Ask your family or dinner guests if they’d like a slice of pie for dessert and watch the delight in their eyes. Americans truly love their pies, oozing with sweet fillings amid flaky crusts, perhaps topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or even a swirl of fresh whipped cream.
Pies weren’t always dessert though, and if you think about it, they still aren’t always sweet. In order to be properly called a pie, it must have a crust. This baked dish with pastry dough that covers or contains any variety of sweet or savory items is the very definition of pie.
Whichever pie you love best, the history of how they came into existence is rather fascinating. Read on to discover more about where pies came from and who you should be thanking for their existence.
Pies in History
Pies have been around for centuries and were vastly different from the pies we eat today. It’s believed the Ancient Greeks made the first pie pastry dough, though the Egyptians made something similar just prior. Back then, it was just a flat circle called a galette which was even denoted on the walls of Ramesses II tomb.
The early Romans are credited with making the first pies though, perhaps learning to make them from the Greeks. Word soon spread about pies all through Europe. In the 14th century, it was a popular word according to the Oxford English Dictionary. It was the Romans that published the first pie recipe for a goat cheese and honey pie in a rye crust.
Back in the early days, pies were almost always made with meat. In England in the 12th century, the crusts were called “coffins” because they preserved the meats contained within. It was a handy way to keep fillings fresh. Fruit pies weren’t recorded in history until the 1500s when the English credited Queen Elizabeth I with making the first cherry pie.
The Pie Pilgrimage
Once the first Pilgrims came to America and became the early colonists, they brought their pie-making traditions along with them. The crusts were not eaten, much like in the ancient days for they were merely used as a means of preservation of the fillings. We romance the idea of modern-day pies in our theatrical productions of the first Thanksgiving, but back then, the pies they served were not of pumpkin, apple, or pecan varieties.
In 1621, the year of that first Thanksgiving, those pies were meat-based just as they were in the old country. The first recipe for pumpkin pie didn’t appear in a cookbook until 1675 and was the British version of a spiced, boiled squash filling. Americans didn’t popularize the now-famous pie until the beginning of the 1800s.
While the Pilgrim’s pies were full of meats, they were seasoned with nutmeg, cinnamon, dried fruit, and pepper, an interesting assortment of flavors indeed. But once the colonists spread out and began founding the colonies that would one day form our great nation, pies took on a whole new meaning.
The colonists would make use of local ingredients in their pies and soon, it gave way to a new era of sweet pies. In 1796, there were only 3 different kinds of sweet pies recorded, but by the late 1800s, there were 8 sweet pies. According to the Modern Encyclopedia of Cooking, by 1947, 65 different sweet pie recipes were on the written record.
Pie in Modern America
With the introduction of new technological developments that would bring the world into modern times, America began to create ways of convenience. While most women knew how to make a pie from scratch back then, for many people today it seems to be an intimidating process. The first frozen pie crust came out with a patent in 1955, and by the 1960s, ready-to-bake frozen pie crusts were available.
Then McDonald’s jumped on the bandwagon in the 1960s with the introduction of mini homemade fried apple pies in its Knoxville, Tennessee location helmed by Litton Cochran. These were such a huge success that by 1970, all locations sold a manufactured version of it.
As America grew prosperous and women burst into the workforce, there was less time for pie. Instead of being a regular staple, it became the mark of an indulgence reserved for special occasions. Pie is no less important these days. In fact, it’s still as popular as ever in both sweet and savory forms.
Keep Your Eyes on the Pies
Pies have gone from a method to preserving meat to a decadent culinary experience. Both savory and sweet pies exist today, though sweet pies seem to dominate the pie world.
Savory pies are something you might serve for dinner. Deliciously rich, this isn’t the sort of thing you eat when you’re watching your waistline, but sometimes it’s good to indulge, isn’t it?
You can make pies for your main course and follow it up with a sweet pie for dessert!
Savory Main Course Pies
If you’ve primarily focused on sweet pies, you’ve been missing out on a sublime slice of life. Chicken pot pie is one of the most widely known examples, but there’s more than one way to fill a pie to serve for your main dish.
For one, you can turn leftover turkey, vegetables, and gravy from Thanksgiving dinner into a pie when everyone tires of turkey sandwiches. You can fill them with braised meats, pea, and carrots. Basically, you can take your favorite meats, vegetables, and cheeses, and feel free to create, much like those before us did. The only notable difference is you can easily cheat by using premade pie crusts from the frozen section and make an entire dinner pie in 30 minutes.
Decadent Dessert Pies
At the end of a meal, whether you’re at home or out at a diner, having a slice of pie is one of the best pleasures in life. The American Pie Council notes that our love of pie is worth over $700 million according to data rounded up from grocery store sales though that doesn’t include what we spend when we dine out. That number is likely astounding.
Essentially, it proves that all across America, we still love pie. In fact, every state has a pie that the locals resonate with. Your favorite pies might just be from other states, or yours could be the one from your home state. At the very list, if you keep reading, you just may decide that it’s time to try more pie.
Alabama – Buttermilk Pie
A Southern specialty, this pie is a rich and custardy treat.
Alaska – Raspberry Baked Alaska Pie
Created based on Baked Alaska, it’s the same great flavors in pie form.
Arizona – Prickly Pear Pie
Using local prickly pear, this sweet and fruity pie is unlike anything else.
Arkansas – Chess Pie
Chess pie comes in many forms and is as Southern as it gets. You’ll find it made with berries, lemons, and other fruits. You’ll even find it made with chocolate.
California – Lemon Meringue Pie
Noted for its meringue topping, the zesty citrus of California lemons makes it a light yet decadent dessert.
Colorado – Rocky Road Pie
Rocky Road ice cream has always been a favorite, however Colorado has turned it into a pie you’ll love even more, a fitting tribute to their Rocky Mountains.
Connecticut – Pumpkin Pie
As one of the first settled states, one of America’s staple pies served at Thanksgiving is Connecticut’s pride and joy.
Delaware – Strawberry Shortcake Pie
With strawberry as its state fruit, it’s no surprise Delaware’s pie is all about the strawberries. It’s likely better than any strawberry shortcake dessert you’ve ever had.
Florida – Key Lime Pie
Made with Key limes that are native to the state, this sweet, creamy, citrusy pie is something you can’t make fun of Florida for.
Georgia – Peach Pie
As the Peach State, the state pie has to be made with peaches. Sweet and classic, it is always a solid choice for dessert.
Hawaii – Coconut Cream Pie
With an abundance of coconuts, tropical Hawaii makes the best coconut cream pie around.
Idaho – Rocky Mountain Pie
Not to be confused with Colorado’s Rocky Road Pie, this one is brimming with chocolate chips, walnuts, vanilla, and bourbon.
Illinois – Honey Pie
An interesting mix of honey with fresh nutmeg and coarse salt, this is one pie to try!
Indiana – Sugar Cream Pie
Sometimes called Hoosier Sugar Cream Pie, this one features a vanilla sugary-sweet filling in a flaky, butter crust.
Iowa – Sour Cream and Raisin Pie
Don’t judge Iowa’s odd combination of ingredients before you try it. It’s a Midwestern style that is as comforting and sweet as the very people who live there.
Kansas – Hazelnut Pie
Similar to pecan pie, this one is made with toasted hazelnuts for another sublime treat!
Kentucky – Banana Cream Pie
A pie to go bananas for, every Kentuckian has their own version of it. And to think the state was once famous for fried chicken!
Louisiana – King Cake Pie
If you’re ever been to Mardi Gras in New Orleans, you’ll know that this pie version of King Cake is a must-try.
Maine – Blueberry Pie
With more blueberries out in the wild, blueberry pie is Maine’s main squeeze.
Maryland – Baltimore Bomb Pie
You know those fudge-topped Berger cookies? Those are the staple ingredient in this pie. Need we say more?
Massachusetts – Boston Cream Pie
Don’t waste your time arguing over how this technically seems more like a pie. There are better things to do, like eat it. You can’t go wrong with anything slathered in that much chocolate ganache!
Michigan – Cherry Pie
With more tart cherries grown here than anywhere else in the country, Michigan naturally makes the best cherry pie.
Minnesota – Cream Pie
Want to go to pie heaven? Head to Minnesota and try any variety of cream pie. They’re made in all different kinds of flavors like butterscotch and peanut butter, to name a few.
Mississippi – Mississippi Mud Pie
No real mud goes into the making of these pies. Dig in and treat yourself to this densely-rich decadent explosion of chocolate.
Missouri – Butterscotch Pie
If you love butterscotch, you can thank the Midwest. Missouri is most noted for this rich and creamy butterscotch-based concoction.
Montana – Huckleberry Pie
Want a pie with superfruit powers? Try Montana’s huckleberry pie, a fruity treat that fights inflammation.
Nebraska – Apple-Cranberry Walnut Pie
Nebraska takes all those soothing flavors from fall and rounds them up into one amazing pie.
Nevada – Pomegranate Pie
Nevada is the perfect place for pomegranates to grow. If you love the juice just wait until you taste this fruity pie!
New Hampshire – Maple Syrup Pie
New Hampshire’s maple syrup just might be better than Canada’s. Try it in their state pie!
New Jersey – Sweet Green Tomato Pie
While it might sound unusual, let us remind you that tomatoes are indeed a fruit. Plus, New Jersey grows lots and lots of them. With cinnamon and lemon juice, it brings out the sweetness of the green tomatoes for a most interesting flavor profile.
New Mexico – Green Chile Apple Pie
New Mexico draws much influence from neighboring Mexico. With green chilis including in this apple pie, it gives a beloved favorite a spicy new spin.
New York – Cinnamon Roll Coffee Cake Pie
Crafted from the love of coffee and cinnamon rolls the Empire State thrives on, you really can’t beat a pie like this, especially for breakfast!
North Carolina – Scuppernong Pie
Made with a special grape varietal which just happens to be North Carolina’s state fruit, it’s a uniquely fruity flavor to experience.
North Dakota – Chokecherry Pie
The highly-adored chokecherry, North Dakota’s state fruit, makes for a juicy, red filling in this pie.
Ohio – Buckeye Pie
No surprise that this would be the name of the pie from the Buckeye State. Likely, you’ve heard of the sweet chocolate and peanut butter confection, and if you love that, then you’re going to go head-over-heels for the pie version.
Oklahoma – Strawberry Pie
Oklahoma is another state that loves strawberries. Different than Delaware’s version, this one combines fresh strawberries with strawberry gelatin, sometimes with fresh mint too.
Oregon – Blackberry Pie
Oregon is home to blackberries. Ripe and bursting with flavor, it’s a truly satisfying pie.
Pennsylvania – Shoo-Fly Pie
It’s said this pie got its name from shooing the flies away from the sweet, sticky molasses it’s made with.
Rhode Island – Coconut Custard Pie
Creamy toasted coconut flavor makes for big flavors that make this tiny state stand out on the map.
South Carolina – Sweet Potato Pie
Leave it to the hub of the South to turn healthy sweet potatoes into a decadent pie. South Carolina’s signature pie is a special treat, especially for the holidays.
South Dakota – Sorghum Buttermilk Pie
Sorghum is one of the most popular crops from South Dakota, which they use to make a syrup that’s thick like molasses. Then, they use that syrup along with buttermilk, eggs, and sugar to make this wonderful pie.
Tennessee – Tennessee Whiskey-Pecan Pie
Go ahead and thank Tennessee right now for taking pecan pie to the next level by adding whiskey!
Texas – Sparkling Grapefruit Pie
Red grapefruit is the state fruit which is used to make this citrusy pie.
Utah – Cherry Rhubarb Pie
Cherries and rhubarbs are abundant in Utah. Instead of choosing between them, they married them both together for a splendid creation.
Vermont – Apple Pie
Vermont claims the apple pie as its own, though apple pie was originally born in England, not on our soil. Still, it’s one of the most classic and adored pies that ever existed. It’s truly hard to beat.
Virginia – Peanut Butter Pie
Virginia has its own peanuts which the state boasts taste unique from other peanuts. Whatever the case, this rich pie filled with chocolate-covered peanut butter cups, peanuts, and cream cheese in buttery graham cracker crust will make you swoon.
Washington – Loganberry Pie
Like blackberries, loganberries are just as sweet, and make for a blissful pie-eating experience.
West Virginia – Pawpaw Pie
Pawpaws look like papayas and have a distinct citrus taste, making this pie a very special thing to taste.
Wisconsin – Cranberry Pie
If you love cranberries, this soothingly fruity pie might just be something you should recreate for your Thanksgiving table.
Wyoming – Salted Honey Pie
Sweet and salty, this is the kind of pie that will bring a tear of joy to your eye.
Hungry for pie? You can travel the country and try sweet and savory pies in every state, or get cooking in your own kitchen!
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