Apple pie

In cooking, an apple pie or apple tart is a fruit pie (or tart) in which the principal filling ingredient is apples. The pastry is generally used top-and-bottom, making a double-crust pie. An exception is the Tarte Tatin.



The best cooking apples (culinary apples, colloquially cookers), such as the Bramley or Granny Smith, are crisp and acidic. The fruit for the pie can be fresh, canned, or reconstituted from dried apples. This affects the final texture, and the length of cooking time required, but it has no effect on the flavour of the pie. Dried or preserved apples were originally substituted at times when fresh fruit was unavailable.

English style

English apple pie recipes go back to the time of Chaucer. The 1381 recipe (see illustration) lists the ingredients as good apples, good spices, figs, raisins and pears. The cofyn of the recipe is a casing of pastry. Saffron is used for colouring the pie filling.

Cloves are a popular addition, tempering the sweetness in much the same way as cinnamon.

In England, apple pie is a dessert of enduring popularity, eaten hot or cold, on its own or with ice cream, double cream, or custard.

Absence of sugar in early English recipe

Most modern recipes for apple pie require an ounce or two of sugar, but the earliest recipe does not. There are two possible reasons for this.

Cane sugar imported from Egypt was not widely available in fourteenth-century England (costing between one and two shillings a pound — one source claims that this is roughly the equivalent of US$100 per kg in today's prices).

On the other hand, the absence of sugar in the recipe may indicate that, because refined sugar was a relatively new introduction from the orient, the medieval English did not have quite as sweet a tooth as their descendants; honey, which was many times cheaper, is absent from the recipe, and the "good spices" and saffron, all imported, were no less expensive and difficult to obtain than refined sugar, and despite the expense refined sugar did appear much more often in published recipes of the time than honey, suggesting that it was not considered prohibitively expensive. [1] ( With the exception of apples and pears, all the ingredients in the filling probably had to be imported. And perhaps, as in some modern "sugar-free" recipes, the juice of the pears was intended to sweeten the pie.

Apple pie and cheese

One combination of flavors common in the nineteenth century and earlier, and which was referred to in English novels of the time, was known as "Apple pie and cheese," by which was meant sharp cheddar cheese. This was because the apple was not always delicious. That sweet variety was only discovered in 1868. The sharpness of the cheese combined with the tartness of the apple.

Dutch style

Dutch apple pie (appeltaart or appelgebak) recipes go back a long way. There is a painting dated 1626 featuring such a pie. Dutch recipes typically also call for spice to be added and are often decorated in a lattice style.

American style

Aside from the obvious major ingredient, apple pies can have a great deal of variation. Some recipes incorporate spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg. They typically include sugar, and some recipes also use dried fruit (currants or sultanas). One variation of the apple pie uses fresh or frozen blackberry. Some people add a slice or two of cheddar cheese. Others say the pie is incomplete without a few slices of quince.

Apple pie is often served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, known as apple pie la mode.

Apple pie in American culture

Apple pie shown alongside  cultural icons.
Apple pie shown alongside United States cultural icons.

In America, the apple pie had to wait for the carefully planted pips, brought over the Atlantic protected in barrels, to bear fruit. In the meantime the colonists were more likely to make meat pies or "pasties" than fruit, and their main use for apples, once their planted pips finally bore fruit, was to make cider. But there are American apple pie recipes both manuscript and printed, that date to the 18th century. It is now a very popular dessert.

A mock apple pie using crackers was apparently invented by pioneers on the move during the nineteenth century who were bereft of apples. In the 1930s, and for many years afterwards, Ritz Crackers promoted a recipe for mock apple pie using their product, along with sugar and various spices. Although opinion is sharply divided on its merits, many people feel that its taste and texture are surprisingly close to the authentic pie.

"As American as apple pie" is a common saying in the United States. However, the expression (its full form being "As American as motherhood and apple pie") is clearly metaphorical, rather than literally trying to claim origin, since both motherhood and apple pie predate the United States. It expresses the feeling that the concept "America" is not just geographical, but instead — along with motherhood and apple pie — is something wholesome.

There are claims [2] ( that the Apple Marketing Board of New York State used such slogans as "An apple a day keeps the doctor away" and "as American as apple pie!" and thus "was able to successfully 'rehabilitate' the apple as a popular comestible" in the early twentieth century. However the Random House Dictionary of Popular Proverbs and Sayings (edited by G.Y. Titelman, 1996), traces the origins of the proverb to a Welsh version of 1866 or earlier:

Ate and apfel afore gwain to bed
Makes the doctor beg his bread.

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