Thursday, July 7, 2011

Some American Pie

Whitman: thinking of pie?
Garfield: yes, pie would be great! 
In the 19th century, way before Don McLean’s song about it, there was definitely a thing called “American pie.”

People in the US were known for their devotion to that particular kind of flaky pastry, so much so that it was even eaten for breakfast, sometimes.  In 1887 one writer noted that when he met the poet Walt Whitman, Whitman insisted that everyone should eat his favorite dish “solid American pie, washed down with the strongest of strong tea...Inquiry elicited the fact that pie was the main pabulum of Whitman’s life.”* And Thomas Jefferson Murrey writes in Valuable Cooking Receipts (1877): 

It seems to be a cardinal belief [in Europe] that no meal is furnished here without a superabundance of pie; that, even at the best inns and restaurants in New York, Boston and Philadelphia, pie is devoured at breakfast, luncheon, dinner and supper; that no American would sit down to a table where he could not see plenty of pie; that all the States are closely connected and bound together by a prejudice in favor of pie; that it was love of pie rather than force of patriotism which, in the civil war [sic - not capitalized], preserved the Union. 

I have found a few unusual pie recipes to include - not apple pie, though since we have just had the 4th of July that would be appropriate. Instead, let me share recipes from two states - Ohio and Arizona. 

Why these two? That would be in honor of Jacob Bromwell Inc., who make delightful retro kitchenware such as the All-American Flour Sifter, which will assist you in making a pie crust (or any other sort of baking endeavor, really) and the lovely Golden Era Pie Plate, in which to place said crust. Jacob Bromwell was originally located, you see, in Cincinnati, Ohio, but is now based in Tempe, Arizona.

Garfield Pie was an old Ohio specialty named in honor of Ohio-born President James A. Garfield:


Combine in a bowl 2 cups stewed sour apples, 1 tablespoon flour, 2 beaten egg yolks, 1 tablespoon melted butter, the juice of half a lemon, and sugar to taste. Bake in a single crust, then when it is almost done, cover with meringue (I suppose this is where you use the 2 egg whites you have lying around from when you needed the yolks) and put it back in the oven until it has golden edges.

And from Arizona, a pie that asks the culinary question: if you can make lemon pies and orange pies, why not a grapefruit one?

First you need to make and bake a single pie crust. Then set it aside and make the custard:

Sift ½ cup of flour (using, perhaps, the Bromwell Designer Flour Sifter) and then resift this with 1 cup of sugar and ½ teaspoon of salt. Combine this with 2 beaten eggs and then add in 1 ¼ cups scalded milk. Cook all of this over hot water (in a double boiler, that is) until smooth and thick; stir it a lot. Then add ½ cup grapefruit juice and cook for 10 more minutes. Take it off the heat and stir in 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract. Pour this into that baked pie shell you have nearby (you do have it nearby, right?) Place 1 cup of grapefruit sections on the top and sprinkle with ½ cup of brown sugar. Run it under the broiler (on low) until the sugar caramelizes and the grapefruit is a little bit browned. Let it stand until is has cooled down, then serve.

Jacob  Bromwell and Co., 1886
Jacob Bromwell Inc. has been making things since 1819. In the 19th century (and in Cincinnati) they made sieves, pans, buckets and brushes. Since then they’ve been specializing in kitchenware, cookware for camping, fireplace items and other goodies - all made with old-fashioned care, and with a lifetime guarantee. I love the style and quality of their products and I think you will, too.  

Note: Both pie recipes are from America Cooks, by Cora, Rose and Bob Brown (New York, 1949). I rewrote them a little as some of the recipes are so very much of a certain vintage that they hardly tell you anything except a list of ingredients. This is not the fault of the Browns or anything, though.

*Robert Williams Buchanan, A Look Round Literature (1887), p. 343.

And the wonderful old engraving of Jacob Bromwell Inc. (then called Jacob Bromwell and Co.), on your right, is from an 1886 book entitled Leading Manufacturers and Merchants of Cincinnati.


DrJulieAnn @ Modern Retro Woman said...

*gasp* I just found out about this company two weeks ago! I loved the history of the company so much that I'm awaiting my order for the popcorn popper and the frying pan to use in a "camping" giveaway!

Kristie said...

Popping back in for a spell . . . I love apple pie for breakfast. Birthday cake is even better for breakfast! :)