We’ve all heard the expression “American as apple pie” hundreds of times. But in truth, just how American is apple pie? What you may not be aware of is both apple pie and the fruit whose name it bears are actually of European descent, coming to this country by way of early colonial English settlers.
“Pie” can be traced all the way back to the days of ancient Egypt. But the dish as we know it today got its beginnings from the Greeks, and later the Romans, who used an inedible crust of flour and water in which to cook saucy meats, fish and other seafood.
Finally in fourteenth century England the first written records for the modern pie came to be. These early pastries, originally called “coffins,” were still not designed to be eaten, rather they were well sealed constructions designed to preserve their fillings of assorted meats, fowl and other savory concoctions, as there was no refrigeration at the time.
By the seventeenth century, pastry-making techniques improved, as did the art of making pies. Crusts became more tender and therefore an intricate part of the dish. Singular fillings — both savory and sweet — became more popular and thus the modern pie evolved. As the early settlers from England, France, Sweden and other European nations came to this country, they brought with them their favorite recipes — including those for pies. Soon pies filled with all manner of ingredients indigenous to local and regional tastes became a daily American staple.
Apple pies, however, probably did not become commonplace in colonial America until some years after the first settlers arrived, since the only apple native to their new country was the wild crab apple–a bitter variety not well suited for such a delicacy. Soon these newly placed Europeans planted not only apples but numerous other fruits from their native lands. By the year 1640, winter bananas or melt-in-the-mouths (as the colonials called apples) were well established and nearly all land owners had at least a tree or two, if not an sizable orchard.
So as much as we love the popular and somewhat patriotic phrase “as American as apple pie” (thought to have been created by Abraham Lincoln), we can really thank our British forefathers (or should we say foremothers) for yet another delicious “American” dish.
Try Em: Apples for Baking: Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, Cripps Pink, Cameo
Apples for Eating: Red Delicious, Gala, Fuji, Honeycrisp