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Apple Pie by the Book: Fannie Farmer vs. Catherine Beecher

Prior to the introduction of “domestic science” in the late-19th century, housework —especially cooking—depended on skills passed down from mother to daughter or possessed by hired domestic labor. The domestic science (or as it later became more commonly called “home economics”) movement wanted to standardize routines and recipes, thereby relieving housewives of the anxieties of inexact cooking and bringing the supposed benefits of efficiency into the home. The influence of domestic scientists on cooking can be seen dramatically by comparing an apple pie recipe from Catherine Beecher’s Domestic Receipt Book (1846) with one from Fannie Merritt Farmer’s Boston Cooking-School Cook Book (1905 ed.). Beecher, daughter of a prominent New England family, wrote on domestic topics (as well as on social issues, such as abolitionism, with her sister Harriet Beecher Stowe). Farmer was a leader in the movement for scientific cooking, and her Boston Cooking-School Cook Book helped to entrench the notion of exact measures and procedures designed to produce a uniform product.

Catherine Beecher’s Apple Pie Recipe

Pare your apples, and cut them from the core. Line your dishes with paste, and put in the apple; cover and bake until the fruit is tender. Then take them from the oven, remove the upper crust, and put in sugar and nutmeg, cinnamon or rose water to your taste; a bit of sweet butter improves them. Also, to put in a little orange peel before they are baked, makes a pleasant variety. Common apple pies are very good to stew, sweeten, and flavor the apple before they are put into the oven. Many prefer the seasoning baked in. All apple pies are much nicer if the apple is grated and then seasoned.

Catherine Beecher, Domestic Receipt Book (1846).

Fannie Farmer’s Apple Pie Recipe

4 or 5 sour apples

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup sugar

1 teaspoon butter

1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg

1 teaspoon lemon juice

Few gratings lemon rind

Line pie plate with paste. Pare, core, and cut the apples into eighths, put row around plate one-half inch from edge, and work towards the centre until plate is covered; then pile on remainder. Mix sugar, nutmeg, salt, lemon juice, and grated rind, and sprinkle over apples. Dot over with butter. Wet edges of under crust, cover with upper crust, and press edges together. Bake forty to forty-five minutes in moderate oven. A very good pie may be made without butter, lemon juice, and grated rind. Cinnamon may be substituted for nutmeg. Evaporated apples may be used in place of fresh fruit. If used, they should be soaked overnight in cold water.

Source: Fannie Merritt Farmer, Boston Cooking-School Cook Book (1905).