If you’re coming to Down on the Farm event on July 1st, why not try baking a pie for the pie contest? From strawberry rhubarb to lemon chess, anything goes — but since we’ll be on a pick-your-own berry farm, we’re hoping for at least some summer fruit pies made with luscious local berries.
Few foods carry as much cultural heritage as pie does. Pie, at its simplest, is some sort of cooked filling contained in some sort of pastry. By this broad definition, it’s easy to see that there’s hardly a world cuisine that doesn’t feature some kind of pie, whether in the form of samosas, empanadas, egg rolls, or the deep-fried fruit pies of the American south. The secret to the popularity of pies is that they help food stay preserved. By mixing foods with salts, sugars, or liqeurs to delay spoiling, and then enclosing the food in a pastry shell to prevent air reaching the inner parts, pie cooks through the ages have created meals that would last months in dry, cool storage, or be perfectly suited to cook the night before and then pack for an unrefrigerated lunch away from home the following day.
Pies in America have a history that reflects our own. In mainstream American cuisine, most of our pies are of the sweet variety – that’s largely because sugar trade routes were opening up just as English settlers arrived here. In old England, pies were normally filled with savory meat-and-potato or fish fillings. Here in the New World, abundant available sugar from the Caribbean trade led cooks to preserve fruits in sweetened jams, jellies, and of course, pies. Cream and custard pies became more common and more popular as the availability of ice increased in the nineteenth century. An icebox in the home meant that dairy foods were less likely to spoil; the excess could be used for indulgent cream pies, whipped cream, and ice creams instead of made into cheese to be preserved. Twentieth-century innovations like Cool Whip, frozen pies, graham-cracker and Ritz-cracker crusts, and canned pie fillings made pies even easier to produce at home. But today, a homemade pie is truly a rare treat.
Food writer and folklorist John T. Edge has written an entire book singing the praises of pie – here is an excerpt to enjoy. You can also hear John interviewed on the public radio show “To The Best of Our Knowledge.” More pie history courtesy of Antiques & Collectibles magazine, and also from the Food Timeline.
We hope to spearhead a Seacoast Pie Revival this summer at our pie table at Down on the Farm, so why not try a pie? Anything goes. Make some pastry. Make some filling. Put them together. Bake them. Mm-mm! Keep the American pie tradition alive!
Best Traditional Pie
Best Original Pie
Judging will take in both taste (75%) and appearance (25%)
To enter: Bring pie in a pie pan with a label on the bottom (not visible from above). Be prepared to fill out an entry form listing your pie’s title and all ingredients (no secret ingredients due to allergy risks, please). Each pie will be issued a number and voting will be blind. Pie will be consumed in voting — judges will share 1/3 of the pie, and the remaining 2/3 will be cut into small bites for People’s Choice voting.