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#1
Posted March 31st 2009, 10:51pm
Hi,

On a recent Saturday, under the railroad bridge at 79th and Stoney Island near the Skyway entrance, were Nation of Islam volunteers distributing literature. One of my friends noticed they were also delivering something looking like a pie to cars. We all guessed the same thing: could this be a bean pie? Working fast against time and a traffic light change, I opened the window while shouting, "Are those bean pies you're selling?" "Yes." "How much?" "Seven dollars." "I'll buy one!" After several years of discussion of this very pie, it was like winning the lottery to buy this pie on the street.

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I am not going to steal anyone's thunder, much of what I know about bean pie was learned from Rene G and through various contacts we made last year in preparation for Greater Midwest Foodways Alliance symposium on Sweets. To get the straight story from Rene G, you can listen to his presentation "Bean Pie: Iconic African-American-Islamic dessert" at Chicago Amplified program of Chicago Public Radio. If you listen further, Paula Haney of Hoosier Mama Pie Company presents "From Abundance to Desperation—Pies of Indiana"; and I conclude the panel with my presentation "Reclaiming the Pecan’s Roots."

Bean pies are usually made of navy beans seasoned with spices that evoke a pumpkin pie. The canned or cooked fresh navy beans are typically processed in a blender along with eggs, evaporated milk, sugar, butter, spices and sometimes vanilla. There are variations of this recipe where pinto beans are used. Only one recipe of bean pie made with navy bean flour, I ground the beans to a powder in a coffee grinder, poured into boiling water. The bean flour immediately transformed into thick paste upon hitting the water.

A bean pie made with pinto beans
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This is a cross section of pie made by Supreme Bean (the fuzzy dark figure is my cat, but it was the best picture of the group)
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Last year prior to the symposium, finding a commercial source for bean pies was almost futile effort. We spent a Sunday driving around to bakeries known to offer bean pies to find they had gone out of business. I was on the cusp of making the pies myself, when Rene G located a source for bean pies. The Nation of Islam's bakery had recently reopened after having been closed for several years. It is the same source we bought from recently, though the label changed.

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Supreme Bean Pie
7351 South Stoney Island
Chicago, IL 60649

In this effort to locate a bean pie, a bakery owner advised bean pies are often available at Kwanzaa festivals, if you can't otherwise find one.

One day, Rene G will provide additional information on this unique pie, meanwhile there is his presentation to listen to.

Regards,
_______________________________________

Cathy2

"You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
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#2
Posted April 1st 2009, 12:04pm
So how were the pies?

Was the one you made very different from the Supreme Bean Pie?
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Hi,

The Supreme Bean Pie was very smooth with a nice texture on the upper layer and creamy underneath. It was far smoother than mine that might be attributed to not processing long enough in the blender.

I made a bean pie for a talk in February, it was not as golden colored as SupremeBean, if anything mine looked pasty. One taster demanded to know what it was before eating, which took some of the fun away. Once they knew it was bean, people taste it more guardedly. If they tasted it with abandon guessing it was pumpkin or some other squash and later learn it is bean, then they might have been more delighted.

The heaviest bean pie was made of bean flour. When I make recipes that go into new areas, I typically make them exactly to the recipe's directions. I made it over a year ago, but I recall nobody was racing to finish it.

Regards,
_______________________________________

Cathy2

"You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
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I’m sure that I’m not the only one who noticed reverence in the pie’s brand name, Supreme Bean, Or is that Supreme Bein’? And why should pies not be reverent? If beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy, why should pie not turn our minds toward spiritual contemplation?

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Here’s a picture of Rene G, presenting on Bean Pies at the Greater Midwest Foodways Alliance Symposium on Sweets last April.

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And here are some bean pies spotted at the Lexington Market in Baltimore this spring.

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Last edited by Josephine on May 3rd 2009, 9:06pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Man : I can't understand how a poet like you can eat that stuff.
T. S. Eliot: Ah, but you're not a poet.
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My first and only experience with bean pie was the Pinto Bean Pie at Sunglow Restaurant in Bicknell, UT.

http://thewandererschuckandkate.blogspo ... roken.html

They offer a sampler platter with their bean pie, sweet pickle pie, oatmeal pie, and lemon pie. WOW! What a great breakfast.
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Lead Moderator
HI,

CAn you tell us more about sweet pickle pie and oatmeal pie?

Regards,
_______________________________________

Cathy2

"You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
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The sweet pickle pie tasted a bit like a pumpkin pie, You could taste the sweetness of the pickle but it was offset a bit by the pie seasonings. Personally, of the four pies, it was my least favorite.

Here is a recipe for the sweet pickle pie:

http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Cookbook:S ... Pickle_Pie

And a pir crust recipe:

http://find.myrecipes.com/recipes/recip ... _id=600626


The pinto bean pie was made of pureed beans with a nice coconut topping. It really did not have a stong bean taste as you might expect.

I remember very little about the oatmeal pie except that it was the best of the four pies.

I wish I could help you more.
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Josephine wrote:I’m sure that I’m not the only one who noticed reverence in the pie’s brand name, Supreme Bean, Or is that Supreme Bein’? And why should pies not be reverent? If beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy, why should pie not turn our minds toward spiritual contemplation?

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. . .

And here are some bean pies spotted at the Lexington Market in Baltimore this spring.

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The reach of the Supreme Bein' extends to Baltimore. Here, also at the Lexington Market, are more bean pies, these made by Supreme Bakery ("Home of the Original Bean Pie"). Note the first ingredient: Love.

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I notice that the final ingredient listed is "Fruit Flavor" and the list includes strawberry and other flavors that don't mesh particularly well with the bean and spice flavors of the typical bean pie. Has anyone run across a fruit-flavored bean pie? Sometimes in an ingredient statement there is a blanket ingredient list to cover all the things that might find their way into a mass-produced product. However, this does not strike me as a likely explanation here.

As for sweet pickle pie, the recipe may not call for Love, but it certainly calls for Faith from those devout enough to give it a try. I think I'd have to get a pretty clear divine directive to order sweet pickle pie for dessert.
_______________________________________

Man : I can't understand how a poet like you can eat that stuff.
T. S. Eliot: Ah, but you're not a poet.
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This has been a busy day for me in the kitchen. I noticed this discussion for the first time last week, and what I read prompted me to gather the ingredients to make a couple of the Navy Bean Pies. I whipped-up a batch of coconut saffron ice cream and because the oven was on and at the right temperature after finishing the pies, I made some macaroons.

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After searching the internet for navy bean pie recipes I selected one posted at http://www.recipezaar.com - Navy Bean Pie (Muslim) - Recipe #184372. Though I've never tasted the bean pie before now, I wanted to replicate the Supreme pies . . . that was the goal. My only deviation from the recipe was when I added some butter - a "tip" I saw posted in reader comments or at another recipe site.

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I'm pleased with the outcome, though I have no prior experience eating/preparing such pies. The consistency is smooth and the seasonings there without being strong - and I doubt anyone not knowing navy beans were the principal ingredient would guess they're there.

I'm taking one of the pies into the office for co-workers and I expect some feedback - good or bad. Thanks to those of you who wrote previously which prompted me to undertake today's exercise.

The macaroons turned-out excellently, and the coconut/saffron ice cream is unique, rich and very different from many of the ice creams I've made previously.
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Well, the verdict is in: my co-workers weren't in an experimenting mood today, and, for the most part they avoided the pie. They'd circle the pie giving it a suspicious eye . . . then leave the room (small kitchen in the office) empty handed. 1/2 a pie was all that was eaten by 2:30 p.m., compared to 100% of most other pie's (and cakes) I bring into the office and which disappear by 9:30 a.m. The people who did try the pie said they liked it, but I could see on their faces, and hear in their carefully chosen words it's not something they'd make on their own . . . or purchase when out and about. Though, had I not taped a note to the pie plate explaining what it was, I suspect the pie would have been consumed quickly.
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Bill wrote:Well, the verdict is in: my co-workers weren't in an experimenting mood today, and, for the most part they avoided the pie. They'd circle the pie giving it a suspicious eye . . . then leave the room (small kitchen in the office) empty handed. 1/2 a pie was all that was eaten by 2:30 p.m., compared to 100% of most other pie's (and cakes) I bring into the office and which disappear by 9:30 a.m. The people who did try the pie said they liked it, but I could see on their faces, and hear in their carefully chosen words it's not something they'd make on their own . . . or purchase when out and about. Though, had I not taped a note to the pie plate explaining what it was, I suspect the pie would have been consumed quickly.

I have witnessed similar reactions. I did a talk in February where the pie tasting was in advance of the talk. One lady demanded to know the ingredients in advance, I tried to defer suggesting an explanation in my talk. Once the beans were spilled on what it was, there was less enthusiasm.

We have to remember that members of the tribe are far more willing to try unique foods than the remaining 80% of the population.

Regards,
_______________________________________

Cathy2

"You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
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tatterdemalion and I ran across this dessert at an Azorean Portuguese restaurant, Tabacaria Acoreana, in Fall River, MA. It was billed as "Bean Pudding, a traditional dessert". In comparison to the Supreme Bean Pie, it had no discernable spices, just beans, sugar, egg and possibly vanilla. The texture was interesting, similar to that of pecan pie without the pecans. It had very tiny pieces of bean skin, which gave the effect of very finely chopped coconut.

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I wonder what, if any, connection there is between this dessert and the African-American bean pie, but I will leave that for Rene G to sort out.
_______________________________________

Man : I can't understand how a poet like you can eat that stuff.
T. S. Eliot: Ah, but you're not a poet.
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Hi,

In response to an e-mail request, I have tried several recipes for bean pie.

Muslim Bean Pie: Some History and the Best Recipe wrote:Best Tasting Traditional Bean Pie

2 cups navy beans (cooked according to package instructions)

Note: You'll want to make sure that you have planned ahead to make this pie because you need to pre-soak the beans before you can cook them.

1 stick butter

2 tablespoons flour

4 eggs

1 teaspoon nutmeg

2 cups sugar

1 14 oz. can evaporated milk

1 teaspoon cinnamon

2 tablespoons vanilla

Cook beans until soft. Preheat oven. to 350 degrees.

In electric blender, blend beans, butter, milk, eggs, nutmeg and flour about 2 minutes on medium speed. Pour mixture into a large mixing bowl. Add sugar and vanilla. Mix well. Pour into pie shells. Bake about one hour until golden brown.

Makes 2 or 3 Bean Pies.


Bean pie recipe wrote:A bean pie recipe with Great Northern beans, butter, and spices.
INGREDIENTS:
· 2 (15 ounces each) cans Great Northern beans, drained
· 3 large eggs
· 1 1/4 cups sugar
· 1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
· 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
· 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
· 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg or use freshly grated
· 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
· 1 teaspoon baking powder
· 1/3 cup evaporated milk
· 1 pie crust, 9-inch, baked, cooled
PREPARATION:
In mixing bowl with electric hand-held mixer, beat the drained beans until smooth. Beat in eggs, sugar, butter, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice. In a separate bowl, combine baking powder and milk.
Add to bean mixture. Beat mixture well to blend; pour into the cooled pie shell.
Bake the pie in preheated 350° oven for 50 minutes, or until set. Let pie cool before serving.

I am fairly certain I made the pie pictured below with the second recipe, which has baking powder in it. I used pinto beans instead of navy beans, which is a known substitute. The crust formed on this pie might be assisted by the baking powder, plus baking until it was browned/carmelized a bit. Please note on all these bean recipes, process them in the blender longer than you might overwise think is needed. The longer the smoother, because I stopped when I thought it was blended and later thought I should have blended it a bit smoother. If I made bean pies on a regular basis, I might be able to be more precise, but I don't.

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A link to a bean pie variant with coconut and pecans, which would not be acceptable because Nation of Islam discourages eatings nuts and coconut: Pinto bean pie.

In Howard Paige's book Aspects of African American Foodways, he has an unusual bean pie recipe made with bean flour. The bean powder added to boiling water instantly thickens to a heavy paste. The one time I prepared this recipe, I ground black eyed peas in my coffee grinder to avoid the thankless effort of finding genuine bean flour. This pie as I recall was very dense texture.

In company where bean pies are unknown, I find it best not to advise what it is until they tried it. People just don't associate beans with dessert in our culture, so they get all tentative going into unchartered territory.

Regards,
_______________________________________

Cathy2

"You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
Facebook, Twitter, Greater Midwest Foodways, Road Food 2012: Podcast
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#15
Posted August 28th 2013, 10:27pm
We have in our posession 5 bean pies imported from Chicago to Los Angeles. Can we successfully freeze them? Any other suggestions for preserving their freshness as long as possible?
Thanks,
jetneo
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#16
Posted August 29th 2013, 11:11am
I am certainly open to tasting bean pie. I made brownies with blenderized beans and I was not too impressed with them. It seems like bean pie is akin to pumpkin pie. Wherever I 've tried other pies like that they never seem as good as good ole pumpkin pie so I've pretty much abandoned them. For me the bottom line is taste and they have to taste as good or better or not worth the calories. Also I think its all what you are used to. Perhaps those growing up with sweet potato or bean pie might prefer them.
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Toria

"I like this place and willingly could waste my time in it" - As You Like It,
W. Shakespeare
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#17
Posted August 29th 2013, 12:37pm
jetneo wrote:We have in our posession 5 bean pies imported from Chicago to Los Angeles. Can we successfully freeze them? Any other suggestions for preserving their freshness as long as possible?
Thanks,
jetneo
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Hi,

I never froze a pie, so I don't know. If that is what you need to do, then do it.

When do you plan to use this pie?

A few years ago, I made a pie for a charity event held on a Sunday. The lady who won it planned to freeze it, then defrost it later in the week. I have a feeling the pie would have held over to Thursday without the freeze-thaw cycle.

If it is short term length, you may refrigerate this bean pie to keep a bit fresher longer.

Worse comes to worse, eat these now and make a bean pie yourself later. If you have a blender or food processor, it is pretty straight forward to make.

Whatever you do, can you report back the outcome. I never froze a pie before. I can suggest when defrosting, remove all the plastic wrap to keep moisture from dripping on your pie and crust.

Good luck!

Regards,
_______________________________________

Cathy2

"You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
Facebook, Twitter, Greater Midwest Foodways, Road Food 2012: Podcast
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#18
Posted August 30th 2013, 10:54pm
You know, looking at this thread, I keep coming up with the memory of all the sweet bean desserts that I had that year I lived and taught in China. There, sweet beans were taken as an ordinary, typical desert component. I wonder if any of their techniques could be melded with the methods of this thread to make a fusion bean pie??

Geo
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Sooo, you like wine and are looking for something good to read? Maybe *this* will do the trick! :)
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Lead Moderator
#19
Posted November 22nd 2013, 11:44am
Hi,

Mike Sula wrote on the bean pie for The Reader.

Regards,
_______________________________________

Cathy2

"You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
Facebook, Twitter, Greater Midwest Foodways, Road Food 2012: Podcast
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#20
Posted November 22nd 2013, 2:40pm
Cathy2 wrote:Mike Sula wrote on the bean pie for The Reader.


Another terrific article from Sula based on Engler's gumshoe work. It's great to get more of the story about this pie from the people within the Nation of Islam tradition!

This is a topic that has fascinated me for some time. Finding the navy bean pie recipe in the New England Yankee Cookbook, I thought that using beans in pie may have been a Depression Era way of "making do" when ingredients were hard to come by. However, it seems possible that within New England, the bean pie came via the Portuguese islanders who came to work in the mills during the late 19th century. In towns like Fall River and New Bedford, MA, bean flans and pies are common today (see upthread for a pic of the flan-type). Perhaps ReneG will post some of his pics of the bean pies from a bakery in Fall River, Mass, where he, tatterdemalion and I found some bean pies made dark by caramelizing the sugar prior to inclusion in the pie. Poking around in the Chaves Market (a Portuguese food superstore in Fall River), I also found white bean flour in a box that offered a dessert recipe. Here is a link to Leonor De Sousa Bastos' recipe for her grandmother's bean tarts, which include almonds (a Moorish influence?).

Since there is nothing new under the sun, I was wondering whether there might be some connection at the roots of both the Portuguese bean pie and the bean pie tradition within the Nation of Islam. Sometime back, I looked into this a bit further. It turns out that sweet bean dishes are common across the lands of the African and Portuguese diasporas. While it seems likely that the piecrust format emerged later (along with the Portuguese custard tart that turned up in Asia?), there appears to be a culinary bridge to Africa by way of the Canary Islands (located only 60 miles from the coast of Morocco).

Just a theory I'll spin out, but the culinary missing link may be gofio, a porridge or paste of grains or legumes that was the staple food of the indigenous Guanches, early Canary Islanders of Berber origin. Here is a llnk in Portuguese that describes gofio, which remains a heritage food in the islands. According to the previous link and other sources, gofio preparations may be either savory or sweet; it is sometimes combined with eggs and oil and sweetened. Other preparations reveal a Moorish-Islamic heritage with their inclusion of almonds and spices. The Canary Islands were a "melting pot" and sugar cane producer during the era of European conquests and the associated trade in human beings, sugar, and rum. Gofio was a durable, portable food for a long sea journey, and likely made its way to the Carribean, along with other Canarian traditions that linger in Puerto Rico, Cuba, and South America. According to this Acadian-Cajun geneaology, Spain encouraged voluntary Canarian emigration to the New World beginning in the late 1600's and recruited 2,373 Canarians to defend and populate Louisiana in 1777-79. Could it be that the Canarian-Acadians in Louisiana have a sweet bean tradition? I'm still running that down, but all in all, there seems to be a story about the bean pie's origins in the African diaspora that ultimately leads back to Africa, which I think perhaps, Elijah Muhammad might have appreciated. I hope so, anyway.
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Man : I can't understand how a poet like you can eat that stuff.
T. S. Eliot: Ah, but you're not a poet.
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#21
Posted November 22nd 2013, 5:46pm
After reading Sula's piece I decided to try making them at home, with reasonable success. (I described the result to Sula on Twitter as "satisfying, but bland" and he said that sounded about right.) I used this recipe but cut the sugar down to 2 cups. And it's OK. It's sweet, the cinnamon and nutmeg are pretty well balanced (I used freshly-grated nutmeg so I cut back on it just a bit 'cause it can be overwhelming), and the custard set up nicely. I also got the nice brown layer on top that he mentioned, though it didn't look quite as crisp as the one pictured in his story.

I used a store bought crust because I am lazy basically
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Bean pie by jdb0927, on Flickr

Check out the browned layer on top
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Bean pie by jdb0927, on Flickr
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