Have some pie to celebrate President’s Day

We celebrated Roman togas. We commemorated Saint Valentine’s martyrdom — he aided the escape of imprisoned Christians during the reign of Emperor Claudius. Now it is time to salute our presidents.

The third Monday in February was set aside to honor our first president, George Washington, as well as Abraham Lincoln, who united our divided nation.

February is also Cherry month, as well as Great American Pies month — and Feb. 20 was Cherry Pie Day! That fits with Valentine’s theme of red.

Although the story of young George chopping down a cherry tree — “I cannot tell a lie, I chopped down the Cherry tree” — is now considered a myth, Mount Vernon had cherry and apple trees, both imported from England. These fruit trees were brought to America by English colonists in the early 1600s.

Today more than a thousand varieties of cherries are grown in the United States. Most of our commercially grown cherries (70%) come from the northwest states of Washington and Oregon.

Pies also arrived on our continent in the 1600s, brought by English settlers. Back then, they were cooked in long narrow pans — not the round pans we use today. In the 1800s it was often served for breakfast as a change from biscuits, oats, or eggs. Today Americans’ most popular pie is the apple, but cherry is not far behind.

Washington enjoyed many fruits, nuts, and fish. “My manner of living is plain, and I do not mean to be put out by it. A glass of wine and a bit of mutton are always welcome,” our first president said. He loved food, and his wife Martha is reputed to have been an excellent cook; she authored the “Book of Cookery” (reprinted by Columbia University Press). Their Mount Vernon homestead was self-sufficient with orchards, gardens, distillery, gristmill, pastures and facilities to process and preserve meat.

Desserts were plentiful, too. There were candied and dried fruits, fruit preserves, jams and jellies, fruit cakes, pies and tarts. There were various cookies and cakes. George enjoyed cherry, apple, and walnut pies. There was also cherry bounce, a drink made with cherries, brandy, sugar and sweet spices (cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves).

Abe Lincoln was a farmer’s boy who grew up on the frontier, where the food was pretty plain, due both to availability, economy and tradition. Abe appreciated simple, uncomplicated food.

Wild game provided protein. Potatoes, bacon, corn (corn muffins and corn cakes), squash (and squash pie), fruit pies and cobblers were common fare. Mary Todd Lincoln’s lemon custard pie was his favorite but he also enjoyed apple, squash, and blackberry pies.

There are few things as American as pie — and I’d venture most of our presidents have enjoyed pie, though not necessarily cherry. President Ulysses S. Grant preferred Boston Cream Pie, Herbert Hoover enjoyed peach pie, President Johnson liked pecan pie best, and Jimmy Carter’s favorite was peanut butter pie.

Here are two pie recipes.

Cherry Pie


1 cup sugar

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

4 cups fresh or frozen pitted tart cherries, thawed and drained


1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon almond extract

Pastry for double-crust pie (9 inches)

2 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces


Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Combine cherries with sugar, flour, and any optional seasonings in a large bowl.

Line 9-inch pie plate with prepared pastry.

Add filling. Dot with butter.

Arrange pastry on top. A lattice pattern is nice.

Bake about 45 – 50 minutes, until top crust is golden brown and the filling is bubbly.

Cool on wire rack.

Serves 6 – 8.


For apple pie, use 4 cups peeled, cored, sliced apples. Omit almond extract but season with cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves if desired.

To make a double pie crust, you will need 2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 2 sticks (1 cup) cold butter, and about 1/3 to 2/3 cup ice water. First, mix flour with salt in a large bowl. Keep ingredients cold and work quickly, mixing the butter in with a pastry blender until the dough holds together. Add ice water as needed. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for one hour before rolling.

For a cobbler, arrange fruit in bottom of 9 inch by 9 inch dish and spoon cobbler topping over, then bake. (for topping, mix together 1 cup flour, 1 teaspoon salt, 2 teaspoons baking powder and 1 Tablespoon sugar. Add 4 Tablespoons melted butter and ½ cup milk).

Berry Pie


1/2 cup sugar

1/3 cup quick-cooking tapioca

1/4 teaspoon salt

4 cups fresh or frozen (thawed) berries, divided — blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, or combination of berries

Dough for double-crust pie

2 Tablespoons butter


In a medium saucepan, combine sugar, tapioca, and salt. Stir in 1 cup of the berries. Leave for 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F and prepare pie crust.

After 15 minutes, bring the berries to a boil over low heat, stirring constantly until the berries burst.

Remove from heat. Stir in remaining berries, and transfer to the prepared pie crust. Dot with the 2 Tablespoons of butter and add the top crust.

Bake 35 – 40 minutes, until top is brown and filling is bubbly.

Remove from oven. Allow to cool on wire rack before cutting.

Serves 6 – 8.

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Author of the award-winning cookbook “Garden Gourmet: Fresh & Fabulous Meals from your Garden, CSA or Farmers’ Market,” Yvona Fast lives in Lake Clear and has two passions: cooking and writing. She can be found at www.yvonafast.com and reached at yvonawrite@yahoo.com or on Facebook at Words Are My World.


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