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Apple Pie, Hold the Apples: Fooling Some of the People Some of the Time

January 15, 1991

NEW YORK (AP) _ At a time when cooks are demanding the freshest from-the-farm ingredients, apparently there’s still room in plenty of recipe files for an ″apple″ pie made with nary a hint of apple.

″There is no logical reason to make mock apple pie today, but I think people do it because there is that sense of mischief about it,″ said Michael Stern, chronicler of down-home eats and mocker of high cuisine.

Mock apple pie is made with crackers, lemon, sugar, spices and water. When baked in a pie crust and then cooled, the consistency and taste resemble apple pie, although few people would be tricked if served the mock and real pies side-by-side.

″I actually have been fooled by it. I was astounded, truly astounded,″ Stern said. He could tell, he said, only ″when I looked very, very closely and really thought about it.″

Nabisco Brands Inc. popularized a version of the recipe using its Ritz crackers. A recipe was printed on the box for a half-century, until 10 years ago. But after receiving 1,500 requests for it a year, the company said, it will again provide the recipe on Ritz boxes beginning next month.

Marilyn M. Moore, who has a mock apple pie recipe using saltines in her ″The Wooden Spoon Dessert Book,″ dates the recipe to the Civil War, when, she speculated, apples probably were scarce.

The recipe found favor again during the Depression, probably for the same reason.

Mock apple pie is the kind of food ″people ate in the South when there was virtually nothing in the produce section - just potatoes, onions and pink tomatoes,″ said Texas native Ruth Adams Bronz, owner of Miss Ruby’s Cafe in New York City.

″There is now a sort of nostalgic value to it. It’s the same reason people like Jell-O. They remember their mothers served it,″ Stern said. ″It’s not fashionable, but there is something quaint and old-fashioned and comfortable about it.″

Faye Egan, manager of Nabisco’s consumer food center, notes that with mock apple pie, there’s no need to to slice apples. But of course, the trickiest part of making pie is the crust, needed for either version.

The Ritz recipe has not changed because consumers want the original, Egan said from the company’s East Hanover, N.J., offices. They want to convince family or friends it really does taste like apple pie, or to recreate a food of their past, she said.

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