6 Minute Read | by Gino De Blasio
Today sees the start of the 99th Giro d’Italia and, like most Grand Tours in the modern era, we’re starting in a location nowhere near Italy. The race begins in Holland but don’t blame the author, blame the race directors. In honour of today’s displaced inauguration we’ll start with something not even Dutch, but something that Apeldoorn has the largest orchard variety of; apples!
We salute the apple pie and debunk the American mythology. Oh, and good luck to all the riders on this seemingly easy time trial start!
It was a standout moment in the 1999 gross out film “American Pie.” A tale of young men going into their final exams in high school with one thing on their mind; losing their virginity.
Ranked in Time’s “10 unforgettable pie scenes in movies,” Gary Susman perfectly describes the carnage caused by Jason Biggs’ character Jim Levenstein.
‘Told that a woman’s genitals feel like warm apple pie, Jim spies his mom’s freshly-baked pastry cooling in the kitchen and does to the pie what Alexander Portnoy once did to a piece of liver, only to be caught in the act by his dad Eugene Levy. Hard to tell who should be more embarrassed: Jim? Or Biggs, who will forever be known as the actor who humped a pie?’
If you haven’t witnessed the scene and thought you could be spared the carnage, here’s the video to the shock comedy.
It’s a far cry and a whole lot less wholesome from what noted scientist Carl Sagan said about Apple Pie. “If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.” Sagan may have wanted to debate with Stephen Hawking on string theory, black holes, quantum physics and anything else that sounds like something Hawking would debate about the origin of the universe and what came first, the universe or the imaginary apple pie. He may have also wanted to add that it’s not a sex toy for the lesser initiated. Poor Jim.
Carl Sagan was also an astronomer, cosmologist, astrophysicist, astrobiologist, author, science popularizer, and science communicator in astronomy; I’m sure he and Mr Hawking could have spoken at length on many different topics; he did author the introduction to Hawking’s, A Brief History of Time after all.
But Carl Sagan is not alone in his appreciation about the much beloved apple pie. The American pie council — yes, such a thing exists! — has produced thousands of statistics over the years that go to support the apple pie lovefest.
The American pie council — yes, such a thing exists! — has produced thousands of statistics over the years that go to support the apple pie lovefest.
According to the association, 36 million Americans identify apple pie as their favourite, closely followed by pumpkin, pecan, banana cream and cherry. To many in Europe, the thought of banana’s producing cream is just mind boggling. For Carl Sagan and for many Americans, it may disappoint to know that apple pie is not American.
How this changes the sentiment, “as American as apple pie” means a lot less than how the lyrics to “American pie” may have been if instead it were “Banana Cream pie”. Admittedly, the syllables lend themselves to the tune, Buddy Holly would have still unfortunately passed but ‘drinking whiskey and ‘rye’ just wouldn’t have gone down well in memory recall of the sweet flavour of a good ol’ English apple pie.
Yes, Apple pie is English, and thanks to European protection laws, all of which would be scoffed at by any euro-sceptic in the room, this latest piece of trade protectionism means that if you’re buying an English apple pie advertised as Bramley apple filling, then it has to be. We need to assume that anyone who fails to conform to this new legislation will be taunted with, liar liar, pants on fire!
It’s not the first food to be protected by such measures of course. It joins a humble list that includes, buffalo mozzarella and belgian beer. Unlike Neapolitan pizza or parmigiano reggiano which is protected under the PDO (Protected Designation of Origin), the Bramley apple filling is under the TSG (Traditional Speciality Guaranteed) label. Admittedly, it may be apparent why the euro-sceptics don’t like naming laws after that complicated list…
The chief executive of English Apples and Pears (I swear, this is a real institute), Adrian Barlow said that by having the license it would keep “apple pie standards high.”
The chief executive of English Apples and Pears (I swear, this is a real institute)
In difference to the origins of American apple pies which used crab apples, so sour they could make gurning contests non existent, the Bramley filling is an invention through testing and design by victorians in the 1800’s.
The apples and pears commission had to create a brief history of the apple pie which indicated the use of Bramley apples. “During the Victorian age, there was a quest to develop single-purpose culinary apple varieties for the ultimate apple pie recipe,” it said. “At the 1883 National Apple Congress, the Bramley was acclaimed as the best-suited variety for apple pies. Since then, the recipe for traditional Bramley apple pie filling has remained unchanged and is still commercially used today.
So what makes bramley apples such a good filling? Adrian Barlow went on to explain, “the Bramley apple carries its taste right through the cooking process into the finished product. The apple itself cooks to a moist, airy, fluffy texture, almost cream-like.”
The first recorded recipe for apple pie was written in 1381 in England, and called for figs, raisins, pears, and saffron in addition to apples. Early apple pie recipes were a lot different from what we know today, as they rarely called for sugar; something which Jamie Oliver would probably try to get you taxed on if you weren’t careful today.
The Dutch were to create their own lattice pastry variety by 1514 and is more in keeping with the recipes that we find today; full of apples and sugar by the looks of it.
Even when the American colonists were finally able produce enough apples to cater to more widespread consumption, they were initially used to make hard cider rather than pie. Apple pies generally call for “cooking quality” apples—varieties that are crisp and acidic—and such apples hadn’t yet been developed in American orchards.
It seems that the Brits have this one pegged, well, the Bramley apple anyway. As Barlow so eloquently put it,”the Bramley apple carries its taste right through the cooking process into the finished product. The apple itself cooks to a moist, airy, fluffy texture, almost cream-like.”
So whilst the apple pie in America is revered and held to a higher account of being authentic and true to the core values of America and Americans, it is the British and the colonists who need to be thanked for all those excessive hours and years for creating a dessert that everyone can enjoy; possibly not Jason Biggs though, he’s probably having nightmares about the dessert. Who can blame him.
For a crash course in how to make the perfect apple pie as according to Felicity Cloake then refer to this great addition to your baking repertoire. Dan Lepard is tempting fate by using granny smith apples, but if you’re new to baking, then this recipe is for you. If however you want to get your teeth into an all traditional American apple pie, then Richard Ehrlich has the solution with his recipe here.
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