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Mix all the ingredients well. Pour into pie shell. Bake until the top is browned. Turn heat down to 200 degrees and bake for another 40 minutes.
Origin of the name "chess pie" is a mystery. I've heard that a frontier wife, when asked the name of this rich dessert, replied "jes' pie." Others speculate that its high sugar content made it last longer than other desserts in the traditional pie chest, leading to the name "chest pie."