It’s that time of the year when PIE is allowed to enjoy the spotlight for a few short weeks. Of course, the Pumpkin Pie has traditionally been the star of the Holiday Season, but there is an endless assortment of delicious pie desserts that should not be overlooked.
First of all, let’s break it down and discover exactly what the definition of pie really is. There are a lot of pie impersonators out there now that have the nerve to call themselves pie, and may not even have a flaky, buttery crust that we associate with a good, old fashioned pie.
What is a pie?
Pies are defined by their crusts. A filled pie (also single-crust or bottom-crust), has pastry lining the baking dish, and the filling is placed on top of the pastry but left open. A top-crustpie has the filling in the bottom of the dish and is covered with a pastry or other covering before baking. A two-crust pie has the filling completely enclosed in the pastry shell. Shortcrust pastry is a typical kind of pastry used for pie crusts, but many things can be used, including baking powder biscuits, mashed potatoes, and crumbs.
Pies can be a variety of sizes, ranging from bite-size to ones designed for multiple servings.
The need for nutritious, easy-to-store, easy-to-carry, and long-lasting foods on long journeys, in particular at sea, was initially solved by taking live food along with a butcher or cook. However, this took up additional space on what were either horse-powered treks or small ships, reducing the time of travel before additional food was required. This resulted in early armies adopting the style of hunter-foraging.
The introduction of the baking of processed cereals including the creation of flour, provided a more reliable source of food. Egyptian sailors carried a flat brittle bread loaf of millet bread called dhourra cake, while the Romans had a biscuit called buccellum.
Why do we eat pie during the Holidays?
Did you know that the first pies were filled with meat? It wasn’t until the 14th Century that pie fillings began to evolve to include additional options like fruits and custards. Originally called bake-metes, Medieval era fruit pies were nothing like the fruit pies we know and love today. Baked in thick, dense, coffin crusts, bake-metes contained more than just fresh fruits and baking spices. In Pie: A Global History, author Janet Clarkson references two pie recipes from this time period. An apple pie recipe that calls for the apples to be flavored with saffron and a pear pie recipe that tells cooks to place bone marrow between the pie’s pear slices.
The widespread enjoyment of eating pies at Christmas actually derives from Western European medieval cuisine. Peasants would often indulge in frumenty, a plain wheat porridge that was enhanced with dried fruits, meats, sugars and spices for Christmas. This special occasion porridge eventually evolved into a pie when peasants began using it as a pie filling baked inside a coffin crust.
Eating pie during the Christmas season was also heavily influenced by The Church. Throughout various points in history, meatless days were required by The Church and often further implemented by state law. This led to the rise in fish-based pies, which were especially popular. In Gloucester, a city in England near the Welsh border, each Christmas a fish pie was presented to the royal family as a token of loyalty. This tradition continued until the end of Queen Victoria’s reign. The custom had a brief resurgence in 1953 when a 42-pound fish pie was cooked and presented to Queen Elizabeth II at her coronation ceremony!
It wasn’t until the 16th Century, when sugar prices began to decrease, that the popularity and intricacies of fruit pies started to evolve. No longer was fruit a secondary ingredient to saffron or bone marrow. The first fruit pies were primarily enjoyed by the noble class. Exotic, expensive fruit pies containing costly ingredients like orangeade—a candied orange peel, were often prepared and presented at special occasions and holidays.
As time progressed, pies became more accessible to other classes. Still, the custom of eating pie at special occasions and holidays remained. Culinary historians can infer that pumpkin pie has been a part of the common American Thanksgiving menu since the late 1700s. The earliest known American cook book, American Cookery by Amelia Simmons, was published in 1796 and—while it doesn’t specifically call out Thanksgiving, it does include instructions on how to stuff a turkey and an accompanying pumpkin pie recipe.
It was during the time period of Simmons’ cookbook that Thanksgiving began to progress from a church-based holiday to a holiday with food and family at the forefront. It was also a time when substantial waves of migration from England came to the United States. English immigrants brought with them many traditions and customs, including their beloved family pie recipes.
By the 19th Century, it was clear that pie had become a Thanksgiving staple. Multiple memoirs from the era include accounts of numerous pies being prepared in anticipation of the holiday. These pies were often prepared with the help of the entire family, including children, who would often sift flour and aide in combining dry ingredients.
While pumpkin pie is one of the oldest traditional Thanksgiving pies, it isn’t the holiday’s only beloved fruit pie. The first known recorded pecan pie recipe dates back to the late 1920s. Pecan pie quickly became a Southern staple and a Thanksgiving favorite. A love of pecan pie during the holidays still holds true today, with Marie Callender’s® selling more than 1 million frozen Southern Pecan Pies during the November and December 2014 holiday season.
While porridge-filled and bone-marrow filled pies may be a thing of the past in pie history, the tradition of eating dessert pies during the holiday season continues. Last year alone, Americans bought more than 38 million frozen pies during the November and December holiday season. With numbers like that, it looks like America’s enjoyment of pie at the holidays is here to stay!
Pink Pies For The Holidays
So now we know the definition of pie and why Pumpkin pie has become an traditional part of our Holiday celebrations. However, there are many people who do not find Pumpkin pie a satisfactory ending to a Holiday feast. Luckily for those people, there are many more types of pies that we can incorporate into our festive menus.
Sticking with the PINK theme, there are a multitude of ingredients that allow us to enjoy an appetizing, delicious PINK pie. Strawberries, raspberries, rhubarb, pink lemonade, cherries, are a few of the ingredients that will produce a beautiful PINK dessert. Pink is known to be a very appetizing color and is used by many bakeries as a color for their best-selling pastries.
Delicious Pink Pies
I am sharing some of the most delicious looking PINK PIE recipes I found on some of my favorite blog sites.
Strawberry Cream Cheese Pie
Strawberries and Cream Mile High Pie