They're simple, they're American and come Thanksgiving, everybody saves room for them. But the pies we know today are a fairly recent addition to a history that goes back as long as mankind has had dough to bake into a crust an d ingredients to put inside it.
To continue this long tradition, the Finney County Extension Office will offer a free educational demonstration on "Holiday Pies" at 5:30 p.m. Nov. 10 at the 4-H Building on the fairgrounds in Garden City. This refresher course on the basics of pie-making will include pointers for flaky pastry, tips for fruit and cream fillings and the secret to a mile-high meringue. Come prepared to share your favorite tips and techniques for perfect pies, too!
There is no cost for this demonstration, but please pre-register at the Extension Office, 272-3670, by Friday to ensure adequate materials.
Americans inherited our love of pies from the English. In medieval England, they were called pyes, and instead of being predominantly sweet, they were most often filled with meat — beef, lamb, duck, pigeon — spiced with pepper, currants or dates. The famous English mince pie is an evolution from these early meat pies. An old English tradition claims that eating 12 mince pies, one each day from Christmas until Twelfth Night, will make the eater happy for 12 months of the year.
Contrary to grade school theater productions across the United States, there was no modern-day pie — pumpkin, pecan or otherwise — at the first Thanksgiving celebration in 1621. Pilgrims brought English-style, meat-based pie recipes with them to the colonies. While pumpkin pie, which is first recorded in a cookbook in 1675, originated from British spiced and boiled squash, it was not popularized in America until the early 1800s.
Colonial women baked English-style deep dish pies covered with a pastry top. Because of their crusty tops, pies acted as a means to preserve food, and often were used to keep the filling fresh during the winter months. Sometime after the American Revolution, thrifty New England housewives realized that flat pies — what the English called "tarts" — needed less filling and now the traditional American pie is a flat one.
Several pies are particularly associated with the United States. There is pumpkin pie, a refinement of the first pumpkin desserts which were merely hollowed-out whole pumpkins baked with cream; the molasses-flavored shoofly pies of the Pennsylvania Dutch; and most famous of all — American apple pie. New Englanders baked them from dried apples all winter and even ate them for breakfast.
Pies have come a long way since the days of pigeon and pepper, but many bakeries say a classic apple pie is still their top holiday seller.
Recapture your own holiday tradition — learn to make a perfect holiday pie at the Extension "Holiday Pies" program on Nov. 10. Register by Friday to reserve your spot for this free program.