Saltine crackers add crunch, saltiness to this classic Southern pie

Saltine crackers in a pie crust? Sounds just crazy enough to make sense.

This lemon pie from Virginia Willis’ has a saltine cracker crust. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman

A friend mentioned saltine cracker pie crust earlier this year, so I was delighted to find a recipe for such a pie in Virginia Willis’ “Secrets of the Southern Table: A Food Lover’s Tour of the Global South” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $30).

Willis first had this tart treat at Crook’s Corner, a Chapel Hill, N.C., restaurant that serves a traditional lemon icebox pie baked in a saltine crust. In some places throughout the South, saltine crackers are commonly used instead of graham crackers for icebox pies, including key lime pie, but it wasn’t an ingredient I’d seen used that way until I saw this recipe in Willis’ cookbook.

I made the pie for a birthday party last weekend, and it was absolutely delightful. The crackers gave a surprisingly light and crunchy texture to the crust, and it wasn’t too savory, especially for this filling that is so sweet, even the whipped cream doesn’t need any extra sugar.

Saltine crackers replace graham crackers in this savory-sweet pie crust. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman

Lemon Icebox Tart with Saline Cracker Crust

Just like graham crackers, saltine crackers can be used for a nice pie crust, but you have to crumble them finely enough to stick together when you add the butter — but not so fine that the crust loses all the cracker texture. This pie doesn’t have as much filling as you might be expecting from a lemon icebox pie, but it is extra sweet and tart, so you need the whipped cream layer on the top to balance it. If you place the whipped cream on the pie when it’s still warm, it will melt, so follow her instructions on cooling the pie first.

— Addie Broyles

1 1/2 sleeves saltine crackers (about 68 crackers)
8 tablespoons butter, melted
3 tablespoons sugar
4 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
Zest and juice of three lemons (About 1/2 cup juice)
1 cup heavy cream, chilled

In a large plastic zip-top bag, use a rolling pin or skillet to crush the saltine crackers into small, fine pieces, but not so much that it becomes powder. (You can crush them directly in the package or in a bowl with your fingers.) Place the cracker crumbs into a large bowl and mix in the melted butter and sugar.

Press the saltine mixture into a pie pan, using your fingers to press the mixture into the sides and a measuring cup to press the mixture into the bottom of the pan. Chill for 15 minutes.

Heat oven to 350 degrees while the crust is chilling, and then bake it for 15 minutes. While the crust is baking, mix together the egg yolks, sweetened condensed milk and lemon zest and juice. Whisk carefully so that you don’t introduce air bubbles into the filling.

Remove the crust from the oven, and pour the filling mixture into the hot crust. Return to the oven and bake for 10 minutes to set the filling.

Place the pie on a wire rack and let it cool to the touch. Once completely cool, refrigerate for an hour.

When ready to finish the pie, place the chilled cream in a large bowl and whisk vigorously until the cream holds soft peaks. Spread the whipped cream on the pie. Use a chef’s knife to cut the slices of pie, and wipe the knife before each cut to keep the slices clean. Keeps for two days in the fridge. Serves 8 to 10.

— From “Secrets of the Southern Table: A Food Lover’s Tour of the Global South” by Virginia Willis (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $30)


View Comments 0