Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Sweet Sorrow – Rosina Pie

I am not particularly fond of raisins. I can’t put my finger on it nor trace back the origin of my prejudice, but there it is. For those who are MAD for raisins, however, there is a recipe that is MADE for them, and I CAN trace back its origin. Rosina Pie (it sounds so wistfully far away, from another time, when photographs were tinted sepia and a weathered life showed on a weathered face) is a memory of my Pennsylvania Dutch (actually Deutsch) heritage. Rosina (which means raisin in German) is served traditionally after funeral services. Raisins, which are plentiful and store well, are an obvious choice, but there’s something more to it than just the practical; the pie is cloyingly sweet, which makes it the ideal comfort food. You can hardly think of anything else while you are eating it. There will be those farm cooks who will dispute my recipe as not truly traditional, since it doesn’t use egg or milk for a custard base, but both my mother and I remember the pie as similar in preparation, taste and texture to English mincemeat. My mother never had a recipe handed down to her. This is my version as I recall it from many years ago, faded by memory, tinted sepia.

Rosina Pie (aka Funeral Pie)

This recipe will make one deep-dish pie (pictured), but there is enough filling to make 2 regular sized pies. If you make 2 regular sized pies, you will need two recipes of pastry.


2 – 15 oz. boxes dark raisins
3 cups water
3 packed cups dark brown sugar
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
2 teaspoons your choice of very fresh ground cinnamon, cloves or nutmeg (plus ½ teaspoon for dusting crust)
2 tablespoons white granulated sugar
1 recipe pastry for double crust pie (your choice or recipe to follow)


In a large saucepan, combine raisins and water. Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes or until raisins are plump and soft. Drain raisins and set aside to cool, returning cooking liquid to saucepan. Add all the sugar, lemon juice, zest and your choice of spice to the raisin liquid in saucepan, stirring with a wooden or plastic spoon to mix well. Bring mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally for 30 minutes until the mixture starts to thicken into a syrup but not as thick as honey. The mixture will frequently threaten to boil over, so you do have to watch it and adjust the heat accordingly. Meantime, finely chop to a paste ½ the raisins in a food processor. Add them and all the whole raisins into the saucepan with the syrup, stirring well. Slowly boil for another 15 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature. It will thicken even more and become sticky as it cools. It also needs to cool to prevent the crust (which will not be pre-baked) from getting soggy from a hot mixture.

Preheat oven to 350°. Prepare pastry. Roll out bottom crust and arrange in pie pan, making sure you have overhang around the rim. Fill with raisin mixture. Roll out top crust and arrange over filled pie shell allowing overhang again. Carefully lift both edges of pie dough tucking top dough under the bottom to create a very thick rustic edge. Pinch the edge with your fingers to flute or gently press down with tines of fork. Slit top crust to allow steam to escape and strew lightly with granulated white sugar.

Place the pie on a stable cookie sheet and position in middle of preheated oven. Bake for 45 minutes. If you are making smaller pies, 45 minutes is approximately enough. A deep dish will require ¼ to ½ hour longer. The pie is done when the crust is medium to dark golden brown and the filling bubbles up through the slits in the top crust.

Remove from oven, dusting with spice of your choice. Allow to cool to room temperature before cutting. The first cut will be very juicy. Filling will firm up nicely overnight.

Pastry (Adapted from Betty Groff’s recipe)


2 ½ Cups All Purpose White Flour
½ Stick Butter
½ Cup Vegetable Shortening
Ice Water


Cut or rub between fingers butter and shortening into flour until it resembles coarse meal. Add water a little at a time, tossing & folding with a rubber spatula between additions. As you continue to add, toss and fold small amounts of water, press the mixture with the spatula against the bowl until the dough can easily form a ball. Use as much ice water as you need. It is better the dough be moister than dry; dry dough will not roll out evenly. Transfer dough onto a well-floured rolling surface, gently shaping into an even ball. Cut the ball in ½ and reserve in plastic wrap for the top crust. Roll the bottom crust large enough so that you have overhang when you fit it in pie pan. Roll top crust in same manner. --


  1. Susan, lovie - Why is this also known as Funeral Pie? I am fine with raisins, and the mincemeat comparison has got me primed with a fork, ready to attack a slice. It actually seems like a great alternative to have at Christmas if one has not taken enough time out to make his or her own mincemeat. I'm dog-earing this page for Christmas, just in case.

  2. Hi, Shaun. It's served at funerals because it's so horrifically sweet that you cannot feel your grief while you are eating it. It's like trying to keep two disparate thoughts going at same time - can't be done. In truth, it's probably no sweeter than mincemeat, but since it has no distracting nuts or other fruit, the sugar almost stings.

    That's a great idea for Xmas; mincemeat can be such a chore with all that grinding of ingredients. I have a leftover tub of it in the freezer, waiting for its second coming this year. There was no way I was going to let all that work go to waste.