The History of Pie

Everyone loves pie. Sweet, savory, double or single crust, pie can be used for main courses, appetizers or desserts. What we see as pie today has a long history, that some say dates as far back as the Stone Age. Let’s learn more about why pie is more than just a filled pastry shell.

Honey Pot The Brief History of Pie

There has always been a need for easy to make, nutritious meals during long journeys. Before there were modern conventions such as baking, or food storage, groups of travelers would have to gather their own food as they moved along, or bring a dedicated chef along for the journey. As the introduction of baking provided a grain based meal that was convenient for travel, we can see the evolution of breads and cakes becoming more readily used as diet staples.

During this time, these early baked goods became pie-like in nature, as they consisted of crust cakes containing ground grains, oftentimes with a sweet treat inside, such as honey.

The Earliest Recipes

A cookbook, dating back to the 16th Century, shows a recipe for a ’short paest for tarte’ as thus: “To Make Short Paest for Tarte – Take fyne floure and a cursey of fayre water and a dysche of swete butter and a lyttel saffron, and the yolckes of two egges and make it thynne and as tender as ye maye.” Pretty close to what we consider a pie to be today, no?

16th Century England

The Pastry Shell

It has been said that the early Greeks are the ones who invented the pie pastry as we know it today, but the Romans have record of pie making as well. As far back as 5th Century BC we have seen reference to small pastries being filled with fruit or sweetmeats; akin to the modern interpretation of mincemeat pie.

Stoneware Pie Dish Interestingly enough, many of these early pastry crusts were not meant to be enjoyed at all, they were simply a functional piece for containing the juices inside of the filling. With the development of the Roman empire, and the spreading of new ideas and cultural practices, pie preparations quickly spread across Europe.

The Evolution of the Pie As A Whole

As a staple for working folk or those who were traveling, pies remained a source of sustenance. If you have ever had a Cornish pasty, the classic lunchtime meal of the working classes,especially mine workers, you will recognize this trend in its modern form.

Regional variations dictated the contents of the pie as well as the grain contents of the crust. Steak, cheese, chicken and mushrooms are all classic fillers for savory pies, and fruits such as apples, cherries and blueberries form the sweet dessert type pies as we know them today.

If you were from the United Kingdom at the time, you most likely enjoyed a steak and kidney pie.  In America, the Colonial immigrants used local berries and fruits to create their shallow, flaky crust dishes.

Traditional Cornish Pastys

Stoneware Pie Dish Modern Times

Nowadays, mini pies are becoming increasingly popular. For calorie counters and those who simply appreciate the cuteness of the petite creations, mini pies are a fun alternative to full size pastries.

Although apple pie has been long understood as the number one preferred pie type in America, other options such as pumpkin and cherry, are close behind.

Well, there you have it.  The history of pie in bite-sized form. Ready to make some pies of your own?  Check out this earlier article on prepping for apple season, and all the pie making it entails, this recipe for fail-proof apple pie, or browse the kitchen section of our website to see what tools you may need to furnish your cooking space with.

What are your favorite pie flavors?  Submit your answers in the comments below!

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