The Kentucky Derby may have been earlier this month, but here is your chance to preserve some of that bluegrass spirit.
Jo Vernon’s derby pie is second to none with its flaky crust and melted chocolate chips.
Vernon, who used to live in the Cincinnati area – just across the river from Kentucky — said she and her friends used to make the pie a lot.
After moving back to Bowling Green, people didn’t know what it was “so I started making it,” she said.
She guessed she has been making it for 20 years.
She said she always thought the name came from the Kentucky Derby.
Actually, the history of Derby Pie dates to 1954 and was first made at an inn in Prospect, Kentucky. It is basically a pecan pie with chocolate chips added. Interestingly, anyone selling a pie by the Derby Pie name may get a cease-and-desist letter from the original baker, who owns the trademark.
Vernon said she has not adapted her recipe over the years.
She makes them and gives them away but doesn’t eat the pie.
“If I start, then I keep on eating and eating. It has chocolate chips on the bottom, and it is really rich.”
The crust recipe came from her husband’s niece and it makes three crusts. This pie uses one.
Vernon uses Crisco for her crust and adds a little bit of vinegar. The result is a super-flaky crust.
She said her mom was a really good cook and always prepared chicken on Sundays.
Vernon learned to make noodles by watching her grandmother, who put them on newspaper over the backs of chairs. Now at 86 years old, she prefers buying homemade noodles at flea markets.
“I was kind of on my own, learning to cook.”
She honed her cooking skills while cooking for an uncle while living in Lima in 1955.
Vernon said she follows a lot of recipes because she bakes a lot. She prefers baking.
“You can give away what you bake. It’s harder to give away what you cook,” she said.
And she does give away a lot of baked goods, “as much as I can.”
Baking gives her something to do “and people enjoy it.”
She takes cookies to the food distribution at First United Methodist Church, where her husband Rodney used to minister, and her neighbors also get a lot.
She is a 1952 graduate of Bowling Green High School and her dad was Ferris Myrice, who taught science at the junior high.
“He was a good teacher and a really good dad,” she said.
“I thank people when they do something for me. I thank them with cookies,” Vernon said.
Chocolate chip is her favorite. Her recipe makes around eight dozen, so she has to give them away.
She makes the Derby Pie all year long but especially at Thanksgiving and Christmas.
“I make this pie when people ask for something,” Vernon said.