photograph by Annie's Eats

NC Pie Series: What comes at the end is always remembered: the goodnight kiss, the famous last words, the three-point shot at the buzzer, the homemade pie following a fine meal. What’s a plate of flounder in Calabash or oysters on the Outer Banks without a slice of lemon meringue, served on a Styrofoam plate with a plastic fork? Can you imagine a rib eye at the Angus Barn in Raleigh without the grand finale — that famous chocolate chess, drizzled with syrup, dolloped with whipped cream? What of the perfectly fried chicken at Mama Dip’s in Chapel Hill, culminating with a slice of sweet potato or pecan? Sure, we love our cakes, cobblers, and banana puddings, but pie provides the sweetest memories. 

“The Jarrett House was the first North Carolina restaurant I ever ate in,” Karen Barker remembers. Like the Jarrett House itself, she and her husband, Ben, are culinary legends around here — for their iconic, award-winning restaurant, The Magnolia Grill, which lived in Durham from 1986 to 2012. Years before that, when Ben was a student at Western Carolina University, he worked at the Jarrett House as a server, Karen says, and ate a slice of vinegar pie “every shift he worked.”

The cozy inn was a fixture amid the mountains in Dillsboro for more than a century — it opened in 1884 and just recently closed — and the vinegar pie was arguably its most famous offering. This old-school, Southern dessert is a classic “desperation” or “make-do” or “pantry” pie. In other words, a recipe that relies on kitchen staples versus seasonal, perishable ingredients. Instead of using apples, say, use apple cider vinegar. And instead of using buttermilk, use a lot of melted butter. The result is as humble as it is addictive.

Jarrett House
100 Haywood Road
Dillsboro, NC 28575
(828) 586-0265

Jarrett House Vinegar Pie

1 stick margarine, melted and cooled
1½ cups sugar
1 tablespoon flour
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
3 eggs
1 (9-inch) pie shell, unbaked

Combine the first six ingredients and pour into the unbaked pie shell. Bake at 300º for 45 minutes.

North Carolina Pie Series: Lemon Milk Pie

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Emma Laperruque works as a food writer and recipe developer at Food 52 in New York City.