Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Pi(e) No. 3

March 12 ...

It would hardly be acceptable for a week of pies to be without one example of an apple pie, now would it? You would probably all immediately cease reading these stories in protest.

Undoubtedly, one of the experts in the various forms of apple-in-pastry was the Herefordshire farmer, William Ellis, who wrote a wonderful and comprehensive book called The Country Housewife's Family Companion or Profitable Directions for whatever relates to the Management and good Economy, published in 1750. This is what he has to say on the topic:

Of Apple-Pyes, and Apple Pasties, for Harvest and other Times.
Apple Pyes and Pasties are a main Part of a prudent, frugal Farmer’s Family-Food, because the Meal and Apples that make them are commonly the Produce of his Land, and are ready at all Times to be made use of in Pyes or Pasties, for giving his Family and agreeable palatable Repast; a covered or turn-over Pasty for the Filed, and the round Pye for the House; the first being of a Make and Size that better suits the Hand and Pocket than the round Pye, and therefore are more commonly made in Farmers Families; for one, or a Piece of one, being carried in the Plowman’s and Plowboys Pocket, sustains their hunger till they come home to Dinner, and oftentimes pleases them beyond some sort of more costly Eatables; nor is it less wholesome than pleasant, for that the Ingredients of the Apple-pye are rather Antidotes against, than Promoters of the Scurvy. In short, it is the Apple Pye and Pasty, and Apples made use of in some other Shapes (particularly the famous Parsnip Apple) that I take to be some of the cheapest and most agreeable Food a Farmer’s Family can make use of.

I don’t know if such a thing as the ‘parsnip apple’ is still grown in England, but if it is not it should be, if it is as good as Farmer Ellis says:

A Character of the famous Parsnip Apple, and its Uses.
From whence this apple is so called, I cannot tell; but this I know, that it is the very best of apples for pyes, pasties, and puddings in harvest time, and for eating (baked or raw) single as they are; they are always the first apples that are ripe with us, for they commonly begin to drop from the tree about the middle of August, some of them weighing four ounces apiece; and I think I can affirm it for truth, that I have had above twenty bushels in one season off one tree only ……

Farmer Ellis gives a number of recipes for pastry and pies, but this one is my favourite.

Onion Pye made by labouring Mens Wives.
They mix chopt Apples and Onions in equal Quantities, and with some Sugar put them into Dough-crust and bake them: This by some is thought to make as good a Pie as Pumkins do. It is a Heredfordshire Contrivance.

I know that onions when cooked slowly become sweet, but that is a very brave combination. It was an idea, I guess, born out of necessity– onions being available to everyone with a small cottage garden, and having even better keeping qualities than apples. Just the thing when the labouring man comes home hungry and demanding apple pie when there are only a few apples left in the pantry.

Tomorrow’s Story …

Pi(e) No. 4

Quotation for the Day …

Apple-pie is used through the whole year, and when fresh apples are no longer to be had, dried ones are used. It is the evening meal of children. house-pie, in country places, is made of apples neither peeled nor freed from their cores, and its crust is not broken if a wagon wheel goes over it. Rev. Israel Acrelius, a Swedish parson, writing home from America (1758)


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Anonymous said...

hello old foodie. I can testify that apples and onions fried together in bacon drippings are indeed very good. Excellent accompaniment to pork. I don't think they would need the help of additional sugar unless the apples were too tart. and pastry crust improves everything, particularly if made with good lard.
this seems more like a nice sweet-and-savory to have at tea or with dinner than a dessert.