In January of 1959, a Virginia woman wrote to her local newspaper’s food editor in search of a pie recipe.

“I’ve looked in all my cookbooks for a caramel pie which my husband tells me is made with damson preserves. There just ‘ain’t no sech animal.’ Please see what you and your readers can do to solve this marital difficulty.” The letter was signed “CPJ, Richmond.”


  • Pie Filling
    • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened (3 ounces)
    • ¼ cup sugar
    • 3 eggs
    • ½ cup damson preserves*
    • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • Pie Crust
    • 1-½ cups all-purpose flour
    • 1 tablespoon sugar
    • ¼ teaspoon salt
    • 1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces (roughly ½- inch pieces) (4 ounces)
    • ½ cup ice water, (or less)


1. Pie Crust: In a food processor, mix the flour, sugar, and salt. Add the butter and pulse into the dry ingredients until the largest pieces are pea-sized. Drizzle in the water, pulsing a bit at a time, until the dough starts to clump together into a shaggy mass but has not fully come together in a ball. You may not need the full amount of water. Alternatively, you can do this by hand, using your fingers to pinch and work the butter into the flour.
2. Pour the dough onto a floured surface and press it together gently into a flat disk. Fold it over a few times onto itself, then press it into a disk shape again. Wrap it in parchment or plastic, and place in the refrigerator for an hour or so to rest.
3. Once dough has rested, allow it to soften a bit at room temperature for 20 minutes or so, until it is workable but still cold and firm. On a floured surface, roll the dough out evenly with a floured rolling pin, working from the center outward to the edges, occasionally rotating the dough a quarter turn. Once the dough is wide enough to fill a 9-inch pie pan and cover the rim, pick it up and gently lay it into the pie pan, taking care to fit it into the edges. Trim any excess dough with kitchen scissors and crimp or flute the edges as you like, using your fingers or a fork. Cover, and allow to firm up in the refrigerator for around a half hour, or until you are ready to bake.
4. Filling: Preheat the oven to 350° F (177° C). In a medium bowl, cream together the butter and sugar with an electric mixer until fluffy and light yellow. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then add the damson preserves and vanilla and beat for another five minutes.
5. Take out your pie crust and prick a few holes on the bottom using the tines of a fork. Pour the filling into the crust and place on the middle rack. Bake for around 30 to 40 minutes, rotating the pie midway through baking for evenness. The pie is done when the filling is set but the center jiggles ever so slightly. Let it cool for at least a half hour or so before serving (it will firm up more).


* The English brand Wilkin & Sons makes a decent damson plum preserve. You can also mail-order from smaller producers such as Beth’s Farm Kitchen (Hudson Valley) and Jam According to Daniel (Charlottesville, VA).


Mildred Williams


8 servings




North American : United States : Southern