Ask A Charlotte Expert: Your Best Thanksgiving Pie Recipe

Ask A Charlotte Expert: Your Best Thanksgiving Pie Recipe
There is no more pleasant way to take the chill off at home than with baking. While the heat from the oven warms your domicile, aromas are circulating that make home, especially the kitchen, a great place to be. As baking season approaches, an article about the “Best Apple Pie In Baltimore” inspired a look at one Charlotte expert’s best Thanksgiving pie recipes. Our expert, James Bazzelle, is known as the proprietor of one of the most popular soul food restaurants in Charlotte — Mert’s Heart & Soul. He generously provides three easy pie recipes to enhance the holidays, but advises, as all creative cooks know, that they can be altered to taste.
bazzelle Ask A Charlotte Expert: Your Best Thanksgiving Pie Recipe

James Bazzelle (Credit, Jacquelin Peters)

James Bazzelle
Mert’s Heart and Soul
214 N. College St.
Charlotte, NC 28202
(704) 342-4222

James Bazzelle grew up in Athens, Georgia, so Southern culture inspires him, especially Gullah cuisine as practiced in the Low Country areas of South Carolina and Georgia. He and wife Renee started Mert’s more than 10 years ago, and have maintained a presence Uptown even though a couple of soul food restaurants in Charlotte have recently closed. When it comes to baked goods on the menu, customers love the cornbread, made with an unusual ingredient — mayonnaise. The little, individual-sized loaves with honey butter on the side are soul satisfying. The first two recipes below for pecan pie and strawberry pie are found on the Mert’s Heart & Soul website. Bazelle commented, ” . . . being a Georgia boy, pecan pie is my favorite.”

pie Ask A Charlotte Expert: Your Best Thanksgiving Pie Recipe

Pecan Pie from Mert’s Heart & Soul (Credit, Jacquelin Peters)

Pecan Pie Mert’s Heart & Soul


  • 1 9-inch pie crust
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup dark corn syrup
  • 1 cup pecan halves
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup melted butter


Heat oven to 375 degrees F. Beat eggs, sugar, salt, butter and corn syrup together. Mix in pecans. Pour into pie crust. Bake 40-50 minutes or until filling is set and the crust is brown.

The hue of ripe strawberries invokes one of the primary Christmas colors. Since strawberries are available all year, this pie can become a favorite for holidays or anytime.

Fresh Strawberry Pie


  • 1 9-inch pie shell
  • 1 cup fresh strawberries
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 4 1/2 tsp cornstarch
  • 1/3 cup strawberry gelatin


Wash strawberries and allow to drain in a saucepan. Combine sugar, lemon juice and cornstarch. Cook over medium heat until mixture is transparent. Add gelatin, stirring until dissolved. Place strawberries in pie shell. Pour syrup over strawberries and chill.

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Last but by no means least, here is Bazzelle’s recipe for sweet potato pie, with the following comments:

“We always have sweet potato pie at home on Thanksgiving day (I have one son who would have his own pie when he was a teenager), and as a kid we did as well. We use pie shells without animal fat at home. This recipe is easy. I think sweet potato pie is the number one southern tradition pie.”

James Bazelle’s Sweet Potato Pie


  • 1/3 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs lightly beaten
  • 3/4 cup evaporated milk
  • 2 cups mashed sweet potatoes (bake 1 or 2 depending on size)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (Bazzelle advises that vanilla paste has more intense flavor)
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 unbaked pastry shell (9 inches)


In a bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add eggs; mix well. Add milk, sweet potatoes, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt; mix well. Pour into a pie shell. Bake at 425 degrees F for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees; bake 35-40 minutes or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool.

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Jacquelin Celeste Peters has produced award winning radio programs at WPFW Pacifica-Washington. She is a Culture and Events Examiner in Charlotte, North Carolina, which she calls home. Her work can be found at