Not long ago, we overheard a conversation among a group that was seated next to us at a New York City restaurant. One person was recounting a dinner he had had at a colleague’s home. He had been served a slice of apple pie with a wedge of Cheddar cheese, and was “flabbergasted” by the “bizarre” combination.
“Is there whipped cream or ice cream?” the storyteller asked his host. “This is how we serve it in Vermont,” the host responded.
The group continued to discuss this “weird” combination as we restrained ourselves from butting in. Not only is a sharp slice of Cheddar a delicious counterpoint to sweet apple pie, but the popularity of the combination led to the creation of a Cheddar crust for apple pie—adding shredded Cheddar to a standard crust recipe. The video recipe is below, and yes, you can still serve a wedge of Cheddar with a Cheddar-crust pie.
And don’t limit yourself to the traditional version. If you enjoy blue cheese, serve a wedge with pie, or crumble it atop the pie (we particularly like blue cheese with blueberry pie). We often serve a circle cut from a fresh goat cheese log with fruit pie. There’s no rule book: Try whatever cheese you like with any fruit pie. The chocolate goat cheese log from Capri is exquisite with chocolate, coffee and nut-themed pies. It tastes like chocolate cheesecake.
Cheese with fruit pie is a variation of the cheese, fruit and bread combination that has likely been popular since man first learned to make cheese and bread (in prehistoric times—see the history of cheese and the history of bread for more information).
How Did The Pairing Of Apple Pie & Cheddar Begin?
In the affluent households of ancient times, cheese was thought to aid digestion† and was often served at the end of a meal with fruits and nuts. Finishing an evening meal with a cheese course became customary throughout Europe. According to FoodTimeLine.org, the wealthy, whose dinners comprised many courses, enjoyed the practice until the 19th century.
Even after a sweet dessert* course became a popular way to end a meal, the cheese course was served before it. This custom continues today.
Skipping back to the 1600s: Both apples and Cheddar were brought by British settlers to what is now New England. In pre-refrigeration times‡, no one had a freezer for ice cream, and cream needs to be chilled to whip well. So what better way to garnish the pie than with a slice of locally made Cheddar cheese—no refrigeration required.
Enjoy this delicious Cheddar crust apple pie recipe, a perfect fall dish.
*Ironically, we now know that cheese is one of the hardest foods to digest. For more information visit QualityHealth.com.
†The custom of enjoying a sweet at the end of the meal evolved comparatively lately. Those with access to fresh fruit ended the meal with it, but honey was expensive and baking was primitive (think of a metal box over a fire). But with more access to sugar (Sugarcane was cultivated in the New Guinea area around 8,000 B.C.E. for its juice. Later, it was refined into sugar in India and in Persia, after India was invaded by Darius in 510 B.C.E., and then by the Arabs who invaded Persia in 642 C.E.), the cooks and bakers employed by the wealthy experimented with sweets. Cakes were baked in royal palaces in Arabia, and following the Crusades (1095 to 1291), the cooking techniques and ingredients were brought back to Northern Europe. Beginning in the 14th century, Renaissance cookbooks are filled with recipes. The word “dessert” originated in France between 1780 and 1790, derived from desservir, to clear the table.
‡In the millennia before the invention of the mechanical ice box, people kept food cold with ice and snow, saved during the winter months or brought down from mountaintops. The first “refrigeration” consisted of a hole dug into the ground and lined with wood or straw. It was then packed with snow and ice. Ice boxes existed from the mid-19th century, a response to the ice harvesting industry in America. The devices had hollow walls that were lined with tin or zinc and packed with insulation (cork, sawdust, straw, e.g.). A large block of ice was placed in a compartment near the top of the box, enabling cold air to circulate down into the storage compartment(s) below. Fresh ice was delivered by an iceman. While commercial refrigeration was available by the late 1800s, the home electric refrigerator didn’t arrive until 1930.