If you know what that title refers to, you are showing your age! It means you, like myself, were a child when America’s snack of choice were Ritz Crackers. Yes, the crackers that were sometimes adorned with Cheez Whiz, that famous cheese-like food product of no known nutritional value. But Cheez Whiz is beside the point for today’s discussion. The current topic: Mock Apple Pie.
Some of you may remember that it featured prominently on the back of the Ritz Cracker box. If you don’t remember that recipe, I’ll tell you, it was exactly what it sounded like: a recipe to recreate apple pie, without apples, by using Ritz Crackers instead. At age 7 or 8, I was hardly a foodie. And I grew up with a mother who was one of America’s most notoriously bad cooks. Her mother, despite being a farm wife with access to homegrown produce, was always more concerned with getting maximum calories on the plate for hungry farmhands than concentrating on taste. But even with that background and at my tender age, I remember staring at that recipe for Mock Apple Pie and wondering: Why?
It seemed, and still does, patently absurd. Why substitute overly salty, processed crackers for lovely crisp nutritious apples? Wouldn’t the result be soggy and horrible? If this was designed as a pie for people who didn’t like apples, why didn’t they choose cherry pie instead? And why was the result advertised as “just like homemade apple pie”? Why not, if you are going to the trouble of making a pie, just make an apple pie? My questions were never answered. Mainly because I never tasted a Mock Apple Pie or even knew anyone who had made one. In fact, I haven’t thought about Mock Apple Pie for years.
Until today. It was a long and circuitous thought train, but sometimes my mind works that way. I’m not normally a big pie eater, but I am a purist. I have my standards. And one of them is that apple pies should always be made with the apples UNPEELED, so that the filling features that thin strip of red on the edge of every apple slice. (Besides, didn’t your mother tell you that’s where all the vitamins are?)
So I was in Whole Foods and their bakery was giving away small tastes of their apple pie. I took one and examined it critically. Hmmmm. Peeled. Points off. And the filling was oddly colorless and compressed. Suddenly the thought flashed into my mind: “This must be what Mock Apple Pie looks like when you slice it.”
Now I’m obsessed with Mock Apple Pie. Who at Ritz thought this was a good idea for selling more crackers? Turns out it wasn’t a Ritz executive who thought this up. According to several sources such as this one, it was pioneers crossing the prairie who made this simulated taste of home for their homesick kids. Of course, not with Ritz Crackers, but with salt crackers — probably a prairie version of hardtack. Apparently apples were not to be found and, when they were, were very expensive. I guess Washington state, which I always thought was Apple Central, had not yet been planted with its signature crop. I’m still not sure if I’m believing this story. I guess I can buy pioneers out on the prairie pausing between Indian attacks to stodge up some crackers into a fake apple pie. But I’m not believing that once they got to the fertile West Coast — which is filled with fruit trees of all descriptions — that they couldn’t find some actual fruit to put in their pies.
So I’m left mulling the thought of Mock Apple Pie. Have you ever had one? Did it really, as the comments on the Allrecipes site claim, taste “just like apple pie”? Or was it the tasteless, soggy, salty mess even my Captain Crunch eating seven year old self suspected it would be? If you’ve got insight or information, let me know.
Oh, and if you have a hankering to make Mock Apple Pie, here’s the recipe direct from the back of the Ritz package.
I have never tried the mock apple pie, but your post reminded me of a book that included the recipe in the plot. Bruce Brooks wrote “The Moves Make the Man” and a boy was taking home ec because his mother wasn’t well enough to take care of the family. Home ec was his only hope so that he could cook for himself and his younger brothers. When the teacher presented the idea, his thoughts were the same as yours. Why something fake when you could have the authentic wonderful product? Such memories you inspired!
FarmerCindy, I’ll have to look up that book. I still can’t get the sense of it. Especially since the joy of apple pie is the juxtaposition of taste and texture between sweet crust and tart apples. But pastry encased Ritz Crackers are, well, like bread stuffed bread.
I was the brat who preferred chocolate pie, always. I know I have been in the presence of mock apple pie in my life, but didn’t really like pies and didn’t care. There is always a chance that I tasted it. Sometimes anything sweet is a treat. My cousins were known to mix up cake mix batter and eat it with a spoon. Too much unsupervised time in the house explains that one.
I have always loved cobbler though, go figure.
I made 15 mock apple pies last Veteran’s Day for 130 people. I did it in honor of our WWII vets. The story I’d heard was that during rationing, this is what city people made because they didn’t have access to many things (ie: rationing).
However – the pie is made with a simple syrup … and I know sugar was rationed too – so I am skeptical of that story.
I clearly stated this was “MOCK APPLE PIE”. I had at least 10 people seek me out in the kitchen at the end of the meal to tell me it was the BEST PIE they’d ever had.
The spices and sugar fool you into tasting ‘apple’. The texture isn’t what I assumed (like you did). Something tricks your mind into believing you just got a bit of pie without apple.
I dunno – they liked it. I would only make it again for the same sort of “historical” reason.
I sure remember seeing that recipe so many years ago, but I’m not sure the stuff has ever passed my lips. My mother (and father – a great cook in his own right) used the occasional can of pie filling. She was never happy with her crusts.
You never know – I might have eaten mock apple pie at some potluck supper many many moons ago!
I believe settlers brought starts of fruit trees with them, I don’t recall the journals of lewis and Clark mentioning those as species found or mention of the indians drying apples..I would go with the “depression” era theory and shortages caused by 2 world wars..something none of us experienced-I just remember my Moms stories of being a child in those times..and I have 1 memory of my grandfather making a dinner that consisted of stewed tomatoes, sugar and alot of bread in a cast iron skillet..I have never recreated it, but may some day..i think bread pudding may have come out of that era as well..I do remember my Mom making “mock apple pie” and it was very good..Head and shoulders above “lutefisk” a norwegion idea of a bad joke.
Still not buying it. The West Coast always had plenty of fruit, some native, some brought by the Spanish. (Navahos were cultivating peaches long before settlers showed up.) So maybe not apples, but there were still plenty of things more appetizing than crackers to fill a pie with. In the Depression, I’d think fruit that you could pick off a tree would be cheaper than a box of crackers.
Bread pudding is an old English recipe from waaay back — as in centuries ago.
Never had it but do you remember
“Everything sits good on a Ritz. Good cracker. Good cracker.” ?
Love those danged crackers.
(Note: This comment was meant to be nostalgic for an old TV commercial and not meant to insight members for the Black Panther Party ala Forrest Gump.)
I think you need to make one & tell us what it tastes like to you
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