By Larry Majewski
What do they call a Belgian pie in Belgium? They just call it ‘pie.’ That’s an old joke to accompany an old pie recipe from the old country. The old country is of course Belgium, which generated a wave of settlers in Southern Door County over a century and a half ago. Unlike the throngs of immigrants elsewhere throughout Wisconsin, these Belgians tended to stick around. Because of those deep roots, there exists a portal into the past that a modern day Belgian might not recognize.
It starts with the few idiomatic expressions that have trickled down through generations. These words and phrases would sound like an old-timey dialect to the modern ear. At festivals around Door County, such as Belgian Days there is certain to be Belgian Trippe, a pork and cabbage sausage, and Belgian Jut, a mashed potato and cabbage stew. Drop a Belgian into one of these festivals and he or she might identify these dishes as something his or her great-grandmother used to make.
The queen of old Belgian fare is the Belgian Pie. The basic construction of this confection is a yeast-raised crust, followed by fruit filling and topped with cottage cheese. Being Door County, many Belgian Pies are made with the local Montmorency Cherry, but traditional filling includes prunes, raisins, apples and even rice. The variations are endless, but the basic look is rooted in it heritage.
Gina Guth is a local baking professional who specializes in Belgian pies. She learned from her mother, who was a baker of local renown in the 1960s and 1970s. Guth keeps the Belgian Pie tradition alive by teaching baking classes to visitors and locals alike through her company, Flour Pot. Visit flourpot-llc.com for class schedules and locations. You just might find your inner Belgian.