Most of us today know “Mock Apple Pie” as a recipe made with Nabisco Ritz crackers. The recipe is found on the back of Ritz cracker boxes. We are told that Nabisco invented this recipe around the time of the great depression so that people could have apple pie in a time when apples were scarce. There was even a big drought during the 1930’s, making apples even harder to come by. The recipe for Nabisco’s mock apple pie used Ritz crackers, lemon juice, sugar, and cinnamon. Did Nabisco really invent mock apple pie?
Is is certainly true that Nabisco popularized the notion of a mock apple pie. However, the company did not invent the recipe. Although Nabisco Ritz crackers were introduced during the Depression, in 1934, and became very popular, it wasn’t until the Second World War that the company began printing the Ritz mock apple pie recipe on the packages. Cookbooks had been printing mock apple pie recipes long before then.
The fact is that Ritz mock apple pie is derived from earlier recipes for mock apple pie, dating back to the 19th century, that used soda crackers or saltines in place of apples. Mock mince pies were made with similar ingredients: crackers, sugar, and spices. Indeed, the Ritz Cracker Mock Apple Pie was not the only such recipe that Nabisco printed on its boxes. There was also a “Mystery Torte” recipe on its boxes of Premium saltine crackers.
According to Bettye B. Burkhalter in Raised on Old-Time Country Cooking: A Companion to the Trilogy, during the Civil War, Margaret Hunter of Goshen Hill, South Carolina sent her recipe for Mock Apple Pie to her brother, James, in Attalaville, Mississippi. In some parts, such pies were not even called mock apple pie, but instead cracker pie or soda cracker pie.
It is believed that mock apple pie made from crackers was created by pioneers sometime in the mid-nineteenth century. Various recipes for mock apple pie appear in cookbooks during this time. Many of the recipes used crackers known as “Boston Crackers” or “Common Crackers,” (ironically, Bostonians coined the name common cracker). These were large hard crackers descended from hard tack or ship’s biscuits. They were nothing more than unleavened bricks of hard baked flour dough. One large common cracker, crushed finely with a rolling pin, could make a whole mock apple pie.
How Can Crackers Replace Apples in Pie?
If you have never had mock apple pie, then you are well-justified in being skeptical. How in the world can crackers replace apples? Wouldn’t any apple pie lover be able to instantly tell that there were no apples present? Well, I cannot say for sure that real apple pie lovers will always be fooled but, yes, mock apple pie could fool you! It is actually a very tasty pie and the unsuspecting could easily chow down on a slab without knowing there are no apples!
What you may not have ever realized is that cooked apples, depending on the variety and degree of cooking, have little to no flavor. It’s all about the texture and the spices. When you cook an apple you more or less cook out the unique apple taste. Those with more sensitive palates may not be fooled, but many will be. Apple pie is not like blueberry pie or cherry pie. Now, there the malic acid in apples does not go away when you bake them into apple pie. So, that needs to be substituted in mock apple pie. This is why cream of tartar, or tartaric acid, is used, as well as, often, lemon juice.
Of course, today, there is very little reason to make a mock apple pie with Ritz crackers or any other type of crackers. Apples are not any more expensive than crackers, when it comes down to it, especially rich buttery specialty crackers like Ritz. About the only reason to make a Ritz Mock Apple pie is to see if you think it tastes like real apple pie, and people’s opinions are mixed. However, if you already KNOW the pie is fake, you aren’t likely to declare it just like the real deal.
Ironically, many of us growing up in the 1960’s or 1970’s had moms that would sometimes make mock apple pie from the back-of-the-box Ritz recipe, during a time when a box of Ritz crackers was already more expensive, pound for pound, than apples!
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