There Once Was a Pie from Nantucket

My friend Megan brought this pie to the first Friendsgiving Dinner we hosted in our Chicago apartment when I was in law school. “I’m making my mom’s cranberry-nut pie!” she told me, and I said, “Great!” and then got off the phone and said to Bill, “Cranberry-nut pie? I think I should probably make a cheesecake or something just in case.”

And then Megan arrived with this homely-looking lumpy golden thing in a pie dish and we all smiled and took tiny no-thank-you slivers to try

and then we went back for seconds and then we ate the rest of it for breakfast the day after Thanksgiving and then we called Megan and demanded the recipe. Which Megan, probably smiling like the Mona Lisa, generously gave us.

As you can see, the original recipe is very well loved and has been often used.

I learned much later — like, maybe five or six years ago? — that the humble delightful thing Megan and her mother called simply “Cranberry-nut Pie” is known also as “Nantucket Pie.”

Whatever you decide to call it, you should definitely make it immediately. It is easy as … well, pie, except actually easier than pie because there’s no fiddly pie crust or fruit to chop and sugar or spice or whatever.

You will need: a pie plate, a mixing bowl, and a whisk. That’s it. (I mean, yes, also the ingredients and a working oven, but that’s really it.) I keep fresh cranberries in my house starting as soon as they appear in the fall for as long as they last through the winter, because this is really the easiest thing to make and it’s so good for breakfast with coffee or dessert with vanilla ice cream or really any time of day that you want a treat but also want to be able to tell yourself you’re eating something healthy because fruit and nuts. (You’re not, okay? It’s not health food. There’s sugar and butter and stuff. But it’s good for your soul.) It is also easy to whip up if you have a sick neighbor or someone’s had a bad day and you just want to share a little sweet-tart-buttery-sugary goodness to lighten their load.


  • 1 1/4 cups fresh or frozen cranberries (no need to defrost, if frozen)
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts (pecans are also nice)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/3 cup melted butter
  • Additional butter for greasing the pie plate

Preheat the oven to 325. Butter your pie plate well, and pour in your cranberries. Scatter the chopped walnuts and brown sugar over the berries.

In your mixing bowl, beat the egg. Just until it’s smooth and yellow, I mean, we’re not making meringue or anything. Beat the sugar in gradually (left, below) until you have a paler yellow creamy goop. (Note to self: Don’t use the word goop in recipes.) Add the flour and melted butter, and mix.

Note two things: (1) This does not make a lot of batter; it helps to think of it as making a pie crust (for an upside-down pie) instead of a cake batter. You will have just exactly enough to cover the mixture in your pie plate. (2) My kitchen was very cold this morning, and the mixing bowl was cold, so the batter was stiffer than usual and didn’t pour (right, above). Usually it’s pourable and I add it to the mixture in the pie plate by pouring it in an even ribbon until it’s covered all, or mostly all.

Pour your batter over the mixture in the pie plate (or, if it is stiff like mine this morning, drop it on in spoonfuls and then smush it out as best you can with the butter-wrapper or a spatula).

Put it in your preheated oven, and bake for 45 minutes.

When it’s done, it will be golden brown on top; the top crust will crisp up the tiniest, most delightful bit as it cools, and the underneath will remain a gooey sweet-tart berry mess.

I apologize for the second photo, I cut it while it was still hot from the oven which is inadvisable if you are going for tidiness (and maximum top-crispiness) but absolutely advisable if you just want to shovel a slice in your face with a cup of coffee as I just did.

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