American Pie: Recipe for a Quick Fix

Not apple pie
Apple pie is an enduring symbol of America. Why? Well, there are more reasons than we can go into right now--but if you're curious, we highly recommend Apple Pie: An American Story by John T. Edge.

But what happens when apples are scarce or prohibitively expensive, as during the rations of World War II?

You do another all-American thing: find a quick fix! During those war years, that fix was making a mock "apple" pie filled with a slurry of (inexpensive) Ritz crackers, sugar syrup and lemon rind. Ready to throw up in your mouth a little? Well, hold it in, because while not as good as "real" apple pie, it's strangely passable if you close your eyes and think really hard about apples while chewing.

And when we made this pie recently, we decided to go a little further on the mock concept. In celebration of what seems to be a New England-centered (or does it perhaps root from the Midwest?) preference for eating pie with a wedge of sharp cheddar, we made our mock pie using cheese-sandwich Ritz crackers. Here's a shot of it in progress (before adding the sugar syrup and top crust):

Pie filling
So how did this concoction taste?
Well. It smelled amazing while baking and once out of the oven.  The crust was tantalizing. Taste-wise, however, this regional specialty didn't really translate to the chemical counterpart. The cheese remained somewhat gravelly in texture and didn't really ooze throughout the way we'd hoped; instead, it remained in grainy, salty, cheesy deposits which acted more like landmines than sweet surprises on the palate.

I'm not apple!
Of course, perhaps the most insulting part of this story is that living in Washington state, we're currently experiencing a bounty of delicious (real) apples--and next time we'll try to remember the saying of another great american icon Marvin Gaye, "Ain't nothing like the real thing, baby". Because friends don't let friends eat fake pie.


Ritz Mock Apple Pie (from

The classic pie, featuring Ritz crackers baked in a golden crust,
is perfect for the holidays.

Pastry for two-crust 9-inch pie
36 RITZ Crackers, coarsely broken (about 1 3/4 cups crumbs) --we used the mini cheese-filled sandwich crackers
1 3/4 cups water
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Grated peel of one lemon
2 tablespoons margarine or butter
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1. Roll out half the pastry and line a 9-inch pie plate. Place
cracker crumbs in prepared crust; set aside.

2. Heat water, sugar and cream of tartar to a boil in saucepan
over high heat; simmer for 15 minutes. Add lemon juice and peel;

3. Pour syrup over cracker crumbs. Dot with margarine or butter;
sprinkle with cinnamon. Roll out remaining pastry; place over pie.
Trim, seal and flute edges. Slit top crust to allow steam to escape.

4. Bake at 425 F for 30 to 35 minutes or until crust is crisp
and golden. Cool completely.

Makes 10 servings

Preparation Time: 45 mins.
Cook Time: 30 mins.
Cooling Time: 3 hrs.
Total Time: 4 hrs. 15 mins.