Americans love pie any time of year, but in November pie is particularly in the spotlight. Apple, mince, pumpkin… every family seems to have its own traditional pie repertoire for Thanksgiving. In my family it was pumpkin, pecan, and Great Aunt Sylvia’s lemon meringue. Since we're heading into cranberry season anyway, here’s something a little different for your festive board: Mock Cherry Pie, made with cranberries and raisins
Americans seem to love mock foods. There’s a substantial history of them in this country: mock cream (milk simmered with flour and egg yolk), mock strawberries (quartered peaches and apples macerated with sugar for several hours), mock oysters (essentially a fresh corn fritter), and even mock birds (salt pork rolled around stuffing and browned). The 1916 Orange Judd Cook Book is particularly rich in them, as this search for “mock” recipes shows.
Our cookbooks also contain many recipes for mock turtle soup, made from a calf's head. This dish (which we inherited from English cooking) was immortalized by the figure of the Mock Turtle in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland (which we have in numerous editions)
Mock cherry pie is a common recipe in our late 19th and early 20th century cookbooks. We have versions in Woman's home receipt book 1902, The Star cook book compiled by the ladies of the "Star Society". 1914, The Boston Cooking-School cook book. 1920, Maids' and matrons' cook book. 1921, and others.
In its day, it would have been a winter pie, to be enjoyed when cherries were long out of season. The recipe is an artifact of an era when cherries were either prohibitively expensive or simply unavailable anytime but June and July. Unless, that is, you preserved your own, which if the testimony of recipes in our 18th and 19th century cookbooks is to be believed, many people did. Here are some much earlier recipes for preserving cherries from our 1778 edition of Hannah Glasse’s Art of Cookery
The 1899 recipes
The 2013 recipe
Makes 1 10” pie
- Crust for a double-crust pie. (I double this single crust recipe. This double crust recipe is also good.)
- 4 1/2 cups whole cranberries
- 1 1/2 cups hot water
- 5 Tblsp flour
- 10 Tblsp sugar
- 2 1/4 cups raisins
- 4 tsp vanilla
- 3/8 tsp almond extract (optional)
- Make and chill the pie crust
- Whisk the flour with the sugar, and combine all ingredients in a heavy saucepan except the vanilla and the optional almond extract.
- Cook uncovered over medium-low heat, stirring periodically, until the cranberries are tender, 45 minutes to an hour. You should have about 4 3/4 cups of filling.
- Let cool until room temperature, about 30 minutes. Stir in the vanilla (and the almond extract if desired.)
- While the filling is cooling, take the pie crust out and let it come to room temperature.
- Preheat the oven to 400°
- Line a 10” pie plate with crust and roll out a ~10” circle for the top crust
- Fill the pie crust and put on the top crust. Trim away any excess dough and crimp the edges where the two crusts come together. Cut a vent into top crust for steam.
- Bake the pie for 40 to 50 minutes, until the crust is browned and the filling is bubbling. Shield the edge with foil or a pie shield about halfway through so it doesn’t brown too fast.
- Let cool before serving.
This version will work with either fresh or frozen whole cranberries. It doesn’t taste very much like cherry pie, but the combination of the tart cranberries with the rich sweetness of the raisins is a delicious and unusual effect.
If you already have enough pies planned, just cooking up the filling with a little less water and somewhat less sugar makes for an interesting variation on the usual cranberry sauce.
Of course, you *could* also make the pie with less sugar and put a thin slice of it on the plate next to the turkey — because what Thanksgiving dinner needs is more starches, right?