What is Amish Funeral Pie?

Atlas Obscura gives us a brief background of this dish, served by Amish in Pennsylvania at funerals:

Death and raisins share one essential feature: neither belongs to any one season. Eighteenth-century Amish and old-order Mennonites of Pennsylvania were no strangers to the harsh realities of sudden loss, but amidst tragedy, raisins were there. The preserved grapes were a pantry staple—shelf-stable and ready-to-eat throughout the year. In times of emergencies, wives turned to the ingredient known as rosine in their native German. They whipped up raisin pies, which traveled well and required no peeling or pitting, on various occasions, but their consistent presence at funerals led to the nickname “funeral pie.”

I have been to an Amish funeral once, but don’t recall having this. It occurred in Ohio, though. Rebecca Miller mentions cupcakes being served in her account of an Ohio funeral. Kevin Williams notes in Amish Cooks Across America that the pie is served at weddings in some settlements in Indiana. Church traditions vary across communities.

Photo by k-line.org

The pie can be made in different ways:

Some bakers turned it into a milky, custard-like filling, while others mimicked the texture of mincemeat. Both sticky pastes went straight into a double-crust, usually in lattice form. Despite evolving technology, Amish communities—steadfast in their devotion to tradition—have continued baking the same raisin pies well into the 21st century.

Food historian William Woys Weaver discusses funeral food of the wider group of Pennsylvania Dutch extensively in his book As American as Shoofly Pie. He mentions this raisin pie as well as a rice pie traditionally served at funerals by one group of Mennonites.

Funeral pie is not the only traditional pie served regularly at a church event out of custom. Snitz pie is standard at the fellowship meal following Amish church service in Lancaster County. My hosts sent me home with one this past week, following Easter Sunday service at their home.

I protested that I didn’t want to deprive their teenage boys of a full pie, and that just a portion would do. But what was a special treat for me was old hat for them, she explained. The boys eat it all the time. Snitz is made from dried apples. It’s one of my favorites.

Funeral Pie Recipe

Below you’ll find one recipe for funeral pie, from the York Dispatch. And here’s another. And if you want to try your hand at Snitz pie, you’ll find a set of instructions here.

Funeral Pie
Pastry for double-crust pie (9 inches)
2 cups raisins
2 cups water
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Soak the raisins in the water for 30 minutes.

Combine the sugar, flour, cinnamon and salt in a small bowl. Add to the raisins and mix. Cook over medium heat until the mixture thickens, about 8 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the walnuts, grated lemon rind and juice.

Let the raisin mixture cool until just barely warm. Pour mixture into prepared 9-inch pie shell. Add the top crust and bake at 400 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes until the crust is golden brown.

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    18 Comments

    1. Carolyn

      Recipe for Snitz Pie, Please?

      Would love to see the recipe for Snitz pie too.

      Thank you.

      1. Carolyn here is a recipe which I linked in the text, I don’t know how this stacks up to others, but here you go:

        Snitz Pie

        1 qt. dried apple slices
        1 1/4 cup sugar
        pinch of salt
        1/2 tsp. cinnamon
        3 drops lemon extract
        Double Pie Crust

        Cover dried apples with water and soak over night. Next day cook apples with water they were soaked in until soft, over low heat.

        Preheat oven to 425° F.

        Put apples through a ricer along with the juice they were cooked in. Add sugar, salt, cinnamon and lemon extract. Put in unbaked pie crust and add top crust.

        Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes, then at 375 degrees for 35 minutes or until done.

    2. Alice Mary

      Somber pie?

      It’s interesting to know the history behind this traditional Amish dessert. Although I’m not loathe to eat raisins as my adult children seem to be, I can’t say I’d be likely to call it a “favorite”. It looks (the recipe, too) rather heavy…almost somber. It seems to fit its name!

      Alice Mary

      1. I think I’ve had a custard pie with raisins, but not this one. Not sure I’d be a fan, as raisins are fine but I don’t like them that much.

    3. Terry Berger

      Elsewhere

      This custom of funeral pie is a very Pennsylvania German tradition. I was raised Penn German in a Brethren church and it’s served there. I also remember it being served at my paternal grandparents’ funerals who were of the German Reformed/UCC tradition. My mom’s variation was a sourcream raisin pie which uses ground raisins instead of stewed ones. If anyone is interested I’m more than happy to share the recipe.

      1. Terry thanks for mentioning that; I don’t think I’ll be baking it as I’m not much of a baker, but if you wouldn’t mind sharing it, it might be nice to have it on this post for current and future readers who come across this looking for a good recipes. I actually think the sour cream sounds like a nice addition though, I do tend to be a fan of sour cream:)

      2. Cynthia Bliss

        Sour cream raisin pie

        Please give the recipe for this pie.

    4. Terry from Wisc

      In the kitchen...

      Hey Erik, Been wondering where you’ve been recently and was happy to see an email with a new post to read!

      An Amish friend who passed away recently loved raisin pie. Often times if we stopped in for a visit raisin pie was served. Now, every time I read about it, or see it, I think of Melvin. His wife just uses stewed raisins for the pie. I found a recipe for a raisin custard pie, made it, and took it along when visiting Melvin and his wife. It was good, but only made it that one time.

      The sour cream raisin pie recipe can vary from a baked pie or a cooked custard that is poured into a baked crust and meringue put on top.

      How about “Funeral Cake”? Chocolate Chip Date Cake is the recipe we use. Years ago for Mothers Day the local newspaper ran stories and tributes to certain moms. A daughter told the story about her mom that as soon as she got word of a funeral she made that cake..hence the name. So, in our cookbook the recipe went with the title Funeral Cake.

      What fun to talk about traditions from different people and parts of the country!

      Erik, the B and B offer still stands! 🙂

      1. Thanks Terry, it is nice to learn about these traditions that you’d otherwise not know much about. I would go for that chocolate chip date cake, except I really am not too fond of dates, too rich for me 🙂 And thanks for keeping this offer on the burner, but be careful because I do actually take people up on these from time to time 🙂

    5. Al in Ky

      I was raised in a rural Norwegian Lutheran community and a meal was always served after the funeral/burial for everyone who attended the services. The menu depended on the time the funeral was held. Funerals seemed to be either at 11 a.m. or 2 or 2:30 p.m. For an 11 a.m. funeral, a full dinner was served afterwards (meat such as ham or roast beef, potatoes, whole kernel corn, cole slaw, rolls, cake, and coffee/water.) For an afternoon funeral a “lunch” was served which consisted of sandwiches, jello with fruit, cake, and coffee/water. The sandwiches were often made with
      a filling that some called “funeral spread” which was made with ground ham or bologna, mayonnaise and pickle relish, served on rolls.

    6. Ren Semans

      Tomato Gravy

      My grandfather’s parents spoke only Penn Dutch. This recipe has been handed down to family members. I was surprised when I read the recipe here. It didn’t have real tomatoes in it and used on pancakes!

      We’ve always used plain bread as the base, but I think the next time I make it, I will use it on pancakes. Not much difference except in preparing.

      1. Gravy not sauce?

        I have seen recipes for “Tomato Gravy” before, always wondered if this is just another name for tomato sauce, or what about it makes it “gravy” and not “sauce”…

        Anyway, I must be hungry because whichever it is, this simple meal sounds good right about now 🙂

    7. Terry from Wisc

      New recipe for Raisin Pie

      Good evening,
      So, I found a new recipe for raisin walnut pie today! I made it this aft, and the Mrs and I just had to have a taste of it, and thought I better share the good news!

      Raisin Walnut Pie
      1 9″ unbaked pie shell
      Filling
      3 eggs
      1 1/2 C light corn syrup
      1/4 C brown sugar
      2 tsp grated orange peel
      1/2 tsp salt
      1 tsp orange extract or vanilla
      1 C raisins
      1 C chopped walnuts.
      Heat oven to 425
      Beat the eggs and add the rest of the ingredients. Pour into the pie shell and bake at 425 for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 and bake an additional 30-35 minutes, or until a knife inserted 1 inch from the edge comes out clean. (Center will be slightly soft, but will set up as it cools.) Serve with whipped cream if desired.

      It was just slightly warm when we dug into it and oh my it was gooey delicious! This was way better than the Amish raisin pie I’ve eaten in the past. Give it a try and enjoy!

      1. Thanks for sharing this recipe Terry. If anybody else tries it, let us know! Other alternative recipes welcome too 🙂

    8. Adam

      Looks delicious (except I’m allergic to cinnamon).

    9. Ray Miller

      Lots of Pies

      The Funeral pie is great! I’ve made it myself. But that’s only the beginning: Shoofly pie can come in two versions: wet and dry. I much prefer the wet type….really satisfying! How about a “milk pie”? It’s a one crust pie with a layer of sugar and milk poured over it and baked. Also, how about a lemon sponge pie? It doesn’t get much better than a lemon sponge pie. In any pie, the crust is allllll important! While I didn’t grow up in an Amish home, my parents and ancestors were of Penna. German background. My mother was a supreme baker! Not in the pie category but just as important were the filled dumplings: Dough filled with mashed potatoes and onion, boiled and then fried. Served with cold red beets and butter. Or, how about pot pie (the slipper type, NOT the baked crust type. Again served with meat, potatoes, and onions! These are not recipes that can be shoved in a microwave for 3 minutes but require a little bit of work. My mother raised four sons, worked a 40 hour week outside the home, and yet managed producing these delectable, mouthed-watering dishes!

      1. Great menu of dishes there! I was not aware of the term “slipper” for pot pie, will need to look that one up.

    10. Jodi Schwendeman

      Raisin pie

      My grandma, PA Dutch, used to make raisin pie, but she added crushed pineapple….so ridiculously good! She taught my Italian grandma how to cook it, and it has become a special occasion dessert at family events. Thanks for evoking the memories!