[ Pie - A Slice of Life ] ~ from Monterey Bay Herb Company
Pie a Slice of Life Shadow Header
There's nothing quite as comforting as a warm piece of pie after dinner (heck, for breakfast) and few people can resist chasing around every flaky morsel with their fork until the plate is crumb-free. In fact, to some, eating pie requires technique – about 9% of the American population prefers to eat the crust first.

According to the American Pie Council, Americans spend $700 million on store-bought pies, with about one out of five shoppers being likely to pick apple. There's no telling if they get away with it, but 7% of those folks will try to pass off the pies as homemade. Worse, roughly 6 million men will sneak off with the last piece, but later deny it. Notwithstanding the popular saying, apple (or any kind of) pie is anything but American, but it sure seems to take the cake when it comes to our palates.

[ Pie - A Slice of Life: As American As Crabapple Pie] ~ from Monterey Bay Spice

a. once upon a pye

The practice of wrapping dough around filling and baking it dates back to the ancient Romans and Egyptians, and up until the 16th century most "pyes" were baked in a thick crust called a "coffyn" that served as a casserole, storage and serving dish and was not intended to be eaten. The English favored meat pies, which may have included lamb, duck, beef (especially steak and kidney), chicken, magpie (a member of the crow family), as well as fish, oysters or mussels. Rabbit was another popular choice, evidenced by Peter Rabbit's mother warning her rebellious son to stay away from Mr. McGregor's vegetable garden because, "Your Father had an accident there; he was put in a pie by Mrs. McGregor."

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Despite popular belief, pumpkin pie was not served at the first Thanksgiving. It was far more likely that the Pilgrims prepared English-style meat pies filled with venison or pheasant, seasoned with nutmeg, cinnamon, black pepper and dried fruit. Fruit pies and tarts were popular in England by the 14th century, but the first recorded consumption of apple pie didn't happen in America until 1697. The saying that "American as apple pie," may stick around, but the only native "apple" available in the New World back then was the sour crabapple. The apples we enjoy for the fall harvest today are the result of the transport and cultivation of apple trees brought over by Asian and European immigrants.

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[ Pie - A Slice of Life: Pie in the Sky ] ~ from Monterey Bay Spice

b. pie in the sky

Pie became so ingrained in English and Early American culture that we have a variety of idioms and "pie-isms" in our language. "Pie in the sky," for example, refers to a lofty ambition that isn't likely to pan out, while "easy as pie" was obviously coined by someone who never made one. In 14th century England and France, the wealthy were kept amused between banquet courses with "animated" pies, the contents of which may have literally taken to the sky upon serving.

Also known as surprise pies, these oversized structures were made of a thick crust baked for hours and then filled…with live birds, frogs, rabbits or other small creatures, that were set free when the pie was cut open. Think of the Mother Goose nursery rhyme, Sing a Song of Sixpence: "Four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie… When the pie was opened, the birds began to sing — Wasn't that a dainty dish to set before the King?" Believe it or not, some of these pies housed musicians, dancers and even "little people" who would pop out of the pie and entertain the guests with magic, poetry and song. Unfortunately, in 1644, Oliver Cromwell, believing the enjoyment of pie to be a Pagan indulgence, banned the eating of pie altogether. Restoration leaders lifted the ban, but not for another 16 years.

four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie...

[ Pie - A Slice of Life: A Chicken in Almost Every Pot Pie ] ~ from Monterey Bay Spice

c. savory pies

Savory meat pies were all the rage in Medieval Europe, but modernized versions are also popular today. Shepherd's pie and cottage pie, traditional English dishes respectively made from lamb and beef and typically prepared with a crust of mashed potatoes, have served as models for the modern pot pie with the substitution of an edible pie crust for the tater topping. Chicken and turkey are also featured in pot pie.

Combined with pearl onions, diced carrots, peas and celery, poultry-based pies are usually seasoned with standard poultry seasonings, such as marjoram, thyme, rosemary, rubbed sage and black pepper. Chicken or beef pies may also be seasoned with more exotic spices, like cumin, cloves, cinnamon, coriander and turmeric.

try some traditional poultry
seasoning additions:
marjoram, thyme, rubbed
sage, rosemary...

or try some more exotic
seasoning additions:
coriander, cumin, cloves...
[ marjoram ] ~ from Monterey Bay Spice [ thyme ] ~ from Monterey Bay Spice [ sage ] ~ from Monterey Bay Spice [ rosemary ] ~ from Monterey Bay Spice [ coriander ] ~ from Monterey Bay Spice [ cumin ] ~ from Monterey Bay Spice [ turmeric ] ~ from Monterey Bay Spice

[ Pie - A Slice of Life: The Right Stuff ] ~ from Monterey Bay Spice

d. fruit pies

Fruit pie prototypes like apple pie first came to America from England, although they were unsweetened and baked in inedible "coffyns." The first written recipe for apple pie, published by Geoffrey Chaucer in 1381, was also sugarless but enriched with raisins, figs and pears. The absence of sugar was purely due to economics. In the 14th century, a pound of sugar set one back two shillings, the near equivalent of 50 US dollars today.

Like meat pies, fruit pies have evolved into hand pies and tarts with the standard dish receiving a blanket of pastry crust or brown sugar crumbles. Tradition is fine, but experiment with the filling when it comes to cherry, peach, plum and berry pies. A simple chutney-style filling made from chopped fruit (or whole berries) flavored with various herbs and spices makes a delicious pie. Try adding a bit of rosemary or thyme to the crust as well as the filling.

[ berries ] ~ from Monterey Bay Spice

Depending on the fruit in season, treat your pie filling to cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, cumin, coriander, basil, lavender or ginger.

[ Pie - A Slice of Life: Pie Crust Making Tips ] ~ from Monterey Bay Spice

e. tips to make the
perfect pie crust

Read the recipe through at least once to be sure you understand each step and that you have all of the ingredients on hand.

Cold shortening/butter ensures a flaky crust. Chill utensils and bowls in the refrigerator until needed. Rinse hands in cold water just before handling dough.

Don’t overwork the dough, or gluten will form and make the dough tough. The shortening/butter pieces should be pea-sized and coated with flour, not blended in entirely.

Avoid stretching the dough when placing in the pie dish. Trim the overhang to one-inch and fold it over with a pinch to make a thick, sturdy rim. Flute edge as desired.

[ Pie - A Slice of Life: Recipes ] ~ from Monterey Bay Spice

f. pie recipes

This is a traditional French Canadian meat pie original to Quebec that combines minced beef, pork and chopped vegetables seasoned with nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves. It is often served as a Christmas pie or as a New Year’s Eve supper.
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classic chicken pot pie
The pot pie is so-called because it is baked and served in the same casserole dish or individual ramekins. It also has the distinction of having just a top crust.
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apple-rosemary pie
This twist on the classic balances the sweetness of the honey and warm spices with the bold taste of rosemary. If you wish, you can add finely minced rosemary (fresh or dried) to the pie dough.
view the recipe >

berry pie with thyme & cinnamon
Lots of berries pair well with herbs and spices. Try to use fruit that's in season. You can use frozen fruit, just don't thaw it first.
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spiced pumpkin pie
This recipe is a slight twist on the classic with the addition of cardamom, which lends depth and warmth.
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apple cranberry pie
Tart and sweet flavors burst from every bite of this pie! A splash of brandy and vanilla brings out the flavor of the allspice. This recipe calls for Granny Smith apples. You can, however, use an assortment of good baking apples, like Golden Delicious and Pippin.
view the recipe >