Thursday 16 March 2023

New Feature! Recipe Tests

Today we are starting a new monthly feature by VSA member Marian Gibbard.

Recipe Tests
Trying out period recipes and seeing what they are like.
For this inaugural post Marian is giving us a look at a recipe for Apple Lemon Pie from 1905.

Mmmmmm... 😋

The Victorian Society of Alberta


Recipe Test: Apple Lemon Pie

From: The North End Club Cookbook: A collection of choice and tested recipes.
Compiled and arranged by the Ladies of the Club. Chicago, Illinois, 1905.


In celebration of Pi Day (March 14), I decided to combine a couple of interests - cooking from old recipes and pie.  Not having a suitable cookbook already in my collection, I turned to the internet, and discovered the North End Club Cookbook, published in 1905 in Chicago, Illinois.


 At 166 pages long, the book covers Appetizers, Soups, Bread (includes biscuits, waffles, muffins, etc.), Sandwiches, Vegetables, Eggs and Cheese, Fish, Meats (includes poultry), Salads, Pastry, Puddings, Pudding Sauces, Cake, Small Cakes (includes cookies and doughnuts), Ices and Ice Cream, Preserves, Pickles, Candy, Things Worth Knowing, Chafing Dish, and Beverages. The final section  - twenty or so pages - consists of advertisements for the local businesses whose purchased ad space would have financed the publication of the book.  The foreword of the book makes it clear that these are practical, well-tested recipes. 

The precision and clarity of instructions for preparation of the recipes varies somewhat - clearly there is an assumption of underlying cooking knowledge. This may present a few small stumbling blocks for modern cooks, but for the most part Google is a capable stand in for an experienced cook of an older generation.


 Knowing there were some substandard apples languishing in the back of the produce drawer, and wishing to celebrate Pi Day, I immediately focused on the ‘Pastry’ section. Midway through the section, on page 78, the recipe for ‘Apple Lemon Pie’ submitted by Mrs. Almet Powell caught my eye:

Apple Lemon Pie

Grate the yellow rind of 1 lemon, add the juice, 1 egg, 1 cup of sugar. Beat well together, then stir in 2 medium sized apples grated. Bake between two crusts.


 A simple and straightforward recipe, this went together quickly. I quickly removed the zest from a medium sized lemon using a modern Microplane zester (a fantastic tool that I’d highly recommend)and juiced it with and old fashioned wooden reamer (make sure to strain out the seeds). I then used a fork to combine the zest and juice with a scant 3/4 cup of white sugar (less sugar than Mrs Powell called for, but we like things on the less sweet side)  and then beat in an extra large egg (because that is what I had, but a medium egg would probably be more like the size Mrs. Powell used).  The Ambrosia apples (a modern variety, and these were past their prime) were peeled, quartered, cored, coarsely grated and mixed into the egg mixture. I used 3 apples rather than two to fill my 9’ pie plate. Because I was in a hurry I used store-bought pastry rather than making my own.  I then baked the pie at 375F for about 40 minutes, until the pastry was nicely golden and the juices bubbling up around the edges. It smelled marvellously lemon-y.

That evening, the pie was served at room temperature. Initial reactions were slight puzzlement - the pie neither smelled nor looked quite like conventional apple pie due to the apples being grated rather than chopped, and the lemon zest lending it a bright and sunny yellow colour.  Overall tasting reaction was favourable. The first bite was somewhat suggestive of pineapple - perhaps due to the texture and slight acidity - but the final verdict that it was ‘almost like lemon pie except for the texture’. 

This is definitely a recipe that I would make again, and I would recommend it as great way to use up apples that have lost their crisp texture or are rather flat tasting.


Final conclusions:

Use zest from half a lemon, rather than the whole lemon.

Adjust sugar to taste - 3/4 cup was about right for us, but may be too tart for others.

Experiment with apple varieties to find the texture you like best.

If you want a more apple-y tasting pie, add typical apple pie spices like cinnamon or nutmeg, and use only half a lemon’s worth of juice.

This would likely make a great tart filling - leave off the top crust and top with some whipped cream or maybe even a bit of merengue.



More early 1900’s community cookbook links from the Library of Congress here:

More next month.

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