To Make an Apple Pie

Contrary to popular belief, apple pie isn’t American, it’s British. There were no apple trees or pies in America before the British settled. The spice most often called for was cloves, as it is in this recipe.

18th Century

Put a crust in the bottom of a dish, put on it a layer of ripe apples pared and sliced thin, then a layer of powdered sugar; do this alternately till the dish is full; put in a few tea-spoonsful of rose-water and some cloves; put on a crust and bake it.

Randolph, Mary, “The Virginia Housewife” p. 152

21st Century

  • Pastry (homemade or store bought)
  • 8 Granny Smith applies
  • ¼ – 1 cup granulated sugar or castor sugar
  • 1 tsp. rose flower water (optional)
  • 2 tsp. whole cloves
  1. Preheat the oven to 425°.
  2. Remove one piece of dough from refrigerator and let stand until soft.
  3. Lightly flour your work surface and roll out dough into a 12-inch circle. Then, wrap the dough around the rolling pin to transfer into a 9-inch pie pan. Unwrap the dough from the rolling pin into the pie pan, making sure the dough is form-fitted to the pan. Allow the dough to overhang the lip of the pan. Return pie pan with dough to the refrigerator until it is needed.
  4. Peel, core and quarter the apples. Cut the quarters into slices that are ¼ inch thick.
  5. Retrieve the pie pan from the refrigerator. Fill the pie by alternating layers of apples, sugar, rose water and whole cloves until pie is filled.
  6. Roll the second piece of pastry dough into a 12-inch circle. Then, wet the bottom lip of the dough and place the top piece over the filling. Trim the dough so it is flush with the edge of the pie pan. Flute the edge or press with a fork to seal. With a knife, cut 4 slits on the top of the pie.
  7. Place a rimmed baking sheet on the middle rack of the oven. Place the pie in the middle of the sheet. Bake at 450° for 10 minutes, then at 350° for 35-45 minutes.
  8. Allow pie to rest 5-10 minutes before slicing.

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23 Responses to “To Make an Apple Pie”

  1. January 12th, 2012

    Christine Hansley says:

    Dear History is Served crew,
    This sounds great.
    Can ground clove be used and how much?
    I am concerned about using whole cloves. I usually remove whole cloves from sauces and ham before serving. That way people don’t get that sharp taste or crack a tooth when they bite into a clove.
    Thanks for another great recipe.
    Have a great weekend,

  2. January 13th, 2012

    Barbara says:

    The crust embellishment is wonderful. Would the everyday cook have gone to such trouble for aesthetics?

    • January 16th, 2012

      Historic Foodways says:

      Thanks, I made that pie. We work at the Governor’s Palace kitchen, so our food had better look good as well as taste good. I would imagine that the poorer sort would have less decorative food, but this particular decoration was done with leftover pastry dough and an egg yolk, so it would have cost little more then the time to make it.

      -Frank Clark

  3. January 13th, 2012

    KMWall says:

    The cinnamon absence is interesting since 17th century English pies had it, sometimes in sticks to mingle with the whole cloves. Rosewater with apples is heavenly!

    • January 16th, 2012

      Historic Foodways says:

      I have used ground cloves, and three or four teaspoons mixed in with the sugar works well. You could also crush the cloves in a mortar and pestle to prevent them from causing issues.

      -Frank Clark

  4. January 17th, 2012

    Mary Randolph’s first edition of The Virginia Housewife was published in 1824 and I believe in this country. Do you have a source of this receipt from an earlier English receipt book?


    Susan McLellan Plaisted
    Proprietress, Heart to Hearth Cookery

    • January 24th, 2012

      Historic Foodways says:

      Actually, this recipe may represent an early Americanization of an English recipe. The British seem to use a mix of both cinnamon and cloves in their apple pies but they also differ in a couple of ways. First, they usually have a syrup made from the peel of the apples or sometimes quince and lemon peel. The other big difference is what happens to the pie as it is served. Many pies in this period have you remove the top crust after baking and add in a sauce. In the case of meat pies it is often done with red wine and gravy.

      Most of the fruit pies in the early period of the 18th century call for a heated mixture of cream, sugar, and egg that is poured it into the pie before it goes to the table. The Art of Cookery tells you to cut the top crust into wedges and stick them into the pie after the sauce is put in. I would say about half of the pie recipes tell you to pour some sauce into the pie after it’s baked. The Mary Randolph version is one of the few recipes that is just fruit, sugar, and spice.

  5. January 18th, 2012

    Lisa Messer says:

    I LOVE Colonial Williamsburg and have visited it many times, in fact it is our family’s favorite vacation spot. Thank you so much for the recipes, as I am always trying old recipes and am VERY interested in the cooking of the Colonials. One of my favorite places is the Governor’s Palace kitchen and Peyton Randolph House kitchen. I would like to learn more about the Colonial cooking. I can not wait to try this recipe AND the embellishment. Thanks to everyone at Colonial Williamsburg for what you do.

    • January 19th, 2012

      Historic Foodways says:

      We’re thrilled to hear that this blog helps keep you connected to Colonial Williamsburg between visits. Post a picture of one of the recipes sometime!

  6. January 23rd, 2012

    Barbara Crankshaw says:

    Every Monday I check the Foodways videos. I am positively giddy when you post a new one. I brew myself a cup of coffee and settle in to enjoy my private cooking lesson. My job entails working in a solitary office seeing very few people throughout my day. Your videos are welcome company and I watch them again and again. My husband and I honeymooned in Williamsburg 35 years ago and visit every year or so. We love it and the videos sustain us between visits. Thank you again.

    • January 23rd, 2012

      Historic Foodways says:

      Nothing could make us happier than to hear that the foodways videos bring you close to Colonial Williamsburg when you are far away. Thanks for watching, and stay tuned for more video soon!

  7. January 26th, 2012

    pam williams says:

    What is “egg heat?” Was it poured in while pie was hot, or after it cooled?

  8. January 30th, 2012

    Historic Foodways says:


    Typically the caudal, or gravy in the case of meat pie, is poured in right before the item goes to the table. The pie can be baked ahead of time, then as a way of re-heating it the sauce is poured in hot right before it is set out.

    -Frank Clark

  9. January 30th, 2012

    pam williams says:

    Thanks, Frank…two more questions…
    Did one expect to lift a top crust – in the case of YOUR pie a gorgeous one – and not have it break? Or was breakage (after the effort to make a pie look like yours!) acceptable – and you just “put it back together as best you could”?

    Do you know the derivation of “caudal” – is it somehow related to “coddle”?

    • January 31st, 2012

      Historic Foodways says:

      Pam, it varies from recipe to recipe. For example, Hanna Glasse says to cut the top crust in to triangles and then stick them into the pie. There is not much point in decorating in that case.

      Other recipes tell you lay the top back on the pie. In this case I make sure not to seal the lid to the pie with flour and water as I normally do and have been able to keep it whole.

      There are also a number of recipes that call for you to cut a small hole in the top of the pie and and place a funnel in it to pour the caudal in that way. So in this case you could do an elaborate decoration and then just cut a small hole in the middle.

      To the second question; I can’t say I have heard of a coddle. But remember, there are no clear spelling rules at this time so it may just be a creative re-spelling.

      -Frank Clark

  10. February 1st, 2012

    pam williams says:

    As in “coddled eggs” – they are cooked in water below the boiling point. Eggs cooked this way can be cooked hard or soft as you like or need. I think that, cooked very soft, they can still be used as a thickener. And, I am absolutely clueless as to what’s the difference between a coddled egg and a poached egg – anybody know? Had heard the term before. It may be that “coddle” (which has two meanings, of course, and one which could be – in a given context – the same as the egg treatment) is a corruption of the word caudal. It seems it might be that since both could be used as thickener. The only thing that’s half as much fun as cooking is words!!!!

    • February 7th, 2012

      Historic Foodways says:

      We went to the Oxford English Dictionary to get to the bottom of this one, where we found the first use of the word “caudle” in 1297, when it is defined as a warm, thin gruel.

    • March 7th, 2012

      Donna Cole says:

      It’s been my understanding that a poached egg was cooked in the water while a coddled egg is cooked in a “cup” or container in the water.

  11. July 1st, 2012

    Angie says:

    Thank you so much for this historical recipe! I was able to get a free copy of Mary Randolph’s cookbook for my Nook Tablet, but your website has a recipe updated for us.

    Thanks again.

  12. November 10th, 2013

    Janelle says:

    I made this for an early Thanksgiving dinner this weekend and it turned out great! The only thing I did differently was substitute the clove for ground cinnamon. Here’s the finished product!

  13. April 16th, 2014

    Sidney May says:

    Thank you soooooooo much! I am 12 and I volunteer as a reactor at Claude Moore Colonial Farm. It is nice in looking for recipies to add to my cook book when I am there!

  14. January 9th, 2015

    Cailey Winn says:

    Thanks! This was really delish!

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