Vintage Maryland cookbooks have unearthed some curiosities for eager culinary historians, giving us such gems as the peanut-pickle sandwich or tomato wine, but perhaps the most unequivocally delicious of these disappearing kitchen inventions is the white potato pie. The pie filling is made with mashed potatoes, eggs, butter, condensed milk, and a hint of nutmeg, with some (optional) lemon juice to give it a citrusy freshness.
Many believe the pie originated in the Maryland/Delaware region, and some recipes also call it the Eastern Shore White Potato Pie. But white potato pie may well have arrived with the first English settlers. Hannah Glasse’s The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy was one of the most popular cookbooks in 18th century England, and found its way to the colonies, including the home of George and Martha Washington. It contains three recipes for what Glasse terms “Potatoe [sic] Pudding,” and two of those recipes call for a base of puff pastry. Glasse’s versions were richly flavored pies, with currants simmered in wine, the juice of a seville orange, and indulgent amounts of butter and sugar. Mary Randolph, who wrote the 1824 cookbook The Virginia Housewife: or Methodical Cook, has a recipe for sweet potato pudding (also with puff pastry) where she uses sweet potatoes but references an Irish potato pudding made in the same manner with white potatoes that “is not so good.”
Cooks in Eastern Shore towns would beg to differ. The pie, a velvety, creamy treat, has been a fixture at local church potlucks and Thanksgiving dinners for ages. It’s no surprise that Maryland’s agricultural bounty would lead to such unique creations, particularly in the winter, when produce was not as readily available. White potato pie was considered a sweet treat for a frugal time.
Frugal or not, white potato pie is an easy bake, a tasty surprise, and a remembrance of the kitchens of yore.