According to James Beard‘s American Cookery (1972), chess pie was brought from England originally and was found in New England as well as Virginia. A recipe similar to chess pie appears in Martha Washington’s Booke of Cookery, from the mid-18th century. A recipe for chess pie appeared in the 1877 cookbook by Estelle Woods Wilcox, Buckeye Cookery.
Chess pie is most commonly associated as a dessert of the American South. Common types of chess pie are buttermilk, chocolate, lemon, and nut.
The origin of the name chess pie is unknown, but many theories have been proposed. It could be a derivation of “cheese pie”, the combination of eggs, butter, and sugar making a custardlike filling that is similar in texture to British cheesecakes and lemon curd; it could be named after the town of Chester, England; it could be from a piece of furniture used prior to home refrigeration called a “pie chest“, in which pies were stored; or it could have come from a mangling of “It’s just pie”/”It’s jes’ pie”
The basic chess pie recipe calls for the preparation of a single crust and a filling composed of flour, butter, sugar, and eggs. Some variations call for the addition of cornmeal as a thickener. Many recipes call for an acid such as vinegar, buttermilk, or lemon juice.
Watch How to Make Chess Pie