My Citizens, this blog is a safe space from the vagaries of political diatribe, rabid tribalism and the divisiveness of an un-civil war (to quote our new President). The members of TFD Nation remain blissfully un-sundered by hatred and united in our common cause – seeking only the finest in world cuisine recipes, replete with glorious provenance and history alike! However, there is no denying that regardless of your political affiliation, the peaceful transfer of power is what makes America truly great and we can now hopefully heal the divides of the past and restore the glory of our once-united Nation!
As a renowned poet myself (and you can check out my poetry here for the grand total of 99 cents!), it pleased me greatly to hear a poet speak at the inauguration – if you haven’t heard it, see the video link below.
To celebrate this seminal moment of a new Administration taking the reins during difficult times, I want to give you a quintessentially American recipe – and what, pray tell, is more American than Apple pie?! Today, I want to share not my own recipe, but a recipe from one of my favorite restaurants in San Francisco – The Monk’s Kettle! A combination of a beer bar and restaurant, I have always loved this funky spot and the food is delicious, hearty and designed to pair perfectly with a fine beer or ale.
Unlike most every restaurant I have ordered from since the pandemic started, the quality of their food has been rock-solid and while the menu at The Monk’s Kettle may be pared down for now, it is still over-the-top in savor and flavor alike. My favorite dessert is what they call their ‘Apple hand pie’, a delicious apple pie filling wrapped in puff pastry, fried to perfection and served with spiced whipped cream and sliced Granny Smith apples on top. When I approached their chef to respectfully ask if they were willing to share the recipe, they happily obliged and I am very grateful for that generosity of spirit on their part!
The history of apple pies is actually quite interesting and – of course – predates the USA! As eruditely noted in Smithsonian Magazine:
Apple pie is a longstanding symbol of America, but the dessert didn’t actually come from America, and neither did the apples.
According to Melissa Blevins for Today I Found Out, the early colonists of Jamestown brought European apple tree cuttings and seeds with them. The only native apple in North America was the crab apple, and the colonists found its tiny fruit “a poor substitute for Malus domestica.” Settlers primarily used the apples to make cider, which was preferred to water as a drink and easier to produce than beer, which required labor-intensive land clearing.
Later in America’s colonial history, planting trees was a good way to preserve a land claim; colonists who didn’t “improve” their land in some colonies, like Virginia, could have it taken away from them.
It’s hard to say which varieties of apple first came to America, because there are so many. Apple trees are easy to cross-pollinate, meaning that deliberately producing new apple varieties is relatively simple. By 1800, writes Tim Hensley for the Brooklyn Botanical Garden, American farmers were growing a mind-boggling 14,000 varieties of apple, many of which had been bred in the country.
The first apple varieties raised in the United States were intended for cider, not eating, which means they were more tart. But by 1800, writes Emily Upton for Today I Found Out, some of those 14,000 varieties of apple were a good fit for apple pie. Around the same time, John Chapman, otherwise known as Johnny Appleseed, had brought the apple to American folklore fame. “Chapman’s beloved apples became ‘American’ by association,” she writes.
The 19th century “was a time of unparalleled public interest in new fruit varieties,” Hensley writes, “when apples, pears and peaches were critically reviewed and rated with the enthusiasm now reserved for Hollywood movies and popular music.”
Americans had made the apple truly their own. But the apple pie isn’t a uniquely American dish either, Upton writes. “In fact, the first recorded recipe for apple pie was written in 1381 in England, and called for figs, raisins, pears, and saffron in addition to apples,” she writes. There were other differences, too: early apple pie recipes generally didn’t include sugar, and their pastry crust was “coffin” pastry, which was intended as an inedible container, not a part of the pie. There are also recipes for Dutch apple pies as far back as 1514, she writes.
The actual genesis of the expression is harder to track, Upton writes. In 1902, a newspaper article wrote that “no pie-eating people can be permanently vanquished.” A 1924 advertisement appearing in the Gettysburg Times promotes “New Lestz Suits that are as American as apple pie.” And by World War II, Upton writes, the association was cemented. American soldiers would tell journalists that they were fighting for “mom and apple pie,” Upton writes, giving rise to the expression “As American as mom and apple pie.”
The great thing about this recipe – beyond the fact that it’s both delicious and easy-to-make – is that anybody who fails to appreciate or like it is obviously a lizard person in disguise and this is a fantastic way to suss them out before they descend upon you to feast upon your horror-stricken flesh! All joking aside – this is a truly awesome recipe, and the only thing I might conceivably change is to use a tiny bit of duck fat in the peanut oil to add additional savor to the final fried product – but that’s just me. It’s truly delicious as is, and since I am not making any changes, the recipe does not have my name in it.
If you live in the San Francisco area – you MUST order from these fine people at The Monk’s Kettle at your earliest opportunity – we need to keep great neighborhood joints like this one alive through the pandemic, or our city (and lives) will be all the poorer for their absence. The Kettle has – without question – all the mettle it needs to get past this pandemic and serve My City for decades to come, or so I hope! Serve this as the final course in a meal of San Francisco’s iconic dishes, which must include Crab Louie salad!
Battle on – the GeneralissimoPrint
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