RUDOLPH - Jessica Susor has a nearly impeccable Cook's Corner pedigree.
|Pauline Bechstein (left) and granddaughter Jessica Susor with their popular pecan (left) and sweet potato pies. (Photo: J.D. Pooley/Sentinel-Tribune)
Her mother, LuAnn Hunt, was featured in the column in 2011 for her Better Than Almost Anything Cake. And her aunt Darline Weaver was the subject of a 2006 column for her cherry pie filling.
Susor, 31, describes herself a third-generation pie baker, having learned literally at the knee of her grandmother Pauline Bechstein.
"She taught me how to make pies when I was little; 5, 6 years old," Susor recalls.
"She put me on the pastry making - the crust, because she wanted me to stay away from the stove. I have this visual of how she'd come over from the stove top and pinch what I was doing and then say 'Feel it,'" prodding the first grader to realize the consistency of a correctly formed pie dough.
"I can see our two hands in my mind. It's definitely a texture thing," she said of the secret to a good pie crust. "Knowing you've got the right ratio of flour to shortening, and of course water."
Grandma Bechstein built a reputation far and wide for her matchless pies as well as her unfailing generosity.
"It was always her tradition to make pies for the legion auxiliary, the church and anybody who wanted it." She was first in line to donate pies for any benefits scheduled, like the local firehouse chicken dinner.
These days, Bechstein's health no longer allows her to make pies the way she once did, so Susor is working to keep the tradition alive.
Today, she is sharing what she describes as their joint recipe for sweet potato pie, a culinary treasure that tastes like a wonderful blend of old-fashioned cream pie and pumpkin pie, only even better.
"The crust recipe is my grandmother's. She learned it from her German grandmother, so it's like five generations old."
The filling for the sweet potato pie is Susor's creation.
"I went online and I looked up three different recipes. I played with (them), combined the three, until I came up with one that tasted good."
Her taste-testers - friends from Rossford First Baptist Church - told her she had a winner.
Susor, a 1999 graduate of Bowling Green High School who was formerly a manager at Biaggi's Italian restaurant in Perrysburg, was brainstorming ways to earn some extra cash earlier this fall so she could afford to stay at the farmhouse and take care of her grandma.
"I prayed, and the idea came to sell things. But what? I'm crafty, too," so at first she thought about craft items she could sell.
Then it came to her. How about those pies everybody seemed to make a fuss over?
"The idea to sell the pies for the holidays came to me spontaneously, within the last two, three weeks."
She immediately moved into high gear and is producing apple, cherry, peach, berry, sweet potato, pumpkin, pecan, and cran-raspberry pies for those who order them any time now through Feb. 28.
Bechstein's favorite pies to make were apple, peach and cherry, "and she also did meringue pies - chocolate, coconut cream, and lemon was always a favorite."
Susor has had fun coming up with creative additions to the list, like the cran-raspberry.
"I was looking around at different things and I thought that sounded good. I used what (Bechstein) taught me about fruit fillings" and combined it with something she discovered in a previous job. "I used to be a bartender. You mix cranberries with a lot of different things and I got the idea and decided to combine them,"
The berry pie she makes is a combination of strawberries, blackberries and blueberries.
The pies that are the most work are the apple and the sweet potato "because both of those are prepared from scratch. You have to peel and prepare them before even making the filling."
So far, her most popular pie is the sweet potato, "and then next would be the peach."
She is selling them for $9 for a nine-inch pie.
So here are two options. If you're a confident pie baker yourself, mix up a sweet potato pie using Susor's own recipe and impress the crowd on Thursday. Or if you don't have time before Thanksgiving or Christmas, call or text Susor at 419-346-8216.
Susor just wants to make sure Bechstein gets the credit for instilling the pie-baking gene in her granddaughter.
"If it weren't for my grandma teaching me, I wouldn't have any idea. Because pies are about the only thing I can bake." She also enjoys cooking, but when it comes to other kinds of baking "I would be out of my element."
Pauline’s Sweet Potato Pie
3/4 cup shortening
4 handfuls flour
pinch of salt
touch of water
With a pastry cutter, combine shortening, flour and salt to a crumble consistency. Then add water until the mixture comes together into a ball. Dust the dough with flour and roll out to fit a 9-inch pie pan. Prick the crust with a fork on all sides to prevent bubbles when baking. Flute the edges with fingers, if desired.
3 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
pinch of salt
1/4 cup milk
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. vanilla
In a large pot, cover sweet potatoes with water and bring to a boil. Then reduce heat, cover and simmer until soft; about 20 minutes. Drain and allow to steam dry for a couple minutes, then transfer to mixing bowl to cool for 10 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Mash the potatoes until smooth and mix in remaining ingredients. Pour the filling into the unbaked crust. Bake at 350 for 40-45 minutes, until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.
Transfer pie to wire rack to cool until solid. Then either serve or refrigerate.