Archive for May 2012

Not By Bread Alone: A brief history

Louisville is fortunate to have many wonderful restaurants and Bed and Breakfasts. Visitors can take advantage of the suberb dishes served in both places. Good ole Kentucky food abounds here and many of the local chefs and inn-keepers are experts in bringing to you, not only wonderful evening meals and gourmet breakfasts but desserts of all kind. Kentucky has an unusual and interesting pie tradition many of which have unexpected ingredients. I have written a brief history of Pie below and included three Kentucky pie recipes for you to try at home.

On your next trip to Louisville, you will of course want to stay at one of our wonderful bed and breakfasts and savor the unique dishes the inn of your choice has to offer. In addition, your inn-keeper will help you find the perfect restaurant for your evening meal. (Nancy Hinchliff, Inn-keeper/Free lance writer)

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Historically, around the early 1500s, probably the first pies on the European continent, were called “coffins” or “coffyns”. They were savory meat pies with tall crusts which were sealed on the top and bottom. Open crust pies were called “traps”. These pies held assorted meats and sauces and were baked like a modern casserole with no pan.

The origins of pie can actually be traced to the ancient Egyptians, who incorporated nuts, honey and fruits into bread dough. However, according to most food historians, pie pastry actually originated with the Greeks. At that time they were made of a flour and water paste which was wrapped around meat to seal in the juices. The Romans took home Greek recipes and developed their own pies, cakes and cake-like puddings. The pie craze then spread throughout Europe, via the Roman roads, every country adapting them to their own customs and foods. English women were baking pies long before the settlers came to America, but by the 1700s American pioneer women often served pies with every meal.

 

Mark Twain

Samuel Clemens, who used the pseudonym Mark Twain, loved pie and often ate Huckleberry pie baked by his life-longhousekeeper, Katy Leary. After a trip to Europe, where he developed a strong dislike for European food, he complained that “…it has been many months…since I have had a nourishing meal…” He ironically devised a recipe for “English Pie”. His tongue-in-cheek recipe, hinting at the awfulness if these pies, follows:

“…Take a sufficiency of water and flour and construct a bullet-proof dough. Work this into the form of a disk, with edges turned up some three fourths of an inch. Toughen and kiln-dry for a couple days in a mild but unvarying temperature. Construct a cover for this “formidable creation”, in the same way and of the same material. Filled with stewed dried apples. Aggravate with cloves, lemon peel and citron, and add two portions of New Orleans sugar. Then solder on the lid and sit in a safe place until it petrifies. Serve cold at breakfast and invite you enemies.” ( M. Twain)

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Many of the pies which became associated with Kentucky, came from the Shakers of the Amish in Indiana. Two very popular ones are the Sugar Cream Pie and the Shaker Lemon Pie. A third is Vinegar Pie.

The Sugar Cream Pie was a simple, basic, “desperation” pie made with ingredients that were always nearby or on-hand at the farm. When making this pie “finger-stirring” in the unbaked crust was necessary, so as not to whip the cream before baking.

Only three ingredients go into Shaker Lemon Pie : lemon slices (peel and all), sugar, and eggs. The filling is more like marmalade. Where did the Shakers get the lemons? It is said that they traveled in boats to New Orleans to sell their wares and returned with cash and lemons.

This is a very tart lemon pie which uses whole lemons, rind and all, inside the pie. They are first sliced very thin, then macerated overnight, four lemons to two cups of sugar. The key to this pie is slicing the lemons very thin.

When lemons were not in season, pioneer women baked pies with vinegar, which substituted for lemon juice. They were custardy and still had a fruit-like flavor from the vinegar. Vinegar Pie remained popular in regency England, throughout the nineteenth century, even after English settlers brought it to America.

RECIPES

Sugar Cream Pie
Ingredients
pastry for one 9-inch pie crust
3/4 cups sugar
5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
whole nutmeg
Instructions
pre-heat oven to 450 degrees and prepare the pie pastry. Place sugar and flour in the unbaked pie shell. Add whipping cream and mix well, using you fingers to slowly mix the liquid ingredients. Add vanilla and continue stirring. Grate nutmeg over the top. Bake 10 minutes at 450 degrees. Reduce heat to 350 and continue baking, approximately one hour. Do not over bake. Remove from oven. The pie will appear runny, but sets when it cools. If the pie doesn’t set, get out some spoons and enjoy it anyhow

Vinegar Pie:
Ingredients
1 nine-inch pastry crust
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 tablespoons melted butter
1/2 cider vinegar
Instructions
Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a blender or large mixing bowl, mix together eggs, butter, sugar and vanilla. Pour into pie shell. Bake about 50 minutes until firm. Let cool. Top with whipped cream.

Shaker Lemon Pie (late 18th c.)
Ingredients
2 nine inch pastry crusts
2 medium sized lemons
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
Instructions
Slice two lemons paper thin.Take out seeds and macerate the slices in two cups of sugar overnight. Stir the mixture now and then so that the sugar dissolves into a fragrant syrup. The next day, prepare pastry for a nine inch two crust pie. Beat four eggs well, then mix them with the syrup and lemon slices. Pour the mix into the bottom crust and cover with the top crust. Bake at 450 degrees for fifteen minutes, then reduce heat to 375. Bake an additional 20-25 minutes, or until knife inserted into pie comes out clean.