Serve Up a South­ern Pie

Taste and tra­di­tion for your hol­i­day ta­ble

RSWLiving - - CONTENT - BY ANN MARIE O’PHEL AN Ann Marie O’Phe­lan is a South­west Florida res­i­dent and a reg­u­lar con­trib­u­tor to TOTI Me­dia.

Imag­ine a turkey din­ner topped off with a slice of sweet potato pie, or a baked ham meal fol­lowed by a slice of co­conut cream pie. What­ever your plans for a hol­i­day spread, a South­ern pie is sure to please you and your guests. At the Farm­ers Mar­ket Restau­rant, a Fort Myers land­mark since 1952, home­made sweet potato pie is just one of many South­ern pies it’s known for. “Our sweet potato pie recipe comes from one of our late cooks, Olivia Wil­liams—‘Miss Libby’—who made the pie at our restau­rant for 45 years,” owner Betsy Barn­well ex­plains. “Her se­cret was us­ing only fresh sweet pota­toes and only very sim­ple, fresh in­gre­di­ents.”

The pies are now made by Chris­tine Yelling, who’s been bak­ing for more than 40 years. She started her ca­reer at Flora and Ella’s in LaBelle, and joined the Farm­ers Mar­ket Restau­rant in 2011. She bakes at least 15 va­ri­eties daily, in­clud­ing an­other South­ern fa­vorite—co­conut cream. That fla­vor has been revered since a recipe for it ap­peared in the early 1900s. It’s now cel­e­brated ev­ery May 8, which is Na­tional Co­conut Cream Pie Day.

And straw­berry pie, filled to the brim with the ripe sweet fruit, is of­ten or­dered by pa­trons at the Farm­ers Mar­ket Restau­rant. Pies ac­tu­ally date back many cen­turies, when they were baked with fruits and berries, and round “cor­ners” were used in or­der to help stretch in­gre­di­ents.

“Our South­ern pecan pie is also a very pop­u­lar pie,” adds Barn­well, and it’s of­ten served warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Pecan pie likely orig­i­nated in New Or­leans in the 1800s. It be­came so pop­u­lar that in the early 1900s, a recipe for it ap­peared on Karo corn syrup bot­tles. Over time, pecan pie was cre­ated in dif­fer­ent ver­sions, such as caramel and choco­late.

One more delicious South­ern fa­vorite served at the restau­rant is peanut but­ter pie. “It’s made with an old fam­ily recipe of mine and is delicious,” Barn­well notes. In­gre­di­ents in­clude peanut but­ter, cream cheese and whip­ping cream.

“Our sweet potato pie recipe comes from one of our late cooks, Olivia Wil­liams— ‘Miss Libby’—who made the pie at our restau­rant for 45 years.” —Betsy Barn­well, owner of Farm­ers Mar­ket Restau­rant

Peanut but­ter pie is some­times re­ferred to as “poor man’s pecan pie;” how­ever, pie lovers would dis­agree that it’s any lesser. The pie is oc­ca­sion­ally made with choco­late to cre­ate an “iconic com­bi­na­tion.” Barn­well states, “Our peanut but­ter pie is light, fluffy and delicious!”

She con­tin­ues: “We have many peo­ple that love to come in just for cof­fee and pie. One of our signs that hangs in the restau­rant says, ‘Life is short—eat dessert first!’ Many peo­ple do just that! Our por­tions of food are so large that cus­tomers get their pie first and then take home a dog­gie bag of their lunch or din­ner.”


Sweet Melissa’s Ice Cream Shoppe in Bonita Springs serves up plenty of ice cream, as well as a cou­ple of South­ern pies, such as its clas­sic Key lime pie and its rasp­berry Key lime pie. They are home­made—down to the hand-crush­ing of the gra­ham crack­ers for the crust.

Its Key lime pies have a clas­sic tart fill­ing. And the rasp­berry ver­sion has fresh rasp­berry purée smoothly mixed in­side, with an ad­di­tional driz­zle on top. Both va­ri­eties of the pies are cov­ered with whipped cream.

As the name im­plies, Key limes are orig­i­nally from the Florida Keys. They are yel­low­ish in color, and smaller in size and have more seeds than tra­di­tional Per­sian limes. Many culi­nary archives state the pie dates to circa-1890s Key West. A sim­i­lar ver­sion can be traced to a 1931 recipe by Bor­den Milk Com­pany of New York City—how­ever, it’s made with lemons.

Sweet Melissa’s Ice Cream Shoppe of­fers a co­conut cream pie that is also made with hand-crushed gra­ham crack­ers in its crust. The pie fea­tures a creamy home­made co­conut pud­ding fill­ing and is topped with whipped cream and plenty of toasted co­conut. “It’s won­der­fully rich and creamy,” says Erica Wil­liams, gen­eral man­ager and baker.

All pies are made in-house daily at Sweet Melissa’s Ice Cream Shoppe. They are of­fered fresh—or frozen for long trav­els. How­ever, its pies can­not be shipped.

And whether South­ern pies are en­joyed as a tasty treat or at the end of a delicious meal, topped with whipped cream or ice cream, served hot or cold, they are sure to al­ways cre­ate won­der­ful mem­o­ries.

Sweet Melissa’s Ice Cream Shoppe boasts a delicious Key lime pie.

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