Who knew a simple request for Mock Apple Pie would elicit such a strong response from our Recipe Box readers? Her grandchildren should be proud that June Brown of Chesapeake, Virginia, asked the question; they’ll soon be trying a slice of Mock Apple Pie baked by their inquisitive grandma.
Biting off a chunk of research, it seems Mock Apple Pie originated during the late 1880s as settlers headed West where fresh apples — and even dried apples, for that matter — were few and far between. Apples were brought to North America by European colonists, so were less and less in supply the further one went West in early times. Thrifty cooks substituted the readily available and less expensive soda cracker for the apples in pies, keeping the syrup sweet and full of cinnamon, lemon and cream of tartar.
In 1935, a year after Nabisco introduced the Ritz Cracker, the company stole the idea, and a new and popular American tradition was born. The recipe has appeared frequently on the familiar red box, enjoying an occasional resurgence of popularity through the years.
By the way, the cream of tarter actually helps with the taste as tartaric acid (related to cream of tarter) and malic acid help give apples their distinctive flavor.
Of course, there’s also the psychological effect. We see a slice of pie that looks like apple pie, smells like apple pie, and tastes like apple pie, so it must be apple pie. Some people, though, smell and taste the lemon more than the cinnamon, and they think it’s lemon pie. Go figure.
One comment found during my research suggests keeping the crackers whole or at the very least breaking them in half. You also can substitute some brown sugar for the white, and a sprinkling of nutmeg is a nice addition to the cinnamon.
Many question the texture of Mock Apple Pie, saying it is nothing like apple pie. It’s difficult to say what our pioneer ancestors were thinking as they took a bite. Perhaps all they could think of was a delicious reminder of an easier, more comfortable life back East.
- Peg Halley, Cambridge, Nebraska, has lost a recipe for fruitcake that was published in GRIT in the early 1980s. The fruit soaked in brandy for a time.
- Janieve Parson, Lebanon, Missouri, remembers a drink recipe her aunt in Beach Grove, Arkansas, used to make when she was a child. “I would watch the seeds float up and down. All Aunt Francis told me was it was made of sorghum and beer hops, and placed in a gallon glass jug.” Does anyone have the recipe?
- Evelyn Williamson, Norfolk, Virginia, found a clipping in her grandmother’s old recipes. The article was from a May 1946 Capper’s Farmer country cooking issue, and included information on Nesselrode Pie and Corned Steak, but the complete recipes were missing. Can anyone help?
- Janet Callarman, Bella Vista, Arkansas, would like a recipe for Christmas Fancies, which appeared in CAPPER’s in the late 1960s to early ’70s. It was a brown-sugar fudge with candied red and green cherries with walnuts and pecans, and Janet says it had to cure for a couple of weeks.
- Louise Seward, East Wallingford, Vermont, would like a recipe for Sweet Potato Cake. She was told it was baked in a coffee tin, and sliced in rounds.
- Helen Guthrie, Ames, Iowa, has lost a favorite recipe for Wall-to-Wall Fruitcake, which she says consisted of nuts and dried fruit and little else. “It was costly to make, but worth it for once a year,” she writes.
If you’ve been looking for a long-lost recipe, or can provide one, please write to Recipe Box, c/o GRIT, 1503 S.W. 42nd St., Topeka, KS 66609, or email us at email@example.com. Please include your name, address and daytime phone number. Recipes cannot be returned, as they are eventually sent to the person requesting the recipe. Recipe requests and responses will be printed at our discretion and as space allows. Addresses are not printed to allow GRIT the opportunity to publish recipes before sending them on to the requesting party.