"Tastes Like Apple Pie..."
I'm so excited it's finally here! It is, by FAR, my favorite season! Though each season has it's perks, I have to say the warm days/cool nights, sweater wearing, hot beverage drinking, leaf changing, pumpkin picking, corn maze, Halloween season is what I always look forward to!
So in the true theme of fall, I want to celebrate with the quintessential fall flavor...
You thought I was going to say pumpkin spice, right?
I LOVE apple picking season! And being a New Englandar, there are so many varieties and places to pick them. Or, if you don't want to pick them, go to a friendly orchard store (or open shed) and purchase a bag or two! Which, because of the rain this week, I did.
And there they are! It's an assortment of Macintosh, Cortlands and Golden Crisps. I got them out of the "banged and bruised" box (yes that's what it was called) because I'm using them for a pie! And not just any pie... a Marlborough Pudding!!!
*record scratching* A what?!?!?
A Marlborough Pudding! Now I know that those of you who are reading this that are fellow reenactors of early American history will all know what I'm talking about. Marlborough Pudding is historically an English "pie" that was considered the pie to eat at Thanksgiving in the New England area till the late 19th century. Yep, well before pumpkin pie. In fact most every housewife had their own version of this pie, which is what Edward Everett Hale recalled in "A New England Boyhood" written in 1893.
"For instance, there was always a great deal of talk about the Marlborough pies, or the Marlborough pudding. To this hour, in any old and well-regulated family in New England, you will find there is a traditional method of making the Marlborough pie, which is a sort of lemon pie, and each good housekeeper think that her grandmother left a better receipt for Marlborough pie than anybody else did."
Though the earliest recording of this receipt appears in "An Accomplisht Cook" by Robert May in 1660, the receipt I decided to follow is from Miss Amelia Simmons receipt in "American Cookery" written in 1796. This seems to be the first documented version that uses the term "Marlborough Pudding". There is some argument among culinary scholars where the "Marlborough" in "Marlborough Pudding" comes from but has been called that in most historic cookbooks since then. Case in point, Robert May's receipt is titled "A made Dish of Butter and Eggs", making no reference to the apples or citrus in the dish. Or really that it's even a custard apple pie. I wouldn't have thought that from the title.
So here is Amelia's receipt...
"Take 12 spoons of stewed apples, 12 of wine, 12 of sugar, 12 of melted butter and 12 of beaten eggs, a little cream, spice to your taste; lay in No. 3 paste in a deep dish; bake one hour and a quarter."
Great. Thanks for the detail Amelia. What size spoon? How hot is the oven? Is there a certain order? Having never made this pie before, and having only tasted it once years ago, this wasn't much to go on.
But that's the fun part of these recipes! It really tests your abilities as a cook to know what it should look like and when it will be done. Well, fun for me! But I also wanted to see what one would look like that came from a very detailed recipe and see how close I got. So I went to my copy of the "Old Sturbridge Village Cookbook" and found their variation of Marlborough pudding, which is Amelia Simmon's receipt adapted for a modern cook. If you wish to view the recipe you can find it at https://www.osv.org/explore-the-village/historic-recipes/. Try not to get distracted by all the other cool recipes, like me.
So, first thing, I got those apples I showed earlier prepped and cooking. This involved peeling, coring, and then dicing them so that they would cook down. And it smelled lovely! I personally love the scent of cooking apples. The thing to remember is to add a little water when you start heating it because the apples will scorch. And once it starts to boil keep stirring so it doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan. (I learned that from Felicity when she was making apple butter! Every girl born in the 80s will understand this.)
Once the apples cooked down and were mashed together I prepped the other ingredients. Since both pies had similar ingredients it was pretty much prepping doubles of everything. So I beat the eggs and added cream to them (though it doesn't specify it I thought it would make the pouring easier). I got the butter melted and cooled, juiced a lemon, collected my sugar and spices, and taste tested the wine for quality control purposes. It was good!
Now for the OSV pudding mixture. With this recipe there is the addition of the juice of one lemon, which doesn't appear in the Simmons receipt. But the use of citrus within other Marlborough pie variations seems to make it a popular choice. And the only spice that was suggested is nutmeg, which I added a good quantity of because I like the taste.
So I combined the cooked apple, wine (as a replacement for the sherry since I didn't have any on hand), the melted butter, the sugar, the nutmeg and then the egg and milk mixture.
And this is what it looked like. It had a very custard like texture with a prominent apple/lemon scent. I put it aside and moved on to Miss Amelia's receipt.
Now this receipt uses 12 spoonfuls of each ingredient, but what size spoon? I decided to go with this spoon, mainly because I didn't want to make too much batter for the pie shell.
So I laid out the ingredients and hoped I had enough of each. The apples came to the exact amount needed, as well as the butter. I had too much egg and cream mixture and some leftover wine once everything was mixed together. So, not wanting to waste the wine, I drank the rest. Julia Child would have been proud of me.
So, once everything was mixed, I compared the two mixes. I realized that Amelia's was darker and less custard like than the OSV one. It also had more of an apple pie scent to it, but that might also be because Amelia doesn't specify which spices should be used, so I added what I like in an apple pie, which is cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg.
So here's where I cheated a bit. Both recipes (receipts) call for a puff paste crust put into a deep dish. But I decided to use some frozen pie crusts I had in my freezer. At one point I'll try making all nine of Amelia's pie crust receipts. But today wasn't that day. So, for the sake of comparison, I used the same pie crusts for each filling. And I used the baking directions for the OSV recipe because "bake one hour and a quarter" isn't enough information for me. Sorry Miss Amelia.
Skip forward to an hour later and here's the final result! The one of the left is Amelia's receipt and the one on the right is the OSV recipe. When I pulled them out they were both bubbling still, so I let them sit for several hours to cool and set.
THE TASTE TEST!
At this point the very prominent smell of apples and spices had filled the apartment, a far cry from the vinegar scent from my last cooking receipt. Which made my husband happy!
So, the pies were fully cooled when I cut a slice of each, and right away you can see the difference in texture. The pie slice on the right from the OSV recipe was much more like a baked custard. It was firmer than Miss Amelia's receipt, which you can see with the slice on the left. In fact I feel like it should have had a few more spoonfuls of the egg and milk mixture to help it firm up more.
So, to the taste. For this I had to call my husband into the kitchen, because he is my official taste tester with anything I cook. He's so brave!
We decided to try Miss Amelia's slice first. And, though the texture was a bit watery, we were both delightfully surprised that it tasted just like apple pie! Maybe it was the spice choice, or the lack of custard like texture, but it was like we made a typical apple pie recipe with apple sauce rather than apple slices. It was REALLY good. Why did this recipe go out of fashion?
We then tried the OSV recipe to see the difference. This had a much more smooth texture which was very pleasant. And the flavor of apples and nutmeg made it very good as well. The wine was more prominent flavor in this pie rather than the other, but maybe it's different with sherry.
Of the two, both of us would choose Amelia Simmons receipt hands down. The only thing I would do differently was add a few more spoonfuls of the egg/milk mixture so it will firm up more. But, a little whip cream, and it would be a perfect dessert for Thanksgiving! Or a Tuesday night! I'm certainly going to be making this for one of the several holidays coming up.