May 17th, 1875 was the first Kentucky Derby. Now, if you are from hillbilly royalty, like we are, you have heard about the “Derby” since you were just a “young’n”. To hear our mother talk, you would think she was one of the attendees and as such was always dressed to the hilt with fancy clothes and an even fancier hat. Not true. She attended alright. Right from her big easy chair in her living room. Can’t really say if she adorned her head with a big old hat or not. But you can be sure she had more than her fair share of mint juleps!
Mother talked about the Derby for days on end and always mentioned how much she loved the fashion and all the finery. I guess it was another one of her make believe fantasies.
Once, when my sister Abby and I were in Louisville (after another horrendous visit with the one and only queen of the Derby, our mother), we decided to treat ourselves to a fine dinner to celebrate making it through another Far From Normal reunion with her. We went to a restaurant along the Ohio River that served “Derby Pie”. You know what they say:
When in Rome do as the Romans do.
So, we decided when in Louisville, have a piece of the famous pie. Well, it was delicious! Chocolate, pecans and caramel all wrapped up in a buttery crust and smothered with a blanket of whipped cream! Need I say more?
Derby pie is a pastry created in the Melrose Inn of Prospect, Kentucky, United States, by George Kern with the help of his parents. It is often associated with the Kentucky Derby.
The pie is a chocolate and Walnut tart in a pie shell usually with a pastry dough crust. It is also commonly made with pecans, chocolate chips and Kentucky bourbon. Popular additions are butterscotch, caramel, and other types of nuts.
The name “Derby Pie” is a registered trademark of Kern’s Kitchen, which registered the name in 1968. The company uses the name in the form “DERBY-PIE®” in official literature and advertisements. The recipe is kept secret, known only to a small group of Kern family members and a single Kern’s Kitchen employee (who actually mixes the recipe today). Kern’s Kitchen diligently guards the trademark and has filed more than 25 lawsuits to protect it over the years.
My sister and I enjoyed every morsel of food and could not wait to return to our homes to replicate the Derby pie. The version of this recipe that we consumed that day, as well as the versions that we experimented with making ourselves, did not include the “common” ingredient of Kentucky bourbon. But the inclusion of bourbon as an ingredient does help explain our mother’s enjoyment of Derby Pie. As with fruitcakes, Martha Washington Balls, sweet tea, and so many other concoctions, if liquor was an ingredient, a recipe had higher-than-average odds of joining our mother’s favorite recipe collection.
To this day, we still enjoy watching the Kentucky Derby and think about all of our hillbilly kin just a short distance away from Louisville, who celebrate from their easy chairs too! Probably with a jug of moonshine while wearing their finest coonskin caps!