The most common denominators, among all the year’s celebrations, are people and food!
Pies are the most common choice of dessert with which to celebrate, especially during these November and December holidays. Pies can also be a savory main dish. What makes a pie a pie is that it has a (flaky) pastry crust. It is typically baked in a shallow, round pan called a “pie pan” (or “…dish” if you use Pyrex or other similar glass style).
[NOTE: New Yorkers call their pizzas “pies”, however, that doesn’t make them actual pies, since they’re not made with flaky pastry dough – nor are Eskimo Pies, Cottage Pies, and Shepherd’s Pies actual pies for the same reason.]
Did you know that about 186 million pies are sold in grocery stores, yearly. Around 50 million of those are pumpkin (equaling almost 27% of the sales). Those pies are mostly consumed in November and December, for the holidays. However, America’s number one selling pie (all year) is apple, coveting MORE than 27% of the total pie sales.
Apple pie is considered to be a national American symbol – along with baseball and Chevrolet (according to the once famous commercial for the latter). Incidentally, even though Michigan doesn’t produce the most apples – as I wrote, last month, in ‘Michigan Apples’…
…that honor goes to Washington, as we come in third, behind New York. However, I read somewhere that Michigan slices more apples than any other state – mostly for apple pies, which are an all-American staple.
Incidentally, Michigan’s unofficial “State Dessert Pie” is a toss-up between apple and cherry – depending on where you poll. The Traverse City area (and the northern Michigan region) is famous for its cherry crops (and wine)! However, apples are the more abundant crop throughout the state, over all.
According to Wikipedia.com, the first known dessert pie (as found in an ancient, written recipe) was invented by the Romans around 6000 BC, while the first savory (meat) pie may have originated in Egypt, before 2000 BC.
Apple and pumpkin pies (in that order) may be the top two favorites of American pie connoisseurs, but rounding out the top five preferences, according to the consensus I found in searching for Americans’ “top five pie choices”, were also cherry, pecan, and blueberry.
I suppose any one is popular, depending on where you survey, as every state has their own favorite “State Pie”. Thus, I expanded my search to Americans’ top 10 favorite pies. From this, I also found key lime, rhubarb, strawberry, peach, and Mississippi mud pies were included on the favorites’ list – along with the top five I already mentioned above.
[NOTE: According to Marie Callender’s website, their most popular pie is Lemon Meringue. My youngest daughter works for a popular, south-eastern Michigan pie company. Their most popular pie (here) is their Michigan 4-Berry, which includes tart cherries, blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries.]
Incidentally, here’s a little tidbit of Michigan trivia – this state is considered the “cherry capitol” of the world, as 75% of the tart cherries (commonly used in pies) are produced right here, in Michigan! Utah and Washington come in at a distant second and third place, respectively.
Speaking of pies, here’s Mom’s editorial on “Pies and Pastries” for that chapter in her self-published cookbook, Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; May 1982). That’s the cookbook, using my (1983) 3rd Edition, which I helped her to rewrite for the new digital generation.
FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…
As seen in…
Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018, p. 237). [A revised reprint of Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; May 1983, 3rd Edition).]
PIES AND PASTRIES
IN EARLY AMERICAN TAVERNS, our 1st restaurants in this country, pies were not beautiful nor fancy – but they were good. The custom of baking pies in round, shallow pans (rather than in deep square or oblong pans) originated here for reasons of economy, to stretch scarce food supplies.
Originally comprised of “left-overs”, the colonial American pie was not a dessert, but a side-dish. The colonial cook lined the pan with scraps of bread dough or Hardtack (see Index for my recipe) and filled it with scraps of meats, fruits, nuts, sauce and any other edible “left-overs”.
Fillings, meringue, toppings and garnishes make the easiest recipes look as if it took you all day. Embarrassed by a pie crust that is pale in color with the texture of a biscuit? Simple secrets for copying the restaurant recipes are no longer a mystery to even the beginning cook.
The experienced cook will probably wonder why they hadn’t thought of these tricks sooner. If fast food reminds you only of the franchise restaurants – look again, for these pie and pastry recipes will renew your interest and your enthusiasm in being creative in the kitchen by making pies you thought only a bakery could produce.
Some cooks still insist that “take-off crusts” give apple pies an even better flavor. Sliced apples are arranged in a pastry-lined pie pan, and the top crust is laid on top, but not sealed to the under crust.
When the pie is baked, the top crust is gently lifted off, sugar and spices are sprinkled over the filling and the top crust is carefully put back in place. In experimenting with this colonial technique, I discovered that my Crisco Crust recipe, in this chapter (see Index), works very well.
Both of my grandmas were expert pie bakers, as were their own moms, it’s no wonder Mom became one, as well. I can’t say I carried on the tradition, though. The idiom “easy as pie” certainly doesn’t refer to the ease of baking one, as that requires some time, effort, and skill (for it to be good). Thus, the consensus is that it must refer to the ease of eating one.
According to Wikipedia.com, the first recorded pie eating contest was supposedly a charity fundraising event, during 1878, in Toronto, Ontario (Canada). Pie baking contests have been going on for many, many decades, as well. Countless years ago, I remember my grandma (mom’s mom), telling me about winning 1st place in a pie-baking contest for her apple pie.
Another tidbit of pie trivia is that a 9-inch pie, with a raw fruit filling, will take about an hour or more to bake; while pre-cooked fillings take less time. Also taking less time to bake are the single-serve, (6-inch) mini pies, which take about half the time of the 9-inch ones.
Mom used to say that she relied on her “kitchen angel”, to help with her pie baking – but I believe she was just as talented, at making pies, as her mom was… and, in my biased opinion, Grandma was VERY talented!
MORE FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…
As seen in…
Gloria Pitzer’s Mixed Blessings – Recipes & Remedies (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; March 1984, p. 129)
[Reprinted from Gloria Pitzer’s self-published cookbook, Reliable Recipes For Reluctant Cooks (1983).]
OUR GUARDIAN ANGEL [aka: Kitchen Witch]
THERE IS AN OLD European custom that places an ornamental Dow, dressed like a witch, in the kitchen of every cook who wishes to see her culinary talents protected. I have, in my time, seen many an ugly kitchen witch and just as many cute witches.
But what do I know about a kitchen witch? I claim not to be superstitious. What I really need in MY kitchen is not a witch – but a guardian angel. It’s not that I am unfamiliar with the kitchen witch.
My cousin, Shirley Cohen, in Van Nuys [CA], sent me my first witch several years ago and the benevolent doll dangled comfortably from the ceiling over the sink for a long time, until her strings snapped, and she fell headlong into a pan of Pine-Sol scrub water and drowned!
She was promptly replaced by another that my friend, Flo, gave me. But her string also snapped one day without any warning, and she tumbled head over heels into a sink of soaking supper dishes.
The next witch in my kitchen (and I disregard that visit from my mother-in-law) was for a very brief duration! She fell off the wooden spoon she was riding and into a blueberry pie cooling on the drain board! So my present contentment is now confined to furthering the notion that kitchen witches are out and guardian angels are in!
Mine is special. I call on my guardian angel to keep me company whenever I’m in the kitchen alone, preparing a favorite dish. I talked to her! Well, maybe to somebody else it sounds like I’m talking to myself, but it’s like ‘thinking out loud’ – except that one makes you an idiot and the other a genius!
But sometimes you have to talk to somebody! Why not to somebody who is not apt to interrupt you as a family of teenagers are prone to do! Guardian angels make very good listeners. Sometimes that’s all it takes to make your burdens lighter!
Thursday, as you gather around your turkey feast with family and/or friends, try not to let the commercialism of the other up-coming holidays interfere with your heart-felt thoughts of gratitude. As for me, I’m eternally grateful for everything that both of my parents gave me and taught me, throughout my life. They are my most inspirational role models.
In honor of November, being National Peanut Butter Lovers Month, AND today, being National Peanut Butter Fudge Day, here’s Mom’s copycat recipe for Peanut Butter Fudge (from her “Seize Chocolate Fudge” imitation); as seen in her self-published cookbook, Gloria Pitzer’s Mostly 4-Ingredient Recipes (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; April 1986, p. 69).
ADDITIONALLY, from page 7 of the same book, here’s Mom’s EASY-AS-PIE, no-bake, 4-ingredient, “Peanut Butter Pie” recipe!
P.S. Food-for-thought until we meet again, next Monday…
November observes, among other things… Banana Pudding Lovers Month, Family Stories Month, Gluten-Free Diet Awareness Month, National Diabetes Month, National Fun with Fondue Month, National Life Writing Month, National Native American Heritage Month, National Novel Writing Month, National Pepper Month, National Pomegranate Month, National Raisin Bread Month, National Roasting Month, Spinach and Squash Month, Sweet Potato Awareness Month (See also February), and National Vegan Month!
Today is also… National Child’s Day!
November 24th is… National Sardines Day! Plus, as the day after Thanksgiving (2023), it’s also… National Day of Listening, National Native American Heritage Day, National Black Friday, National Buy Nothing Day, and National Maize Day!
Sunday, November 26th is… National Cake Day!
…47 down and 5 to go!