Johnny Appleseed a.k.a. John Chapman travelled through America’s frontier planting apple orchards in Pennsylvania, Ontario, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. He walked an estimated 10,000 miles, usually barefoot, throught the wilderness with only a knife for protection. He was considered strange and eccentric but he was a savy businessman. His orchards were not planted randomly, but with fences for protection from livestock. Neighbors would tend to them until his return years later to sell the land for profit. He was a tough but caring frontiersman and an American folk hero. Chapman’s beloved apples became “American” by association.
In a 1902 New York Times article it was said “Pie is the American synonym of prosperity and its varying contents the calendar of the changing seasons. Pie is the food of the heroic. No pie-eating people can ever be permanently vanquished”. It was thought that this may have been part of a marketing push by apple growers during prohibition. Most apples were being used at this time to make cider and the expression “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” was used to promote apples as more of a food item.
During World War II, American soldiers often responded to journalists, as to why they were going to war, with “For mom and apple pie”. “As American as motherhood and apple pie” later became a common phrase, and by the 1960’s “As american as apple pie” was the new saying.
Apple Pie didn’t orginate in America, it has however become an American symbol of Patroitism. Apple trees, except for crab apples, aren’t even native to America. The first recorded recipe for apple pie was in England in 1381 when apples were still hundreds of years from touching American soil. This variation however, included other fruit and the crust was inedible. The Dutch, German, Italian and French also have apple pie varieties that predate the American apple pie.
It is belived that the pie started with the Egyptians, but It was the Greeks who invented the pastry. After the Romans learned of these tasty treats they made them with meat and even mussels! As the Roman Empire developed, the delights of the pie spread throughout Europe. When the English started making pies the ingredients got a little more creative and a lot more meat based. When pies were made using fowl, the legs were left to hang over the side of the dish and used as handles. How handy! The crusts were used mostly to hold the contents of the pie and used as a baking, serving and storing container.
The English settlers brought thier pies to America adapting ingredients and techniques available to them in the New World. It is thought that the colonists made pies because it allowed them to stretch ingredients and with the sealed top and sides, kept the filling fresh during the winter months. As the colonies spread out, the pie’s role as a means to showcase local ingredients took hold and with it came a proliferation of new, sweet pies.
Apple varieties were brought as seed from Europe in the 1600’s and spread along Native American trade routes, as well as being cultivated on Colonial farms. WIthout the correct honey bee, these tress wouldn’t produce fruit. The European honey bee was shipped over to pollinate the trees and America was producing Apples. Lots of Apples. America is now one of the largest producers of apples and in it’s youth had 14,000 different varieties of apples growing. Almost every farm had an apple orchard.
Pie was brought here from foreign lands, influenced by diverse cultures and spread throughout the world. Pie will forever be evolving, exploring just about any ingedient combination you can imagine. Pie Town Cafe in New Mexico offers an apple pie with green chili! From Don McCLean’s neverending 1971 hit song, to the 1999 teen comedy classic, America loves pie.
New Mexican Apple Pie ( from http://www.pietown.com)
For a 9 inch pie:
6 cups peeled sliced apples
Granny Smith apples work great
Or a mix of Grannys and Fuji or Galas
1/2 cup of flour
1/2 cup of sugar, white works fine but I prefer Turbinado
2 Tbls cinnamon
1/2 tsp of dried ground ginger
1/2 tsp fresh ground nutmeg
2 oz of fresh lemon juice
2 oz of hot green chili
2 oz of pinon nuts (pine nuts)
egg wash of 1 egg and 2 oz of water
2 Tbls of turbinado sugar
Mix all ingredients well in a bowl and let them sit for 20 minutes to meld. Fill the bottom crust and cover with a full top crust. Poke the top crust with a fork to vent and brush with an egg wash. Sprinkle the top with turbinado sugar.
Bake in a 375 degree oven for 1 to 1 1/2 hours
Turn the pie every 20 minutes to get an even golden brown and look for thick bubbles of juices from the vent holes.
Top with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream