Serve Up a Southern Pie
Taste and tradition for your holiday table
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.”
MORE IRRESISTIBLE FLAVORS
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.