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The History Of Apple Pie

Nothing tastes homier and more comforting than apple pie. Apple trees originated in Asia, and this fruit has spread across the world. In fact, apples are one of the most popular fruits on the planet. Often, apples are baked into tempting desserts. Apple pie is beloved in many countries and cultures around the globe. But where was apple pie invented? Read on to discover where apple pie originated and dig into some delicious international apple pie recipes!

The History of Apple Pie

Apples are one of the most popular fruits in North America. We can at least partially thank Frontiersman John Chapman, a.k.a. Johnny Appleseed, for that. As an entrepreneur wanting to expand his hard apple cider business, he traded apple seeds (mostly for crab apples) with other pioneer men. Thus, he became known for spreading apple orchards throughout the U.S. in the early 1800s.

This dessert's popularity amongst so many cultures may be another reason apple pie has become a staple of American cookery. After all, the U.S. is known as an immigrant country where people from many different world cultures have made their homes.

The apples we eat today are likely descended from trees in Central Asia. Then, European settlers brought their recipes for fruit pies to the New World. Somewhere along the way, apple pie became America's favorite dessert.

This country loves apple pie so much, many Americans made mock apple pie from Ritz or saltine crackers during the Great Depression. In fact, this faux fruit pie dates all the way back to the mid to late 1800s. When the cost of fresh fruit was too great, the texture and taste of apple pie could be replicated using crackers and spices baked in a crust.

So, where was apple pie invented? The first known recipe for apple pie dates back to 1381 in b) England. It was included among other recipes in A Cook's Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer.

This 14th-century confection included apples, figs, raisins, pears, and a pastry shell. There was, however, no sugar in the first apple pies. The crust was likely made with a hard cheese, which is why apple pie is often served with cheddar cheese today.

Today, differences between apple pies in the U.S. and England remain. The British version tends to be more mellow in flavor than the sweet apple filling of America. That's because American apple pie often contains much more sugar than its English inspiration. There tends to be a higher crust-to-apple ratio in the old-world version as well.

There is some debate over whether Dutch apple pie originated in The Netherlands or Germany. Both forms of Dutch apple pie are surely delicious. But the traditional Dutch apple pie most Americans envision is likely German in heritage.

Pennsylvania Dutch residents in the U.S. were originally German immigrants. Today, they continue German traditions, including speaking German and making German recipes. A fall favorite dessert in Amish Country is Pennsylvania Dutch apple pie, served with a crumble top pie crust instead of pastry crust.

Some accounts claim Tatin was trying to make a traditional apple pie. Others say she overcooked some caramelized apples for some other traditional French dish and threw a pastry over the fruit in an attempt to avert disaster. Either way, a beautiful caramelized upside-down apple tart was born.

Apple pie can be made like the English original, served all-American, baked Pennsylvania Dutch style, or as a caramel-coated Tarte Tatin. This pie can be prepared with only apples, additional fruits, or even crackers. It can be served cold, at room temperature, or heated. This pastry can be topped with a buttery crust, a crumble topping, or even a scoop of ice cream. Regardless, apple pie is a dessert beloved around the world.

My trip down into the history of mock apple pie was not planned. Sometimes during my research and planning, I come across recipes that for whatever reason stick in my mind. Mock apple pie was one of them. I randomly found it while flipping through one of my recipe boxes. I gave it a quick glanced, put it back yet kept thinking about it. So I typed it in to see if it was worth a post and went deep into the rabbit hole. You will find that happens a lot with me.

I will admit I never heard of mock apple pie until I was well in my adult hood. I grew up in Connecticut where there is an apple picking season and so apple pie was a big part of that. I actually have more memories of Thanksgivings with apple pie versus the more traditional pumpkin pie. Plus my mother is very particular in the way certain things need to be made and apple pie is one of them. She definitely would have scoffed at any recipe that does not use apples. I was skeptical how this would turn out as I have eaten A LOT of apple pie in my day and was not sure how it would compare.

What ingredients are in mock apple pie?The recipe has everything that is in an apple pie but instead, the apples are replaced by crackers whether of the Ritz variety or saltine/soda crackers. The other ingredients include lemon, sugar, cinnamon, and water. When baked it has the look and taste that resembles an apple pie. The early versions of this recipe would sometimes use stale bread or bread crumbs.

The more modern Ritz cracker version came about in the 1930s. Nabisco was obviously not the creator but definitely played a huge part in the popularity of mock apple pie. The buttery cracker rounds appeared on the market in 1934 and they were an instant hit. By 1935, the National Biscuit Company (or Nabisco) had sole 5 billion units of crackers. Shortly thereafter, the recipe for mock apple pie appeared on the back of the boxes. The recipe came at the perfect time due to apples being expensive during the Great Depression.

Perhaps the most important element of the classic pie, apples originated in Kazakhstan (Central Asia) some 750,000 years ago. Sour crap apples, to be specific, were discovered growing wild in the forest. By 1500 BC, apple seeds had made their way across Europe where the Greeks, Etruscans and Romans began cultivation. But it was the Romans who carried the seeds to the British Isles, resulting in the flourishing of many varieties in England.

Though apples are rich in glucose, sucrose, and fructose, their glycemic index remains low: between 29 and 44. In fact, some evidence suggests that eating apples can help lower blood sugar levels and protect against diabetes. Certain antioxidants in apples may also slow down digestion and the absorption of sugars.

In fact, the soluble fiber in apples feeds the friendly bacteria in your gut (where your immune system lives). Fiber also plays a role in healthy weight control by keeping you full longer while lowering blood sugar levels and improving digestion.

One study on the effect of apples in hamsters found that it reduced arterial plaque buildup in the creatures by 48%! Another study in Finland found a 43% lower risk of heart disease in women and 19% in men who consumed more than 1.9 ounces of apples each day.

Grab a fork and a slice of our homemade Apple Pie (all made fresh each day in our shops) and we hope you enjoy these delicious facts all about Michigan apples and the history of Apple Pie. Some might even surprise you.

1. Michigan is the third largest apple producing state in the nation and produces about 25.2 million bushels (1.058 billion pounds) per year. Only two other states, Washington and New York, grow more apples than Michigan.

9. The first apple pie recipe was printed over 630 years ago in England in 1381. The list of ingredients included good apples, good spices, figs, raisins, pears, saffron, and cofyn (a type of pastry crust).

15. The Granny Smith apple got its name from Maria Ann Smith. The Smiths were apple farmers and Mrs. Smith was well-known for her fruit pies. She developed a new type of apple by accidentally crossing a wild European crabapple with the more commonly grown orchard apple.

PFEIFFER: That's food writer Rossi Anastopoulo. As you can tell, she considers the apple pie-America connection complicated. She uses pies to explore our country's evolution, including religion and gender roles and an economy built on slave labor, in her new book "Sweet Land Of Liberty: A History Of America In 11 Pies." Rossi Anastopoulo, thanks for being here.

PFEIFFER: This was a really fun and interesting book, also very funny at times. You say upfront in your book that pies are not the most obvious lens for looking at American history. So why did you use them to do that?

ANASTOPOULO: First of all, pie as we know it in the United States is very distinct to our country. There are versions of pie in many different countries and cuisines and cultures, but what we think of as pie here in the States is completely distinct to our food culture. Another big element is that pie is really incredibly versatile and malleable. There are so many shapes and forms it can take. It really is just a filling and a crust, and so what that filling is and what that crust is can change depending on so many different factors, like the people who are making it, the people who are eating it or not eating it, the ingredients that are available or not available. And so because of that, the different shapes that it can take I find to be incredibly revealing for a lot of elements of our history and our national story.

PFEIFFER: Mock apple pies. You write about these, too. I've never had one. They, as you write, reflect creativity and ingenuity during economic crises like the Civil War and World War II. These don't even contain fruit. Is that right?

ANASTOPOULO: Yes. I mean, we first see mock apple pie really crop up around the Civil War and even a little bit before that when people were going west. In many cases - you know, there's an anecdote in the book about one party who - a member of their party made mock apple pie. And they had no access to apples nearby, and so she made it with these crackers. And it really replicated Mom's apple pie. And so in many ways, it wasn't just something to fill their stomachs but really to capture this nostalgia and comfort and maybe alleviate some homesickness in addition to physical hunger.

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