WELLINGTON — This year’s winner in his pie category at the Lorain County Fair was something few people who checked it out had seen before — a tomato pie.
Jay Cooper’s creation went up against all the traditional dessert pies and emerged best of class.
Cooper, 46, of Vermilion wasn’t surprised.
“Every time I take it to an outing it’s devoured immediately,” he said. “It is really, really good.”
Cooper said he came up with the idea for a tomato pie after seeing something similar on a cooking show several years ago.
“That’s where I got the idea, but they did it different,” he said. “It just looked good. They were having it with their supper.”
Cooper isn’t so quick to define his dish as dinner.
“We’ve had it so many different ways — breakfast, after lunch, as a main course at supper,” he said. He said that the pie is best heated up, so the cheese is melted, but he’s eaten it cold as well.
Cooper said the idea of a tomato pie appealed to him because he not only loves tomatoes, but he raises his own. He said his recipe hasn’t changed since the first time he tried it.
He said he made 25 tomato pies last summer and 16 so far this year. He’s even sold pies for $12 a piece.
What remains of his winning entry was part of the record-setting culinary arts auction yesterday. Cooper said it sold for $50.
While Cooper said he’s seldom shared the recipe, he said he’s had people tell him they tried to emulate it, but their pies turned out mushy and runny.
“The key is when you spice up your tomatoes, you put them on paper towels to drain the juices so it isn’t so mushy,” he said.
Cooper starts by baking an empty pie crust for 15 minutes at 350 degrees.
Using about six tomatoes total, he then fills the crust with a layer of tomatoes, a layer (1 cup) of pepper jack cheese, another layer of tomatoes, another layer of pepper jack cheese and a final layer of tomatoes.
He tops it off with his own homemade topping, which includes mayonnaise, basil, bacon bits, onions and more pepper jack cheese. He bakes the finished pie for another 30 minutes.