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Friday, May 25, 2012 2:23 PM
"Good apple pies are a considerable part of our domestic happiness." So said novelist Jane Austen. By her time in the late 18th/early 19th century, the British had been eating apple pie in one guise or another since the first recipe was published by poet Geoffrey Chaucer in 1381
His recipe called for “good” apples and spices, figs, raisins and pears, coloured with saffron and encased in pastry. The expression “As American as apple pie” indicates something typically American, but, while the apple pie has become an American tradition, it only arrived across the Atlantic with the Pilgrim Fathers, who brought the recipes and the seeds for apple trees.
The Dutch, too, have been eating apple pies for centuries, and their recipes often feature lattice tops, and the apple cooked with cinnamon and lemon.
The apple pie is versatile…sultanas, feijoas, pears, quinces – which give an attractive pink colour or rhubarb – can be added to the filling, as can various spices like cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg, and it can be sweetened with sugar or honey as required (although Chaucer’s recipe contained no sugar). The pastry can be on the bottom and sides only, all the way over, or latticed. Alternately, the pastry may only be on the top or you could opt for Tarte Tatin, in which the fruit is first cooked in butter and sugar, the pastry – nowadays usually short pastry – is put over the fruit and baked. To serve, the tart is turned upside down to reveal the delicious caramelised apple.
Apple pie is often served with a piece of hard, tasty cheese in England and the USA, but it is more usually served with ice cream, cream or custard. It can be served hot or cold.
Let’s leave the last word to American Rev Henry Ward writing about eating an apple pie: “…while it is yet florescent, white or creamy yellow, with the merest drip of candied juice along the edges, (as if the flavour were so good to itself that its own lips watered!) of a mild and modest warmth, the sugar suggesting jelly, yet not jellied, the morsels of apple neither dissolved nor yet in original substance, but hanging as it were in a trance between the spirit and the flesh of applehood...then, O blessed man, favored by all the divinities! Eat, give thanks, and go forth, 'in apple-pie order’!'
Recipes to try
Here’s a traditional, classic, double crust apple pie.
Lemon and Spice Apple Tart is a variation on the apple pie theme
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