PIE 169

PIE-ATHLETES  around the world are baking up FUN in the 4th annual PIEATHALON


This is the 2nd time I’ve had the opportunity to participate in this exciting event!


“What’s a Pieathalon,” you ask? 

Well, it’s a food bloggers fantasy, dreamed up 4 years ago by Yinzerella of DinnerIsServed1972.com and here’s how it works…

Bloggers are invited to submit a pre-1990 pie recipe to Miss Yinzerella, weeks before the event.  She shuffles the recipes and redistributes them to the Pie-Athletes.  Their challenge is to make the assigned pie and then blog about it (this is one of the very few times a year that my blog isn’t all about James Dean…although I did manage to sneak in a couple of references in the video below).

But there’s a catch!  These Pie-Athletes have devious little minds, and take pride in submitting the craziest, most impossible sounding pies you can imagine!  Not all pies are sweet, some are savory (think meat or vegetable pies)…sometimes they take the form of unimaginable 1950s gelatin monstrosities…sometimes they’re boozy…or sometimes, just totally delicious sounding.  So the Pie-Athletes WAIT with GREAT ANXIETY and ANTICIPATION for the day when pie assignments come.

A link to each of this year’s participants, appears at the bottom of this blog. Since everyone posts on July 7th, links will become active as I see them come up…keep checking back to catch them all!


I got off lucky this year (not so much last year, which you can read all about HERE).  Maybe it was Karma.  Last year I had submitted a really strange Peanuts and Beer Pie, which against all odds, actually turned out to be good!  This year I submitted a delicious sounding 1970s “Angel Pie” recipe from Let’s Make a Deal ‘s Monty Hall…which seemed to me was built upside-down!  It has no crust, a baked meringue on the bottom and sides of the pie, and a creamy chocolate and coffee flavored filling on top.  Mandee of VintageRecipeCards.com was assigned to bake this pie.

MY pie assignment this year was submitted by John the Hedonist of FoodAndWineHedonist.com , who wrote in a note, “Last year I did a pie recipe from the medieval era. I”m going super modern this time.”  The recipe he submitted is from the 1845 cookbook, The New England Economical Housekeeper and Family Receipts Book by Mrs. Esther Allen Howland.  It’s an apple pie!  Despite the directions being exceedingly abbreviated, it sounds like a good one.



This is the BEST looking copy of the 1845 cookbook I could find!


Florida became the 27th US state and Texas voted to pursue statehood.  Edgar Allen Poe published The Raven, James Polk took over the US presidency from John Tyler (Lincoln wouldn’t come along for another 16 years), rubber bands were invented, and a potato blight in Ireland would trigger “The Great Famine.”  Henry David Thoreau would move to Walden Pond (even though he still went home on weekends, so his mother could do his laundry), Mendelssohn premiered his Violin Concerto, and Sir John Franklin and his expedition aboard the HMS Erbus and HMS Terror, embarked from London on their journey to discover “The Northwest Passage,”…mysteriously disappearing, never to be heard from or seen again.

Most relevant to me (and relevant to this recipe), on March 18, 1845 Johnny Appleseed (b.1774) died. Without his lifelong mission, apple pie might never have become the classic of all American pies.

So this pie is not only full of flavor, it’s full of history! Can’t you just taste it?







There always seems to be more to these recipes, than just the sum of their ingredient list.  The history of a recipe is often just as tasty.  Mrs. Esther Allen Howland’s (1801-1860) husband was a publisher ( …their daughter, also named Esther, started Valentines Day cards in America).  Mrs. Howland’s first version of this book, printed in 1844, sold 1500 copies in the first 15 weeks.  An instant success.  She expanded the book and it remained a best seller for 25 years.  It’s a fascinating book which you can see in it’s entirety online HERE at the New York Public Library.

The first part of the book is dedicated to recipes, and like a woman after my own heart, she starts out with breads, but then moves quickly on to cakes, pies, and puddings.  DESSERT FIRST sounds great to me!  She does tend to mix sweet and savory dishes haphazardly together…Carrot Pie, Rhubarb Pie, Mutton Pie, Custard Pie…  Every recipe is numbered and the pie I’ve been assigned to make is  “169. Apple Pie.”

Mrs. Howland goes on to cover meats, seafood, soups, pickles and preserves, and beer making.  Each recipe reflects the frugal sensibilty of the era (with a few exceptions, like “44. Wedding Cake No.1.”  that calls for 4 lbs of flour, 4 lbs of sugar, 3 lbs of butter and 40 eggs, 5 lbs of stoned raisins, 3 lbs of currants…finishing by frosting the cake with a shaving brush).

The next section of the book covers medicinal remedies.  She’s very thorough in this section, from teaching us how to perform CPR to curing cancer, deafness, baldness, and everything in between.  This is followed by housekeeping tips, from rat killing to making your own shoe polish.  She ends the book with a few morality lessons and quotable quotes.



So let’s make this pie!  Esther grew Pippin apples (we learn this in the section about storing fruit for the winter).  They’re a greenish-yellowish fruit with a blush of red-orange.  There are 2 kinds of Pippins, the Newtown Pippin and Albemarle Pippin.  This is THE OLDEST variety of apple in the US.  Rumors have it that this heirloom variety is making a comeback, so there’s a possibility you might be able to find Pippins in a specialty produce market.  It’s a moot point for me, because my choices here in Greece are VERY limited…pretty much “kόκκινο ή πράσινο(red or green).  I’m going with a green Granny Smith-type, because I like a more tart fruit to counter balance the sweetness of the sugar and molasses.

Mrs. Howland also gives us the option of grated lemon rind or nutmeg.  I initially went for lemon for the same reason (but ended up using both, because the nutmeg sounded good too).  This worked out great…both flavors paired well with the molasses and fruit.



Next, the pie crust.  Esther used lard.  As a vegetarian, I refuse.  Here’s her recipe if you choose.  I went with my standard “nearly-foolproof” crust recipe (that you can find detailed HERE).  I like making pie crusts…so I decided to challenge myself a bit with a lattice-topped pie in a herringbone pattern.  It IS the PIEATHALON after all!  This meant I was going to need slightly more dough than usual and doubled the recipe (not in the spirit of frugality).  My outcome was only moderately successful…the crust WAS wonderfully light and flaky, but aesthetically it wasn’t my best work.




I love her advice on oven temperatures.  BUT…if you follow her directions, and end up burning your arm…don’t fear…Mrs. Howland can fix that too, just rub a peeled potato on it.  If you catch on fire while testing the temperature of your oven, Esther advises that one “ought never to open the door and run out into the street.”  No, not because of what the neighbors will think…because she’s about to teach you the proper way to stop, drop, and roll.  She also warns us to be gentle with someone who just caught on fire, “…don’t immediately drag them down to the pump.”





Here’s the numbers I used for the pie you see in the video…

5 medium Granny Smith-type apples, peeled and sliced thin (my pie pans are rather small, and this was almost too many…could’ve easily  gone with 4)

a scant 1/2 c sugar

1/4 c  or a little more of molasses (I personally like the flavor of molasses)

zest of 1/2 a lemon (I really like lemon too)

1-2 T lemon juice (I used the juice of a whole lemon for the pie in the video…half or less would have been plenty)

1/2 t fresh ground nutmeg

about 4 T butter


…and a couple of preparation hints







(Note: James Dean’s good friend Maila Nurmi, aka Vampira starred in the original 1959 cult classic),






This is only the 2nd time I’ve appeared on film in the last couple of years…the 1st being Deaners-The Movie (now making it’s rounds on the film festival circuit).  And this, which is my acting debut.  (Since Red Carpet season is rapidly approaching and I got ZERO nominations last year, I thought I’d give it another shot! lol )  Click for full screen viewing, turn up the volume, and ENJOY!





The pie was out of this world!  Really good.  In fact, I think I’ll be using molasses in all my future apple pies.  The flavors unique to molasses, provide a subtle caramel background to the soft fruity tartness of the classic apple taste we all know and love.  That cinnamon flavor you’ve come to expect, won’t be there.  With the first bite, I tasted lemon and tart apples.  Sweetness, but not overly so. The nutmeg creeps in after that, and then the molasses, providing a totally different experience from a typical apple pie.  Goes great with a hot cup of coffee in the morning, or a mid-day treat. Very satisfying and refreshing on a hot July summer day…just beware of those annoying flying saucers!

Thanks to Yinzerella and John the Hedonist for a very enjoyable 4th annual Pieathalon!  Looking forward to next year!



Here are links to all the other Pie-Athletes and their pies… have fun checking them ALL out!

Yinzerella of DinnerIsServed1972.com made Betty Crocker’s Chicken-Sausage Pies

Jenny of SilverScreenSuppers.com made Rum Pie

Taryn of RetroFoodForModernTimes.com made Fluffy Lime Pie

Dr. Bobb of DBKitschen.blogspot.com made Lemon Raisin Pie

John the Hedonist of FoodAndWineHedonist.com made Savoury Pie

Susie of BittersweetSusie.wordpress.com made Waffle Pie

SS of ABookOfCookrye.blogspot.com inexplicably made Apple Cheese Pie

Cathy of BattenburgBelle.com made Torta di Pistacchio

Mandee of VintageRecipeCards.com made Angel Pie

Poppy Crocker of GrannyPantries.blogspot.com made Nutty Caramel Pies

Greg of Recipes4Rebels.com made 169. Apple Pie

…and more to come



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  1. Your video is genius and I love it. The newspaper is awesome. You are SO CLEVER. Loved all the historical stuff about the book but the best thing of all? Your tip about oiling the measuring spoon when measuring out molasses – GENIUS. I get in such a mess when making bread with date syrup or barley malt and this will fix it! On top of all that, your pie looks bloody good!

    You will get my vote for the Academy Awards! So much fun seeing you on film xx

    • You’ll love the oil trick when your next bread baking marathon comes along! The pie WAS good…so disappointed YOUR pie was not to your and BB’s liking…it sure looked good though! See you on the Red Carpet! lol

  2. Oh Greg. OMG!!!!! You pie was GORGEOUS!!!! Your video was awesome!!! I can’t even find the words to say how much I loved this. Utter brilliance from one of the nicest people on the internet!!! xx

    • Ohhhh…Thanks Taryn! I’m blushing again! That means a lot coming from “one of the Top 100 Food Blogs” of 2017! Your blog, and photography are always a big inspiration!

  3. I love the way you added information from other sections of the book! I was cracking up over the advice for people who have caught fire.

    • Thanks Poppy! The book is great. I’m sure most of the pie-athletes can read a cookbook like a novel. I devoured this one. Tons of entertaining stuff in there. This blog could’ve been 10 times longer if I’d included half the stuff that cracked me up. 🙂

  4. I am endlessly impressed by your blog, Greg.
    That is one GORGEOUS pie.
    And the video…shit. Wow. A Pieathalon mini-movie!!!
    I am going to be sharing this everywhere!

    • NOW I’m blushing! Thanks Yinzerella! All inspired by YOUR genius of an event! I absolutely loved the “Chicken Little’s” on your pies!

  5. That pie looks so pretty! And that has got to be the trippiest recipe video I’ve ever gotten to see. Also, it’s so awesome that you researched not only the book it comes from but the author and the time period! Hope to see you next year, because you did an awesome post!

    • Awwww…thanks so much SS! I love the history behind these recipes as much as making and eating them. lol I’m looking forward to seeing YOUR pie!

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