TIL Marlborough Pie is the forgotten champion of holiday desserts

If you’ve gotta shed this mortal coil, you should go in an honorable fashion. With that in mind, I like to imagine a bushel of apples gleefully lining up to be sacrificed for Marlborough Pie, a centuries-old dessert that food writer Clementine Paddleford called a “glorification of everyday apple.” © […]

If you’ve gotta shed this mortal coil, you should go in an honorable fashion. With that in mind, I like to imagine a bushel of apples gleefully lining up to be sacrificed for Marlborough Pie, a centuries-old dessert that food writer Clementine Paddleford called a “glorification of everyday apple.”



a pile of fruit: Pile of red apples


© Photo: Truong Phuong Tram (Getty Images)
Pile of red apples

What’s in this esteemed, cigarette-sounding pie? Marlborough Pie is a simple affair, a single-crust pie full of stewed apples and custard flavored with nutmeg, citrus, and sherry. Admittedly, I hadn’t heard of it until I read this Atlas Obscura article, which led me to this Eater article—which traces the dessert to a recipe in The Accomplisht Cook, an English cookbook published in 1660. The recipe called for a staggering 24 egg yolks mixed with cinnamon, sugar, salt, melted butter, citron, and tart apples known as “some fine minced pippins” (not your mama’s pippins).

According to Atlas Obscura, Marlborough pie was extremely popular in 19th-century New England. It’s even mentioned in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s vaguely sensual pie-themed ramblings in her 1869 book, Oldtown Folks:

“Pies were made by forties and fifties and hundreds, and made of everything on the earth and under the earth … huckleberry pies, cherry pies … apple pies, Marlborough-pudding pies—pies with top crusts, and pies without—pies adorned with all sorts of fanciful flutings and architectural strips laid across and around, and otherwise varied, attested the boundless fertility of the feminine mind, when let loose in a given direction.”

Damn, Harriet!

Regardless of its origins, Marlborough Pie is a fairly straightforward custard-based dessert for even the laziest home cooks. The result is a creamy marvel that’s a little bit pie, a little bit pudding, a little bit country, a little bit rock-and-roll. If you’re looking to salvage a nearly spoiled bushel of apples in your own fridge, get the recipe on Atlas Obscura.

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