In one of our favorite desserts, Mock Apple Pie, crackers combine with sweet syrup to produce a treat that tastes and smells just like an old-fashioned favorite.
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.
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