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Music – “West For America” from Lewis & Clark: West For America by David Walburn. Released: 1999
“At the dawn of the 19th century, two young men led a brave crew of rugged souls across a trackless wilderness with little more than undaunted courage, indefatigable determination, and the unwavering faith of their president. Their voyage of discovery took them over 7,600 miles in a little over two years – it is a feat that still staggers the imagination after 200 years”
These introductory comments are from “The Lewis & Clark Cookbook – Historic Recipes from the Crops of Discovery & Jefferson’s America” by Leslie Mansfield, published in 2002.
The recipes in the book were researched, and use “historically accurate ingredients” and include a cross-section of some of the foods, which Lewis & Clark would have consumed during their sojourn: “Bear with Red Wine, Mushrooms and Juniper Sauce”, “Buttermilk Huckleberry Pancakes”, “Cream of Sorrel Soup”, “Buffalo and Forest Mushroom Shepherd’s Pie”, and one that particularly intrigued me, “Dried Apple Pie”.
According to the author: “Around 1800, three years before Lewis and Clark set off, John Chapman, a.k.a. Johnny Appleseed, arrived in the Ohio River Valley establishing orchards and spreading the gospel of the apple. This apple pie, with the apples rehydrated in apple juice, is a real treat directly out of our founding fathers’ time”. Here is the recipe, but please finish reading my post before starting, as I made numerous changes!:
1 pound dried apple slices
2 cups apple juice
2 cups water
1 cup sugar
¼ cup butter
1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
sugar for sprinkling on the crust
pastry for a double crust 10 inch pie
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
In a large saucepan, combine the dried apples, apple juice, and water.
Bring to a simmer over medium heat, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until most of the liquid has been absorbed.
Stir in the sugar, butter and cinnamon and simmer until the mixture is thick.
Line a 10 inch pie plate with half the pastry dough and prick all over with a fork. Pour the apple mixture into the pie shell and adjust the top crust. Cut decorative vents in the top crust to allow the steam to escape. Sprinkle about 1 tablespoon of sugar over the top of the pie. Bake for 10 minutes.
Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees and bake for an additional 40 minutes. Serves 8.
Now, here I have to backtrack. I decided that if I was going to be authentic, I’d better dehydrate the apples myself, instead of purchasing treated, too dry, expensive ones from the store, as I have a food dehydrator (a “Nesco”). I purchased a selection of three apple varieties: 3 Johnagolds, 3 Granny Smiths and 2 Red Delicious. After washing, coring and peeling, I sliced them in to rounds a little less than ¼ inch thick and layered them in the 4 racks of the dehydrator. After leaving them overnight (about 15 hours), they were dehydrated, but not dried out or crispy. I bagged them and weighed them.
After drying, the 8 apples came to a weight of only 8 ounces, and as the recipe called for 16 ounces, I had to dry another batch, so I went with the same combination of the three varieties, for a total of 16 apples. Following the second drying, I still had only 12 ounces of dried apples, but it looked like it would be sufficient for a pie, after rehydrating, so I went with it.
After assembling all of the ingredients, I began the rehydration process as the recipe directs. After 25 minutes, the apples appeared to be nicely hydrated and softened, and I added the sugar, butter and cinnamon. After about 10 more minutes of simmering, the mixture was nice and thick and fragrant.
Here’s where I cheated. The recipe for the pie crust in the book indicated butter, but I had found another recipe in “The Chuckwagon Cookbook” by B. Byron Price, which used lard or shortening, so I decided to try it. Here is the recipe for the crust:
1 ½ cups all purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup chilled lard or vegetable shortening
5 tablespoons (approximate) ice water
In a medium bowl, combine the flour and salt.
Using a pastry blender, cut the lard into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Tossing with a fork, sprinkle on the water, mixing until the dough holds together when pinched between your thumb and forefinger.
(you may have to add additional ice water). Gather the dough into a thick rectangle, wrap in wax paper and refrigerate for an hour.
Following the chilling of the dough, I began rolling it out. At this point, I determined that the apple mixture was going to overflow my regular 10 inch pie plate, so I decided to go with a deep dish 10 inch pan (probably should have followed the pie crust recipe with the apple pie recipe!).
However, the dough was not sufficient for a bottom and top crust, so I had to cheat a little. I used a prepared dough for the bottom crust and used all of the fresh dough for the top crust. It was a little thick, but turned out to be delightful. I added a couple of Roadrunner cutouts for decoration on top (no doubt Lewis & Clark probably saw a few of them in their journey!)
During the baking, none of the contents oozed out of the slits in the top crust, and after removing it from the oven, the top crust actually separated from the rest and sat high atop the filling!
But, after cooling and settling, gravity did it’s thing and it settled back down to normal.
I should point out that even with only 12 ounces of dehydrated apples, instead of the 16 ounces recommended in the recipe, this is a very substantial pie, weighing in at a little over 3.5 pounds, exclusive of the pie tin! (we’re still eating it!)
The pie turned out to be very tasty, however, it was lacking somewhat in the liquid portion of the contents. Although not dry by any means, it was not runny at all and I think that the next time, I might add additional apple juice to increase the liquid portion of the pie.
All in all, though, it was worth the effort and it was fun to dry my own apples and start from zero, much like Lewis & Clark’s cooks would have done during their travels. I felt like a true pioneer woman (except for the electric food dehydrator, electric stovetop, electric oven!)