October 25, 2010

Old English Cooking...Historical Pie in your Eye!

The Maine House hosted a small gathering last evening for a local Historical Society. Our  dinner conversation was to be about Old English Cooking.

 I happened to recall that my dear, darling Grandmother used to make the most delicious cream and apple pie. Well, it just so happened that this pie Miss Grace made, was actually based on some intriguing history and was originally called Baked Apple Pudding from the Old English Cooking days!

In 1660 Robert May published The Accomplisht Cook, which became the most important cookbook of it's time. Robert was a professional chef who had trained in Paris. Catering to the aristocracy, he introduced many new recipes at a time when English cuisine was just beginning to borrow from the French.

One of his recipes, A Made Dish of Butter and Eggs, was gradually modified (the original called for 24 egg yolks!) into Marlborough Pie (or Marlborough Pudding) taken to the new world by the pilgrims, this recipe soon became a Thanksgiving favorite which remains to this day.

 Martha Lloyd, Jane Austen's Sister in-law , kept a similar recipe in her Household Book. Taken from Martha Lloyd's Household Book............

Take a dozen of pippens, pulp them through your cullender, take six eggs, sugar enough to make sweet, the rind of two lemons grated, a 1/4 of a lb of butter (melted with flour or water). Squeeze the juice of the two lemons, let the apples be cold before the ingredients are put together. Make a puff paste in the bottom of the dish, half an hour bakes it.

Second only to Cassandra, Martha Lloyd (1765-1843) seems to have been Jane Austen's dearest friend. Not much is known of them though it is supposed that Mrs. Lloyd, daughter of the Royal Governor of South Carolina, the Hon. Charles Craven, met her future husband in Newbury, when she and her sister lived there with an aunt, who took them in after they had fled from a mother who, by some accounts treated them badly and by others was insane. Regardless of the situation, both sisters married obscure country parsons. The Lloyds settled down and had four children. Martha, the oldest daughter, was born in 1765 and her sister Mary in 1771. A few years later, a smallpox epidemic took the life of their brother and left the two older sisters scarred for life, though the youngest, Eliza, seems to have escaped relatively unharmed.
It is clear from Jane Austen's correspondence that her friend Martha was privy to her great secret-- her writing. Her role as Jane Austen's friend and confidant cannot be undervalued and her contribution to what we know of Jane Austen's life is significant.  Not only letters written by Jane to Martha are on file, but her collection of recipes used at Chawton were later were compiled into The Jane Austen Household Book and more lately, The Jane Austen Cookbook. Martha Lloyd died in 1843.

Marlborough Pudding Pie
Juice and Peel of 1 Lemon
2 large fresh apples
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
1/2 cup butter
1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg
1 teaspoon of sherry
One Pastry Pie Crust

Grate lemon peel and squeeze lemon juice into large bowl. Grate apples and toss them with lemon juice to coat the apples. Pour sugar over fruit and toss well. Stir butter, sherry and egg mixture into sweetened fruit. Line a deep 8-inch pie plate with pastry. Spoon fruit mixture into pie plate. Sprinkle with nutmeg. Bake 15 minutes at 400 degrees, then reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake 45 minutes more. Test doneness by inserting knife into the center and pie is done if knife is clean. Cool before serving.

Grandmother Grace's Apple Cream Pie
4 apples (Cortland, McIntosh, or Granny Smith), peeled
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2/3 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 cup heavy cream
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch of ground cinnamon
One Pastry Pie Crust

 Using a box grater or other hand-held grater set in a bowl, grate the apples down to the core. Sprinkle the grated mixture with lemon juice.
 In a large nonstick skillet, melt the butter. Add the apples and sugar and cook, stirring often, until the sugar melts and boils. Reduce the heat slightly and let the mixture bubble steadily for 8 to 10 minutes or until the apples are soft and most of the liquid has evaporated. Remove from the heat and let cool for at least 10 minutes.
 In a large bowl, whisk the eggs. Whisk in the cream, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Stir in the apples until well mixed. Pour the custard into the pie shell.
 Transfer to the 350 degree oven and bake the pie for 35 minutes or until the custard is set and a little puffy but not browned. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

"I am glad the new cook begins so well.
 Good Apple Pies are a considerable part of our domestic happiness."
Jane to Cassandra.... October 17th, 1815

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