♪ [Opening music] ♪ ♪ ♪>>[voice over]: Our project
focuses on apples in Appalachia, with a specific focus on
heirloom varieties in the South and apple pie. Apples grow well in the
climate and soil of much of the Appalachian region, and there
are still many orchards in North Carolina that not only grow
apples but who also focus on saving and growing
heirloom varieties. There are many ways that
apples are used in Appalachia, from eating straight
from the tree, to cooking or baking,
making into apple butter, using for cider or apple
moonshine called “applejack”, and preserving by
drying or with sulphur. In our focus on pies, we scanned
the Appalachian section of Special Collections
to find recipes, several of which we picked
out to make ourselves. Apples are not native
to the United States, but have grown well here
since being introduced in the early 1600’s. Trees grown from apple
seeds will produce genetically different and unique fruit,
and therefore with the spread of seedlings many new
varieties were developed. By 1872, nearly 1,100
different American varieties were documented. The peak of domestic apple
growing was between 1900 – 1910. After this time, apple
production and diversity dropped at a staggering rate. By 1980, it was estimated nearly
86 percent of diversity was lost, a rate loss of 75
heritage varieties per year. It is difficult to gather
comprehensive information, but some research states upwards
of 16,000 varieties have been grown on American soil. Now, a single variety,
the Red Delicious, dominates 41 percent of
the American apple crop. It is one of 11 varieties that
are most commonly seen on grocery store shelves. Apples are obviously an
extremely common food, but they possibly wouldn’t be as
well known as such an American symbol if it weren’t for one man
by the name of John Chapman – or as he’s more commonly
referred to – Johnny Appleseed. Although he’s remembered in the
form of a fun tall tale to tell children, John Chapman was a
real man who walked around the country planting apple seeds. He planted orchards and let them
grow for years before returning to sell off the land
at higher prices, rather than doing it for the
love of apples as schoolchildren are lead to believe. The fact that he liked to do
everything on foot secured him a spot as a rugged pioneer in
the eyes of the American public. The original apple pies in
America were not the same as the apple pies we see on the Fourth
of July – in fact they had more differences than
they had similarities! As Mark McWilliams
references in his book,The Story behind the
Dish: Classic American Foods,
early recipes in America for pie
were not nearly as sweet as they now are, for sugar was an
expensive and hard to acquire ingredient at the time. The crust was used for a
completely different purpose as well, for English immigrants at
the time used what they referred to as “coffins” – a pastry often
made with lard and flour – that were solely meant to be a
vessel for the filling to bake in, since the coffin itself was
often tough and leathery. In her article “As Chinese,
Iranian and Indonesian As Apple Pie,” Foodways writer Simran
Sethi writes about how although these early Americans were
all of different ancestry, they fused their cultures
and melded their recipes, taking the best parts of each –
the filling from the English, the flaky latticed crust from
the Germans and the Dutch – to make the apple pies
we know of today. Within a strictly
Appalachian context, the love of apple pies looks to
have started with the making of fried hand pies by using the
apples that had been dried at the end of the previous
year’s apple season. There doesn’t seem to be an
exact distinction as to when the fresh apple pie became a
staple in the Appalachian diet, but Osment posits that it likely
spanned out of the sheer amounts of apples that were being
grown in the area, as they have been a core baked
good found in orchards’ stores for years. Slow Food USA, a group promoting
preservation of genetic diversity and heirloom crops,
created the Renewing America’s Food Traditions,
or RAFT alliance. In 2010 RAFT published
the manual on apples, with a valuable compilation
of historical information. The conditions in Appalachia are
highly suited to growing apples. North Carolina ranks seventh in
apple production in the nation, with other Appalachian
states being high on the list. The South is also high in
genetic diversity and number of heirloom varieties. This is due in part to the
efforts of individual growers who have spent lots of
their time and energy trying to collect, save, document and
grow any heirloom varieties they can find. One such person is Creighton Lee
Calhoun of the Piedmont region. Calhoun spent over 15 years
collecting heirloom apple varieties, then researching
their origins to create his bookOld Southern Apples, an
anthology like no other. Calhoun once grew over
450 Southern varieties in his own orchard. Several years ago, he donated
most of his orchard to the Southern Heritage Apple Orchard,
which is part of the Horne Creek Living Historical Farm
in Pinnacle, NC and also to his apprentice
David Vernon of Century Farm Orchard in Reidsville. Both contain some of the most
genetically diverse orchards in the region. Uncommon apples in Appalachia
are a growing industry, as Timothy Osment
writes in his essay, “Apples.” Western North Carolina itself
is a hotbed of apple activity, with more than 10,000 acres of
orchards producing over 75,000 tons of apples each year. In an essay in
Cornbread Nation 3
, cookbook author Frank Browning
describes his experience growing up on an orchard in
eastern Kentucky. Buying apples was a
community and family tradition, and many would come to his
family’s farm on Sundays after church to spend leisurely
hours choosing their apples. However, Browning also describes
how growing apples set his family apart from
their community, not only because of their
association with the neighbors who were prominent moonshine
producers (and sometimes used their apples to make applejack),
but also because apples carried an underlying air of
mystery and temptation. Despite the bountiful number
of orchards strewn across Appalachia and the
rest of the country, at least in Brownings’
community, apples still held some mark of
being the ‘forbidden fruit’. As Browning describes in his
cookbookAn Apple Harvest:Recipes and Orchard Lore, appls
are “the preeminent fruit of temptation” and, for many
cultures “the consummate symbol. . . of love, and
even of immortality”. Apple pie is not merely a
deliciously sweet and flaky dessert – it has become a
symbol of American ideals, but most people
don’t really know why. It all started with an editorial
in the New York Times in 1902 when they used the line “Pie
is the food of the heroic. No pie-eating people can ever be
permanently vanquished” and the American public ate it
up – no pun intended. Throughout the next few decades,
the ideas of apple pie and America seemed to
become synonymous, and by the time World War II
rolled around the phrase ” American as apple pie”
was a common saying. In fact, throughout World
War II, it was common for U.S. Army men when asked
what they were fighting for, to reply “for mom
and apple pie”. After the end of
the second World War, America became
distrusting of the USSR, and Jack Holden and Frances
Kay released a song called “The Fiery Bear” in which they sing:
“We love our baseball and apple pie / We love our county fair /
We’ll keep Old Glory waving high / There’s no place
here for a bear.” Of the 200 or so Appalachian
cookbooks in the Pamela C. Allison Collection, we found
approximately 65 that contained recipes for apple pie. These recipes fell into four
general categories: basic or traditional pie recipes,
“mock” apple pie, the “brown bag”
method of cooking pies, and mostly similar recipes
that had special additions like cheese or other toppings. The general apple pie
recipe includes sliced apples, cornstarch or flour, spices
like cinnamon or nutmeg, sugar, and butter. Some recipes have variations
in ingredients including brown sugar, eggs, or
different toppings. There were also a few variations
in cooking techniques – such as one recipe that advised the
apples be cut and soaked in saltwater before mixing with
sugar and other ingredients. One major cooking method that
distinguished a set of recipes is the “brown bag” method. Just like it sounds, these
recipes generally follow the normal ingredients and
preparation as the traditional pie recipes but call for the pie
to be cooked inside a brown bag in the oven. The recipes for “Mock” apple
pie are not actually made with apples, but generally
with Ritz crackers. This type of mock pie
developed out of necessity, for people who didn’t
have access to fresh apples, or out of a kind of novelty
surrounding Ritz crackers. ♪ [Closing music] ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪