This time around, we feature a recipe for cherry pie, but before we get to the recipe, we want to introduce ourselves to you. We’re a husband-and-wife team of New England-based writers who’ve spent the past decade immersing ourselves in New England food history. The results of our efforts are two books: America's Founding Food: The Story of New England Cooking (University of North Carolina Press, 2004), and, just this year, Northern Hospitality: Cooking by the Book in New England (University of Massachusetts Press, 2011). The first is a narrative account of New England food traditions, the second an anthology of regional recipes, from the earliest days of settlement through the early twentieth century. We like to think that both books have much to offer both to people who are mainly interested in cooking and also to those mainly interested in history.
On now to some cherry pie. Pie-making was an area of cookery in which the English were considered to be particularly expert. As one food historian writes, by the seventeenth century, when New England was being settled by people from England, “even the French were prepared to concede superiority” to the English when it came to pies. Making sweet pies in particular was considered socially respectable, even prestigious, because while most types of cooking were thought to be best left to the servants, preparing sweet dishes, “confectionery,” was viewed as an activity that was proper for the mistress of the house—even the mistress of a grand aristocratic house—to engage in with her own two hands.
New Englanders have produced what Harriet Beecher Stowe called "an untold variety of genera and species" of pie. But for many people in the region pie means apple pie. In the "Fruit Pies" section of Northern Hospitality we pay tribute to this regional delight with a hoard of recipes from both Old and New England, including a 1615 pippin tart in a puff paste, an eighteenth-century golden runnet pudding in a rich crust, and an assortment of recipes calling for dried or fresh apples, enhanced with cinnamon, nutmeg, rosewater, or lemon. We even offer a "Codling Pye" of unripe apples that are turned greener still by stewing them with vine leaves in a brass pan. The combination, as we warn, produces a toxic verdigris!
But even for New Englanders there comes a time to put aside our passion for apple pie—for a few months at least. In summer we turn our pie-making hand to the more ephemeral warm-weather fruits and berries for which the region is also justly famous.
For us, Lydia Maria Child's 1829 "Cherry Pie" is the perfect start to summer pie-making. It's lightly sweetened and gently spiced, highlighting the natural flavor of the cherries. It's also easy to make, with just a few simple ingredients encased in a light and crumbly modified puff paste crust. In short, this pie is fresh and modest, but with a hint of opulence. In a moment, we'll give you the directions for making it, along with a few tips for translating Child's nineteenth-century instructions for use in a modern kitchen. But first, a brief word about Child herself.
For much of her life, which spanned the nineteenth century, Child's own financial survival and that of her family was, of necessity, among her chief concerns. But as an activist and intellectual, she also worried about the pinched circumstances in which many Americans of her day found themselves. Along with great material advances, the early Industrial Revolution brought with it some devastating periods of economic recession. Broadly speaking, Child's response to these hard times was an impulse to austerity, mixed with a desire to teach American women about self-sufficiency, an ideal she considered a cornerstone of New England identity. Her cookbook and domestic guide,The American Frugal Housewife, showcases her canniness at reining in household expenditures, along with a measured sense of good living. She dedicates her book "to Those Who Are Not Ashamed of Economy." By emphasizing frugality as a moral principle, she helped those who were ashamed to feel less so. The book quickly became a national best seller.
Child was also an abolitionist, novelist, and editor of an early children's magazine. You may know her Thanksgiving song, "Over the River, and through the Wood." She was raised in Medford, Massachusetts, and spent her later years in Newton and Wayland. So, odd as it may seem, the nineteenth century had its own renowned Boston-area cookbook writer named Child.
"Pie Crust" by Lydia Maria Child
Tips for making it: The amount of flour and butter specified in Child's recipe is enough to make only one crust. For our two-crust pie, we doubled the recipe.
"Cherry Pie" by Lydia Maria Child
Tips for making it: Child doesn't say anything about pitting the cherries. Following the advice of other writers of the time, we pitted ours. We used two pounds of fresh Bing cherries for one pie, with two teaspoons of demerara sugar and ¼ teaspoon of cinnamon mixed in. We placed the cherries in the unbaked crust, then topped with another crust, pinching the edges together with a fork.
We baked our pie in an electric convection oven at 425º for 20 minutes, then at 350º for 30 minutes, until the top crust was nicely browned. If your top crust isn't brown after the final 30 minutes at 350º, increase the oven temperature to 375º and bake for another 5-10 minutes, or until browned. Cool the baked pie for 15 minutes on a wire rack. Then dig in!
Keith Stavely and Kathleen Fitzgerald
Authors of Northern Hospitality: Cooking by the Book in New England (University of Massachusetts Press, 2011)
Let us help promote your business with a story ABOUT YOU! For more information, visit our Advertising and Promotions page. To stay up to date on our latest stories and information around New England, visit our home page at www.allthingsnewengland.com, follow us on Twitter or become a fan on our Facebook page. Thanks for reading!
|< Prev||Next >|