How to Make
Blue Ribbon
Pie Crust Course


Coconut Pie Recipe by an African Slave, Cookbook printed in 1881 –

Coconut Pie Recipe – by an African Slave

Posted by Warren

Makes one 9-inch pie, single crust, custard filling

What Mrs. Fisher Knows About Old Southern Cooking, by Abby Fisher, 1881



The interesting facts about this coconut pie recipe is that this recipe was published by an African slave and it uses fresh coconuts.

Coconut Pie Recipe

What Mrs. Fisher Knows About Old Southern Cooking, by Abby Fisher, San Francisco: Women’s Co-op Printing Office, 1881

Cocoanut Pie.

One cocoanut fresh, draw off the milk, then place the nut in a hot oven and let it stay long enough for the shell to pull off; then grate with the nut juice one tea-cup of powdered white sugar, one tablespoonful of butter and lard rubbed together until creamed, then take the yelks of four eggs and beat into sugar and butter until perfectly light; grate the rind of one lemon into it, and squeeze the juice of the lemon into the creamed butter and sugar; beat the white of four eggs light, and add also to creamed butter and sugar, and stir them well, add also one-half tea-cup of sweet milk. Will make three pies. Use a half pound of flour for the pastry, one tablespoonful each of butter and lard–you only want crust at the bottom of plate, and bake in quick oven. Mix flour as directed in No. 49.

A Cookbook with vintage pie recipes

It is surprising that this book was ever written at all and that it has survived to be published since this cookbook was written by a black slave.

Mrs. Fisher, born a black slave, found her way to San Francisco soon after the Civil War. By dint of talent and hard work, she created a life and business there. She and her husband created a business manufacturing and selling “pickles, preserves, brandies, fruits, etc.”

Mrs. Fisher was proud of a Diploma awarded at the Sacramento State Fair in 1879 and two medals awarded at the San Francisco Mechanics’ Institute Fair, 1880, for best Pickles and Sauces and best assortment of Jellies and Preserves.

mrs-abby-fisher-1879 black slave

Mrs. Fisher seems to have been supported by many of the leading business and professional figures in the San Francisco and Oakland areas. Perhaps it was these kind hearted citizens who helped Mrs. Fisher to write and publish her book as both she and her husband were illiterate.

We are grateful to whomever it was that helped Mrs. Fisher to publish these splendid recipes. She hints that they were written “at my dictation.” This may account for a some interesting variant spellings and names of dishes.

Custard Pie Recipe of a Black Slave

—Ingredients and instructions are not the actual vintage recipe but is provided for reference purposes.

Pastry dough – single crust

The secret
of making
a flaky pie crust.

1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons sugar

1/4 teaspoon fine salt

1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter

1/4 cup ice cold water

1 teaspoon cold canola oil


1 1/2 pint milk (scalded)

heaping table-spoonful of sugar

3 large eggs

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

pinch of salt


1. Prepare the pastry: Roll the pastry and line a 9-inch pie plate with the bottom crust. Roll out the remaining dough for the top crust. Chill the pastry and partial-bake.

2. Heat the milk until a thin skin appears on top of the liquid.


Milk or cream is the most common base for custards. Heavy cream makes a richer and more flavorable custard.

3. Preheat the oven to 350° F.

4. Mix the eggs, sugar, nutmeg and salt in a separate bowl. Do not over beat to the point air gets incorporated into the mixture. This will make your custard grainy.

5. Whisking the egg mixture constantly, slowly add about a third of the hot milk. This will temper the eggs. If this is done too quickly, the eggs will cook, and you will have scrambled eggs in your custard.

6. Now add the rest of the milk whisking slowly

7. Slowly pour the mixture into the cooled partially baked pie shell.

8. Cover edges of pie with foil or use a pie crust shield.

9. Set the pie on the lower center oven rack and bake for 20 minutes, turn the pie 180° degrees. Continue baking until the center is set, about another 20 minutes.


Overcooked custard
will have
a pronounced ???eggy??? flavor.

10. When ready the filling will be firm. The edges of the filling may puff up a little. You should not see much browning.

11. Shake the custard gently to check for doneness. When the custard ripples on the surface that move back and forth like jello it is properly done. You do not want waves of concentric, circular, rings when giving the shake test.

12. Transfer the pie to cool and set in refrigerator to chill.

Coconut Pie Success

Notice that this recipe does not specifically recommend prebaking the pie crust, but it is best to partially prebake the pie shell for a watery creamy pie.

A nice garnish is to top the custard with sweetened whipped cream with a tablespoon of coconut rum added.

Pie Recipes and much more…