My trip down into the history of mock apple pie was not planned. Sometimes during my research and planning, I come across recipes that for whatever reason stick in my mind. Mock apple pie was one of them. I randomly found it while flipping through one of my recipe boxes. I gave it a quick glanced, put it back yet kept thinking about it. So I typed it in to see if it was worth a post and went deep into the rabbit hole. You will find that happens a lot with me.
I will admit I never heard of mock apple pie until I was well in my adult hood. I grew up in Connecticut where there is an apple picking season and so apple pie was a big part of that. I actually have more memories of Thanksgivings with apple pie versus the more traditional pumpkin pie. Plus my mother is very particular in the way certain things need to be made and apple pie is one of them. She definitely would have scoffed at any recipe that does not use apples. I was skeptical how this would turn out as I have eaten A LOT of apple pie in my day and was not sure how it would compare.
What ingredients are in mock apple pie?
The recipe has everything that is in an apple pie but instead, the apples are replaced by crackers whether of the Ritz variety or saltine/soda crackers. The other ingredients include lemon, sugar, cinnamon, and water. When baked it has the look and taste that resembles an apple pie. The early versions of this recipe would sometimes use stale bread or bread crumbs.
So what is the supposed science around why it tastes like apple pie? It works because if it looks and smells like an apple pie and has the same flavor notes, then our brains play a trick on us. According to an expert, “your brain is effectively filling in the missing part, the apple aroma”.
Who and where was mock apple pie created?
There is no actual date or information on when mock apple pie was created but many would believe that it is a mid-century creation. This belief is not surprising as the recipe is so connected with Ritz crackers that many are surprised to find out that mock apple pies have been around for much longer. Mock apple pie actually dates to the mid-1800s. During the wintertime when apples were scarce and dried apple stores were used up, inventive home cooks would instead of used soda crackers or stale bread. John T. Edge in his book Apple Pie (2004) also says that though the recipe does appear in southern cookbooks of the era such as What Mrs. Fisher Knows About Old Southern Cooking (1881) or the Confederate Receipt Book (1863) it is not a “Southern dish born of Civil War deprivation” as many would believe. He cited an 1852 California pioneer talking about making mock apple pie for their family.
The more modern Ritz cracker version came about in the 1930s. Nabisco was obviously not the creator but definitely played a huge part in the popularity of mock apple pie. The buttery cracker rounds appeared on the market in 1934 and they were an instant hit. By 1935, the National Biscuit Company (or Nabisco) had sole 5 billion units of crackers. Shortly thereafter, the recipe for mock apple pie appeared on the back of the boxes. The recipe came at the perfect time due to apples being expensive during the Great Depression.
One reader wrote to a 1968 newspaper claiming that she had made Mock Apple pie for the National Biscuit Company (Nabisco) at a food show “many years ago”. She goes on to say that shortly after the recipe started being printed on the back of the Ritz cracker boxes. I can’t prove if this account of events is true or not but it is a nice story all the same.
When was mock apple pie popular?
This pie has always been sort of a cult favorite. It is a type of recipe that has two groups of people, the ones who know and the ones who don’t. What can be said is that Ritz Crackers is the reason why mock apple pie gained modern popularity and a big reason why it is still being made. The recipe was on the back of Ritz cracker boxes until sometime during the 1980s when it was finally taken off. After receiving 1,500 requests in just one year for the recipe they started printing it again on the box in 1991. To this day it is still Nabisco’s most requested recipe.
I will admit though I did find quite a good handful of articles from the 1960s talking about mock apple pie. We can make an educated guess that there might have been a bit of a nostalgia factor in remembering the pie that their mother’s made while being children in the 1930s. A 1965 article kind of confirms this a bit when they wrote about a sudden renewed interest in the recipe. The article jokes that the pie has “fooled more people than you can count”. They go on to confirm that “it does look, taste and smells like apple pie. It even has the same texture.”
Williams, Pat. “Would you Believe Cracker (Apple) Pie Wins Popularity Poll?”. The Cincinnati Enquirer. September 11, 1968. Another newspaper article in the 1960s had many readers writing in talking about mock apple pie. The readers confirmed that “all comments pointed to the fact that the pie was a good one and did indeed fool the public as advertised” with one reader calling it her “conversation piece”. A 1963 article titled “Journal Kitchen” talks about getting quite a lot of requests for mock apple pie. Two readers in a 1997 newspaper remember the pie being made in the 1960s.
Why should I make mock apple pie?
In an 1988 article, food writers Jane and Michael Stern gives three reasons why you might want to give mock apple pie a try. First, crackers are cheaper than apples. Second, apples are not always in season. Three, which is possible the best reason, you should just make it to mess with your friends and families when you reveal what they have been eating. There are some people that swear that you can not tell the difference between a real apple pie versus the mock version. I will admit I was absolutely shooked, shocked and shaken by the results of this recipe. It is not exactly like if you made an apple pie from scratch but it does an amazing job at replicating the taste. Don’t believe me? Try it for yourself…..
How do you make mock apple pie?
Originally I was just going to test the Ritz cracker mock apple pie recipe as it is a recipe that is highly requested and popular through all these years. That was until I came across another recipe through my research of mock apple pie. In a 1960 newspaper article, a one Mrs. Dale Kauffmen won a blue ribbon at the Ventura County Fair in the “other” desserts category. I mean how can you go wrong with a winning recipe so I compared the two to see what was different. While they both use the same ingredients, Mrs. Kauffmen’s technique was different. The original recipe has you coarsely crush up 36 Ritz crackers in a pie shell and pour a syrup over it while Mrs. Kauffmen’s instead drops 20 whole crackers into the rapidly boiling syrup before carefully transferring into the pie crust. You wouldn’t think that would make a difference but it does. By keeping the crackers whole, the blue ribbon pie ends up looking more like sliced apples whereas the crushed ends up having a thick applesauce texture. Though they both end up tasting quite like an apple pie.
The only other thing that I didn’t quite like with the mock apple pie recipe from Ritz is that I had a lot of the syrup left over. I used a period correct Pyrex glass nine inch pie plate to make sure it would all be work but I still had quite a bit left over. So if you try that version and you end up having a lot of liquid left over, just pour until you fill the pie pan up and bake. It will all work out and my came out fine without the extra liquid.
I am including both recipe so try one or both and see what you think!
Mrs. Kauffmen's Blue Ribbon Mock Apple Pie
This recipe won Mrs. Kauffmen a blue ribbon at the 1960 Ventura County Fair.
- pie pastry for a two crust pie for a nine inch pie
- 2 cups water
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 20 Ritz crackers
- 3 tablespoons butter
- Preheat the oven to 450 and prepare pie crust with bottom layer in the pan and the top ready to be placed.
- Mix the water, sugar, cream of tartar and lemon zest in a saucepan and bring to a rolling boil.
- Drop in the crackers one at a time and then continue boiling two minutes after the last cracker is dropped.
- Slowly and carefully pour the cracker mixture into the pie shell as not to break the crackers.
- Dot with butter and sprinkle the top with cinnamon.
- Cover with top crust, flute edges and cut slits in top crust to let steam escape.
- Bake at 450 for 6 minutes and then lower the oven to 350 degrees and continue baking for another 30 minutes.
- Let cool a bit and enjoy just as you would an apple pie!
Ritz Cracker's Mock Apple Pie
- Pastry for two crust 9-inch pie
- 36 Ritz Crackers
- 2 cups water
- 2 cups sugar
- 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- zest of one lemon
- 3 tablespoons of butter
- Preheat oven to 425 degree and prepare pastry by placing bottom crust in a pie plate and having top crust ready to place.
- Coarsely break Ritz Crackers in a pastry line plate.
- In a saucepan, combine water, sugar and cream of tartar and gently boil for 15 minutes.
- Add the lemon juice and zest and let mixture cool for a bit.
- Then pour the syrup over the crackers, dot with the butter and sprinkle with cinnamon.
- Cover with the top crust, flue edges together and cut slits in top crust to let steam escape.
- Bake for 30 to 35 minutes.
- Serve warm (let it cool a bit after taking it out of the oven).
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