2 9 inch pie crusts (This is for an open pie.)
1 Cup of granulated sugar
3 T Cornstarch
2/3 Cup of Water
1 3/4 + Cups of Raisins
Juice of one lemon
Dash of Nutmeg
Directions: Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Blend together sugar and cornstarch. Add Water and raisins and cook over medium heat until thick. Add Lemon Juice and Nutmeg and pour into crust-lined pans. Cook for 10 minutes at 450 degrees and then lower temperature to 350 degrees and cook for an additional 20 – 30 minutes. Note: This should be enough filling for two pies; however, one of my pies could have accommodated slightly more filling. That said, if you increase the quantity of filling, be careful not overfill the pies. While cooking, it bubbles up and expands. Although it recedes as it cools, it makes a terrible mess in the oven.
In the 1970s, about three decades after her paternal grandmother passed away, Marion Laundra Trombley, attempted to locate the recipe for her grandmother’s raisin pie. Although family members and neighbors distinctly remembered the desert, no one had preserved the recipe – actually, it is unlikely that there ever was a formal recipe. Marion’s re-creation almost certainly, departs from her grandmother’s in two distinct ways, the “tart” element in the original – which is crucial in off-setting the overpowering sweetness of the combination of sugar syrup and raisins – was almost certainly vinegar not lemon. Also, everyone concurred that Marion was much more liberal with raisins than her grandmother.
Raisin Pie, Peonies and A Parlor Suite
Normally this history portion of this recipe would be written anonymously; however, it will be easier to simply write that Tom Trombley is writing this. At the Castle Museum we have a saying – “we collect things to preserve stories.” And my mother’s re-creation of my great-grandmother’s raisin pie does exactly that.
Lena Thibault Laundra was born in Quebec. As a child, she moved to Saginaw with her foster parents, Frank and Lucy LeMontaine [The spelling of their name varies greatly and sometimes they went by the English name of Hill.] They arrived in Saginaw City during the height of Saginaw’s rise as a lumber center. While never formally adopted by the LeMontaines, from all accounts they were closer than foster parents and there is only account of discord recorded in family lore - Lena came home from school while the parlor was being wallpapered. As Mr. LeMontaine’ watched the paperhanger match a largescale pattern of birdcages, he was upset by paper being wasted when the pattern was matched between strips. He instructed the paperhanger to not match the paper. Lena was mortified and was embarrassed to have friends see the parlor with its unmatched pattern.
In 1876, she married Joseph Laundra. He and his family were French Canadian immigrants who came to Saginaw City to work in the lumbering industry. They were part of Saginaw’s large French-Canadian workforce that made it possible to harvest the forests and transform logs into lumber. According to family stories, he was a lumber scaler, and some stories claim that some years Lena would accompany him to the lumber camps and would serve as the cook – made of stable pantry ingredients raisin pie would certainly be a perfect finish to a lumber camp meal.
Early in their married years, the Laundras, lived in the northern part of Saginaw City. There were numerous other French-Canadian immigrants in the neighborhood, and they belonged to St. Andrew’s Catholic Church. French, their native language, was often spoken in their home – and at times of stress a mixture of French and English could be called upon.
Although thrifty and frugal, Lena made certain that she had a proper, formal parlor and shortly after being married they purchased an elaborate black walnut parlor set. It would serve them well – and pieces of it still are used by their descendants. (I am certain that the wallpaper in her parlor was as carefully matched as the suite of furniture that graced it.)
By 1894, the family included seven children and they had saved enough money to purchase a farm in Kochville Township. (Always frugal and watchful for a bargain, the land they bought was in the center of the section. The lane leading to their farm still bears their name.) In 1919, they sold their farm, retired, and moved back to the city of Saginaw. (Before moving away from her home in Kochville, she took with her a cutting from one of the peonies that grew in the yard.) In 1935, the Laundras died when the gas line leading into their home leaked and resulted in an explosion.
Historic preservationists acknowledge that a reconstruction of a historic building is not the same as the original. Missing details need to be created. More importantly, it is impossible to remove oneself from the process and not recreate the building that you wish would – should - have existed. The same holds true of re-created recipes – my mother created the pie she wanted to remember. Her interpretation was much more raisin-rich, and the vinegar became lemon. (When I was preparing to make this pie, I mentioned to my sister that I planned to use lemon zest and she reminded me that our mother didn’t use lemon zest – except when I was cooking in her kitchen.)
Lena Laundra, c. 1882; The location of the Laundra Farm from the 1897 Atlas; the exterior of Laundras’ Kochville Township home; A peony grown form a cutting one that once grew on the Laundra Farm; Detail of a chair from Lena Laundra’s parlor suite, and a c. 1936 photograph of Marion Laundra Trombley sitting in a chair from her grandmother’s parlor suite.