Culinary & Family History Through the Apple Pie

Hearth

Where did the saying “Upper crust” come from? According to the U.S. Apple Association, in early America, when times were hard and cooking supplies were scarce, cooks often had to scrimp and save on ingredients. Apple pie was a favorite dish, but to save on lard and flour, only a bottom crust was made. More affluent households could afford both an upper and a lower crust, so those families became known as “the upper crust.”

In 1828 Lydia Maria Child published her book The American Frugal Housewife.  It was a popular book utilized by many 19th century women for its recipes, remedies, and home economics advice.  It also includes a few apple recipes, such as a common recipe for apple pie.  In her 12th edition from 1833 of The American Frugal Housewife, Mrs. Child writes:

Apple Pie
When you make apple pies, stew your apples very little indeed; just strike them through, to make them tender. Some people do not stew them at all, but cut them up in very thin slices, and lay them in the crust.  Pies made in this way may retain more of the spirit of the apple; but I do not think the seasoning mixes in as well.  Put in sugar to your taste; it is impossible to make a precise rule, because apples vary so much in acidity.  A very little salt, and a small piece of butter in each pie, makes them richer.  Clovers and cinnamon are both suitable spice.  Lemon brandy and rose-water are both excellent.  A wine-glass full of each is sufficient for three or four pies.  If your apples lack spirit, grate in a whole lemon. (p.67-68).

Curious to try your hand at apple pie?  Not sure which apples to use?  Ask a farmer!  At many pick your own orchards, or at local farmers’ markets, farmers can usually tell you which apples are best for baking and best for eating.


Excerpt from Learning Ahead: Cultural Itinerary for Western Massachusetts (Seasons: Sept/Oct), a downloadable bimonthly publication produced by Hilltown Families that sheds light on embedded learning opportunities found in cultural resources that exist within the geography, history, and cultural traditions of Western Massachusetts.

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