As surely as Thanksgiving comes on the fourth Thursday of November, during the run up to the holiday food historians like me get their fifteen minutes of fame, usually in two minute radio or TV segments or by being widely quoted in some newspaper or other. Something about the historic origins of the day prompts questions about who invented mashed potatoes (answer: who knows?), why do we eat turkey? (answer: too complicated for this space, but I’d be happy to explain next time you see me. Just ask.)
In my long career, I’ve actually cooked several Thanksgivings on an open hearth in both a museum and in a private home. It’s not as hard to do as you might think. And forty years ago, when I first became interested in the holiday’s food history, I bumped into this lovely version of apple pie which I will take to our friends’ house on Thursday when Toby and I join them for dinner.
Marlborough Pudding is baked in a pastry-lined pan, so it qualifies as pie in my book. I love the combination of lemon, cream, and sherry, which always tastes like the Eighteenth Century to me. Some early versions of the recipe call for rosewater, which was also very popular in the 1700s and early 1800s but which I still don’t enjoy, because it reminds me too much of shampoo in my food.
Be sure to use unsweetened applesauce, perhaps homemade if you are up for it. Otherwise it’ll make your teeth ache. You can get away with all-purpose cream, though heavy is better. Then, in the department of Gilding the Lily, you can also serve it with whipped cream on top.
P.S. I was delighted that several of you made it to Damariscotta and Maine Coast Book Shop for my talk and signing Maine Home Cooking last Saturday. What a fun time. Next up, December 1, at noon, Rooster Brother in Ellsworth. Dot Meade in Bar Harbor says she’ll be there! Why don’t you join us?
Marlborough Pudding Pie
½ cup sugar
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter, melted
4 large eggs, well beaten
½ cup heavy cream
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
½ cup sweet or cream sherry
½ teaspoon grated nutmeg (or to taste)
1 unbaked 9” pie crust
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, mix well the sugar and butter, then beat in the eggs and the cream. Grate lemon zest (just the yellow part) into the sugar, butter, cream, and eggs, and then squeeze in the juice, straining out the seeds. Add the applesauce, sherry and nutmeg, and pour into a pastry-lined pie plate. Bake about an hour until the filling is set. You can test with a knife or jiggle the plate to see if the center is firm. Cool and serve with whipped cream.
Makes one nine-inch pie.