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Cooking (and Contemplating) New England

"Pompkin" Pudding (Pie), by Amelia Simmons, as made by Keith Stavely and Kathleen Fitzgerald

Amelia Simmons, author of the first published recipe for American pumpkin pie, made two versions, including this two-crust beauty!


We devote an entire section of a chapter on pies in Northern Hospitality to the pumpkin pie. Why so many pumpkin pie recipes? Because it turns out that the pumpkin pie as we know it is only one of many versions early New Englanders baked. Before there was the custardized pumpkin pie that Americans came to call their own, there was a somewhat odd pumpkin pie made in Britain and throughout the British colonies. Yup, folks liked it. It called for frying pumpkin strips in an herb-and-spice-laden pancake batter, known by its medieval name of froiz, then cutting up the pancakey pumpkin strips and layering them in the bottom of the pie with apple slices, currants, and lots of butter. Then, after the two-crust pie was baked . . . well, we'll leave the addition of the wine caudle to the warm pie for you to read about in Northern Hospitality (p, 301), or in a post about it elsewhere on this blog! Read More 

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"Apple Pie," by Lydia Maria Child, as prepared by Keith Stavely and Kathleen Fitzgerald

Apple Pie, a classic version from 1833 by abolitionist, novelist, and children's writer Lydia Maria Child


In our book Northern Hospitality, we include a selection of apple pies from early New England, including some that originated in England. We've got recipes for "An Apple Pudding," by E. Smith from 1739 (a delightful custard pie), "An Apple Pye," by Hannah Glasse from 1747 (made in a dish, with no bottom crust and an elegant puff pastry topping), and even a poisonous one, Elizabeth Raffald's "A Codling Pye"(1769), in which the recommended method for cooking the codlings in a brass pan with vine leaves produced toxic verdigris! But let's leave those English cooks and their recipes be for now, and make a real American apple pie. Our all-time favorite early American version is a straightforward rendition by a great nineteenth-century American woman, Lydia Maria Child. Read our book--or just look around online--if you want to know more of Child's fascinating life. And after you do, may we suggest that in honor of her service to humanity, her personal integrity, her creativity--or simply because she was a great cook--you make her luscious apple pie? Read More 

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"Mince Pies," from Lydia Maria Child's "American Frugal Housewife" (1833)

Where's the Beef? In 1832, it was in the pie!

Mincing Medievalism
Mincemeat pie is a relic of the time centuries ago when two things were true of European food: one, that until Shakespeare's day pies were made more often with meat, poultry, or fish than with fruit or vegetables as the primary ingredient; and two, that very few dishes of any kind, including pies, tasted primarily sweet or primarily savory. Most dishes, including pies, offered what we would consider a blend of sweet and savory tastes, something like the sweet-and-sour items on a Chinese restaurant menu. Or like that American classic of the Betty Crocker era--ham baked with brown sugar and pineapple.  Read More 
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