Posted by: Erica Retrochef | October 23, 2008

Mock Apple Pie

This week’s retro cooking was inspired largely by comments on Historiann’s post about my Not-So-Orange Velvet Pie. I’d never heard of the Mock Apple Pie which was mentioned by a few people, and I was intrigued.

Apparently, the mock apple pie was invented in 1852 by pioneers who missed apple pie, but didn’t have the critical apple ingredient. It must have taken quite a creative cook to figure out the right balance of carbs, acid, sugar, and stuff, but they managed to work out a convincing imitation. During the Great Depression, apples were expensive and crackers were cheap, so Mock Apple Pie enjoyed a resurgence — helped along, no doubt, by Ritz Cracker advertising the recipe on the box.

While the current Slightly Less Great Depression isn’t likely to make apples unaffordable, I decided to try Mock Apple Pie this week in solidarity with my 20th century forebears who probably couldn’t afford apples at some point. (Actually, in that era my family included a NY State Senator on one side, and Boston socialites on the other. They could afford apples. But by my generation all the money has pretty much dried up, wasted on expensive apples. Priorities…)

Um, anyway, here’s the Ritz Mock Apple Pie recipe.
Mock Apple Pie

Pastry for two-crust 9-inch pie
36 RITZ Crackers, coarsely broken (about 1 3/4 cups crumbs)
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

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

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

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.

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

It was tempting to go with an original pioneer version.

Bet I have learned to make a new kind of Pie I think you all would like them they taste just like an apple pie make some and try them see if you dont love them. Take a teaspoon heaping full of tartarlic [sic] acid and dissolve it in water a teasp [sic] full of sugar and stir it in the acid then take cold biscuit or light bread and crumble in it. have enough to make to [sic] pies put it in a crust and one over it and bake it they are fully as good as Apple pies the spoonful of acid and cup of sugar is enough to make two pies

Charming, but a bit vague on the quantities. While I’m an advocate of casual measurement rather than obsessive accuracy, there’s too much difference between a teasp and a cup for even my loose standards.

While cooking, my first problem was that the sugar syrup boiled over while boiling, and burned on the stovetop. Luckily, we have one of those flat range thingies (easy to clean), but it made a very smokey mess. (And since I was worried about setting the kitchen on fire, I completely forgot the cinnamon.) My second problem was that the sugar syrup boiled over while baking and made a big smokey mess in the oven.

Looks like a slime mold, but it's actually charred syrup!

Oy what a mess. Luckily, I have a “self-cleaning” oven, and it’s rather overdue for a self-cleaning anyway.

When the syrup first boiled over, Buzz called downstairs to compliment me on the delicious caramel smell that was wafting upstairs. He was a bit less pleased with the smell when he actually came into the kitchen. (The house reeked of burnt sugar for about six hours. Oops.)

But I’m sure you don’t care whether my house is destroyed, you want to know how this pie turned out! Well, here it is! (I apologize for the blindingly white plate underneath. I finished this late at night, it was dark, the flash was uncooperative…)

Top of Pie

Looks pretty good, right?

Even the inside looks like apple pie.

Slice of Mock Apple Pie (with Real Whipped Cream on top)

I frankly can’t think of many situations in which one would be forced to make this. Vegans can eat apples, I don’t know of any apple allergies, and apples are incredibly affordable. The recipe is definitely a curiosity more than a necessity nowadays. But what really surprised me: it tastes like apple pie. It helps if you haven’t recently eaten a good apple pie, because it’s not quite the same. While surprisingly accurate (if you’re picturing apple pie with extremely small pieces of apple), it’s just not quite perfect… it reminds me of what cheap mass-produced fruit “pie” snack makers think apple pie filling should taste like. But I can definitely imagine a poor apple-less pioneer mother being overjoyed to be able to make this for her homesick, sobbing children.

My only caveat is to make sure your bottom crust is fresh(ish), instead of one that’s been sitting in your freezer for a year. Mine had freezer burn and cracks, so the syrup leaked all over the inside of the pie plate and glued everything in place. The crust matters here more than in other pies.


  1. Awesome, Erica! I was considering tracking down that old Ritz cracker recipe, but now I don’t have to! (And, I’ve got some frozen apples from my apple tree from last year still in the freezer that will be good in a pie.) That’s definitely the best kind of apple pie of all: the “found foods” apple pie.

    I’ve been considering a food feature on my blog, having to do with found foods in my yard. But, I suppose that’s something to do next spring (dandelion greens), summer (”volunteer” squashes, tomatoes, and potatoes, or whatever else decides to grow out of my compost bin), and autumn (crab and regular apples). What do you think?

    Sadly, this year we have no apples on our tree–about 4 days after it blossomed in April, we had epic winds that blew the little flowers away before they could be properly pollinated. It gave me a new sympathy for people living pre-1900, and what a tragedy that would be nutritionally and spiritually for people who kept little orchards and counted on that fruit to get through the fall and winter.

  2. My mom and I tried the Ritz cracker mock apple pie recipe once when I was a teenager. It tasted fine as a generic confection, but I didn’t think it tasted much like apples. Yours was much more successful in that regard.

  3. I just tried your recipe today and wanted to say thank you, because it was really tasty! 🙂

  4. I have made this pie several times. Instead of a coarse crumble of the crackers…I just break them in half….they seem to stay together and have the appearance of cut apples, and not mush together. It’s fun to make. I also love making the real thing. Apple Pie and Crisp. This is the best time of the year for these goodies.

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