Marlborough pie: a luxurious 19th-Century Thanksgiving Pie
Apparently, four kinds of pie were traditional for Thanksgiving: mince, cranberry, pumpkin, and a kind called Marlborough, a glorification of everyday apple, is said.
The single-crust pie of stewed apples in a custard fragrant with nutmeg, citrus, and sherry originated in England as a custard pudding and crossed the Atlantic with early English settlers.
The practice of putting apples in a custard and baking in a pastry base is at least as old as 1660. The first iteration of Marlborough pudding published that year called for a whopping 24 egg yolks mixed with cinnamon, sugar, salt, melted butter, “some fine minced pippins” (tart apples used in cooking), and minced as well as sliced citron, all poured into a pastry-lined dish.
So, is it a pie or a pudding?
Apparently, It’s both.
Pie and pudding in the 19th century are very interchangeable, depending on how they’re served. Because this is a custard-based dessert, it would technically be considered a pudding. But because it has a filling that has to be poured into a pie crust in order to have it form and cook, it is also a pie.
The exaltation of Marlborough pie to the 19th-century Thanksgiving table features in the American writing of the time, and was extremely popular in New England, considered an indulgent treat as well as an ingenious use for apples nearing spoilage. It was special because it was both more labor-intensive and more expensive to make than other pies of the time, as the sherry was probably coming from Spain, nutmegs from Indonesia and lemons from Sicily. Finding the ingredients could be a problem, at the time.
When an apple custard pie got the “Marlborough” moniker remains a mystery. Maybe it come from a town of the same name in England, or Massachusetts, or both.
To make matters more confusing, it is also sometimes known as Deerfield Pie, presumably after another Massachusetts town.
Few establishments serve the pie today, although home bakers have kept it alive in the culinary imagination. In England, the celebrated chef Rick Stein serves Marlborough pudding at his restaurant every fall. His innovative update on the traditional British recipe is that it is topped with glazed Italian meringue and served with warm custard….
Images from web – Google Research