There's an expression "as American as apple pie." But apple pie isn't really an American invention at all. Surprised? Recipes for apple pie were brought to America by early European settlers.
In England, apple pie recipes date back to at least 1381. These recipes used apples, spices, figs, raisins, and pears. Early English recipes for apple pie did not use sugar. Sugar was later imported into England from Egypt in the 14th century. It was not widely available and was very expensive.
But the English actually preferred their apple pies without sugar. Most of the pies they ate in the 1300s were made with meat. They were served as the meal's main course. Then someone began substituting fruit for meat and serving the pie as dessert.
But where did the saying "as American as apple pie" come from? Americans popularized the apple. The US eventually became one of the top apple-growing nations in the world.
Many recipes for apple pie were developed in various regions of the country. These recipes do share some similarities, though. A typical pie is made with fresh apples, sugar, spices, and occasionally a little butter, and then mixed together and baked inside a pastry shell or pie crust.
In Colonial days and until the 19th century, apple pie was a breakfast dish. It was so common that many early American cookbooks didn't include a recipe because most households already had one. But in the mid-1700s, Martha Washington's "Booke of Cookery" included a codling apple tart recipe that's similar to apple pie.
German settlers in Pennsylvania - now called Pennsylvania Dutch (Deutsch being the German word for Germans) - created many recipes for apple pie. An interesting one is called Green Apple Pie. It uses grated apples. The apples break down into mush as the pie cooks, leaving a finely textured applesauce as the filling.
Some apple pies are baked with lattice crusts. These are strips of dough arranged over the apple filling in a crisscrossed pattern. Other apple pies have "crumb" toppings made with flour, sugar, cinnamon, and butter and sprinkled on top so that it looks like crumbs. (Another name for a crumb topping is "streusel," which comes from a German word that means something strewn over the top.)
Over the years, many cooks have added different fruits to their apple pies. Maybe you've seen - or even tasted - apple/cranberry pie, apple/plum, apple/pumpkin, or even apple/jalapeño pie.
There's an apple pie for every taste!
Sources: 'Apple Pie Perfect' by Ken Haedrich; 'Apple of Your Pie Cookbook' by Ellen Maher Kranauer; 'Apple Pie, An American Story' by John T. Edge; 'American As Apple Pie' by Alice Ross, Journal of Antique Collectibles, November 2000; Wikipedia; The Food Timeline, www.foodtimeline.org/foodpies.html#applepie
1 (9-inch) deep-dish frozen pie shell, thawed for 15 minutes
1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons flour
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
4 cups McIntosh or Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
6 tablespoons butter, slightly softened
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
In a large mixing bowl, stir together the filling ingredients: brown sugar, white sugar, flour, and spices. As you measure the apples after slicing, put them into the bowl and mix them with the sugar-flour mixture so that each slice is covered.
Pour apples and all filling mixture into the pie shell. Place on a foil-covered cookie sheet (notinsulated kind) and place in preheated oven.
Bake for 25 minutes.
As the pie bakes, mix the topping ingredients together in a small bowl with a pastry blender or two forks until small crumbs form.
Remove the pie from the oven and reduce temperature to 350 degrees F.
If crust is too brown, shield edges with strips of aluminum foil.
Sprinkle topping evenly over the top, making sure all apples are covered. Press down lightly. (Depending on the size of your pie shell, you may not need all of the topping.). Return the pie to oven and bake for about 10 minutes longer, until apples are soft and topping is golden brown. Makes 8 servings.