Coffee Gelatine Pie – What A Treat!

My husband Dan grew up in the 1950s in Quincy, MA outside of Boston in a family with deep New England/Canadian/Scottish roots. The food he ate was often food I’ve never heard of such as the fruit punch XaRex (worthy of a whole other blog. We do drink this).

Tiny cook book I used

One food he remembers very fondly is Coffee Gelatine Pie made with Plymouth Rock gelatine. This pie was served at Thanksgiving and Christmas in the Lutts’ household, but the recipe was lost long ago.

Sadly, Plymouth Rock gelatine is also no longer made. This Boston-based company, however, was one of the earliest commercially sold gelatines in the US, patented in 1889. Here’s a lovely early ad for the company which always used Pilgrims in their advertising.

My problem in recreating Dan’s cherished pie were many. No Plymouth Rock coffee gelatine. In fact no coffee gelatine on the market! And no recipe in his mother’s recipe box. Internet searches also yielded nothing. But I did notice that I could purchase on line several of  the small recipe books that companies like Plymouth Rock produced to encourage sales. I eagerly awaited these Plymouth Rock recipe books arrival and low and behold I found the recipe!

But of course, no coffee gelatine. But I figured I could create my own using unflavored gelatine and coffee. Here’s the recipe as printed on the small recipe pamphlet:

Coffee Pie

  • 1 box Plymouth Rock Coffee Gelatine (First attempt I used 4 packets of unflavored gelatine. See notes below)
  • 2 cups hot water (I used 2 cups strong coffee)
  • 2 eggs, separated
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • speck of salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 cup cream
  • Pastry shell for pie

First of all I cheated and used a Pillsbury roll out pie crust.

Line a pie plate with the crust and bake for 12-15 minutes at 450 degrees (prick the bottom of the pie crust before baking).

Let the pie crust cool,

Make 2 cups of very strong coffee and then put it in a pan and bring it to a boil.

Once the coffee is boiling pour it over the gelatine and stir until gelatine is dissolved.

Separate the eggs and beat the egg yolks slightly.

Pour the gelatine mixture over the eggs gradually while stirring constantly.

Take this coffee/gelatine/egg mixture and put in a double boiler (I got to use my nifty vintage double boiler).

First attempt: got so bored stirring I began to read!

Cook while stirring constantly until the mixture thickens.

Once thickened remove from heat and let cool.

Once cool add salt and vanilla and mix.

Cool until the mixture is somewhat stiffened and then beat with an egg beater until light and fluffy.

While this mixture is cooling beat the egg whites to soft peaks.

Beat the cream until stiff.

Once you’ve beaten the coffee mixture, fold in the beaten egg whites and then fold in the beaten cream.

Chill until stiff enough to hold shape and pile up well on a spoon.

Place in the cooled pastry shell and serve when it is completely jelled.

Sounds easy enough right? Wrong! First the coffee mixture in the double boiler wouldn’t thicken. I stirred and stirred and stirred. Finally after an eternity it looked a bit thicker and I took it off the heat. After letting it cool a bit and adding the vanilla and salt I thought I should pop it into the fridge to thicken. Big mistake! It congealed quickly into a rubbery jello like substance.

First pie - looks like little chocolate chips....

When I tried to whip this jelled coffee mixture it just broke into pieces and then never fully incorporated in with the egg whites and whipped cream. The pie tasted ok, but it just didn’t look right or taste right.

A few nights ago when I was reading Cook’s Magazine’s recipe for Lemon Chiffon Pie, I learned a trick that might help with the too jelled coffee mixture. Adding some cornstarch! I thought I’d try to make another pie and it worked.

It was quite a gamble with proportions, but here’s what I did:

I used three packets of plain gelatine and 3 tbs. of cornstarch and mixed them together. The result was that the coffee mixture thickens in the double boiler much easier. My second modification was to not put the coffee mixture in the fridge, but to let it cool and thicken on its own. By the time I’d whipped the eggs and cream the coffee mixture was ready to whip. Everything folded together nicely.

Second attempt - coffee pie!

The second pie is delicious and Dan swears it tastes just as good as his mom’s! This recipe from c. 1930s is a real keeper!

Dan gives the pie a thumbs up even before tasting a slice.

8 Responses to “Coffee Gelatine Pie – What A Treat!”

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  1. Dan says:

    I’m thrilled my darling wife recreated this recipe! I never thought I’d ever taste my mother’s coffee pie again. It was my favorite growing up, and still is. And now I don’t have to wait till Thanksgiving or Christmas to have it!!!

  2. Jeannine says:

    Never ever heard of anything like this but I’m up for anything that includes coffee! Dan looks mighty happy licking that bowl.

  3. Bev says:

    I’ve never heard of such a thing! We won’t be trying this one for sure! Neither of us like coffee! I like Dan’s photo tasting!

  4. Robbie says:

    I actually have a real box of Plymouth Rock Coffee Gelatine!
    I will not be using it for this pie as it is easliy 60 years old, but I will try to make this pie.
    Thanks for posting the recipe.

  5. Kathleen Judkins says:

    Hello,
    We made Plymouth Rock gelatin for years and the box does not contain any milk product nor did we use any when we made the gelatin. It was sweetened with sugar, so making the unflavored gelatin with brewed strong coffee and sugar works just fine. It has a rich coffee taste and even as children we loved the taste. Mom would serve it with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

    Every now and then I would try to find it in the stores, but once we moved away from New England it was not to be located. When we moved back the company was no longer in business.

    Nice to see the pie recipe so may give that a shot.
    Thank you.

  6. Billy says:

    I was just on the Brighton Allston Historical Society site looing for pictures of companies where my relatives used to work. My mother always mentioned that my Grandmother used to work for Plymouth Rock Gelatin, or as she would say, “the gelatin” and point down the street.

    I think it was located on Western Ave. near the Charles River ?

    I was looking at old maps and a block away on the corner of Cambridge St. and the river was a “Glue Factory”. I know they used to boil down horse’s & cattle hooves and bones to get the gelatin and make glue.

    We had the Abattoir (slaughter house) up here in Brighton so there was plenty of livestock to make the product.

    I think I can remember seeing Knox Coffee Gelatin on the shelves a few years back ? I used to buy “Postum” and loved drinking it because it had a different taste from coffee and tea. I liked it before bed because it was caffeine free. Went to the store, it was out of stock. Kept checking, out of stock. Asked a manager. He thought maybe they didn’t carry it ? Well it turns out that the Post-General Foods, then Kraft and Nabisco mergers decided to get rid of it.

    Above, you have a typo for Za-rex. We drank it all the time. I hear they are making it again: http://blogs.wickedlocal.com/massmarkets/2012/01/14/new-owners-of-zarex-get-creative-in-promoting-the-drink-syrup-in-new-england/

  7. Rose says:

    I’m so disappointed they no longer make Plymouth Rock Coffee Gelatin. I too grew up in the 1050′s, still live in Boston. My mother just made jello and we served it with a little milk, since we didn’t have cream in the house.
    I’ve been checking all the stores looking for it & was so disappointed. I’ll have to try the coffee pie recipe.

    • Lisa says:

      Hi Rose – thanks for finding my blog. It’s obvious from all the comments about Plymouth Rock Coffee Gelatin, that this was a much loved food! It is a shame it’s no longer around. I hope you try the recipe though! Aunt Lil

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