CHECK OUT OUR DIGITAL CATALOG!

YOU CAN NOW SHIP TO MULTIPLE ADDRESSES FROM THE SAME ORDER!

A Slice of History: The Sweet Origin of Pie in New England and Beyond

  • 7 min reading time
A Slice of History: The Sweet Origin of Pie in New England and Beyond

Pie goes back as far as mankind has been able to make a flaky crust. Over centuries, humans learned to stuff this dough with many combinations of meat and fruit. It turns out the humble pie is more complex than we ever imagined, so let’s grab a slice and get into it!

The holiday pies we know today – like classic holiday pumpkin and tart apple – are actually a pretty recent addition to history. So where did they come from and why are they so popular?


Pie goes back as far as mankind has been able to make a flaky crust. Over centuries, humans learned to stuff this dough with many combinations of meat and fruit. It turns out the humble pie is more complex than we ever imagined, so let’s grab a slice and get into it!

A Quick History of Pie (Savory and Sweet!)

Historians trace the origin of pie to the Egyptians back in 9500 BCE. In Egypt, the first pies were made with ground grains like barley, wheat, or oats combined with water. This “dough” was shaped into an oval and filled with savory ingredients like nuts, honey, and meat. Pie was a great creation because it helped preserve food and was a portable meal for workers and travelers. 


Other ancient civilizations quickly caught on to the delicious benefits of pie. The Greeks refined the Egyptian concept by making their pies with a flakier pastry shell. Then the Romans later learned about pie from the Greeks. 


The wealthiest Romans made pies with many different kinds of meat and even seafood. They may have also been the first to make pies with both a top and bottom crust. As the Roman empire spread, so did their sweet and savory pie fillings. 


The term “pie” eventually originated in medieval England, where they were called “pyes.” English pie was often filled with meat like beef, lamb, or duck and spiced with currants, dates, or pepper. Fruit pies emerged in the 1500s and Queen Elizabeth I was apparently a big fan of cherry pie.


By the 17th century, sweet pies and tarts had become commonplace. But like most foods in history, as the pie spread it became a versatile culinary creation that evolved with local cultures. America was no exception.

The Evolution of Pie in America

Contrary to popular belief, the pilgrims did not have modern-day pumpkin pie at the first Thanksgiving in 1621. These English immigrants were much more partial to the meat-based pies back home. 


In their new country, the colonists eventually had more access to sweeteners like maple syrup, molasses, cane sugar, and honey. Increased access to local fruits and squashes like pear, apple, quince, pumpkin, and blueberry also helped grow the popularity of sweeter pies. 


As pie spread in popularity, New England became known as America’s “pie belt.” Fruit and pumpkin pies were a staple in our region even at breakfast. Over time, different U.S. regions created their pie specialties. The Midwest made its cream and cheese pies, the Upper Plains had tart berry pies, and the Southwest made nut pies from native pecan and walnut trees. Sweet potato pie gained popularity in the South while key lime pie became Florida’s claim to fame. 


By the 1800s, the pie was pretty commonplace in America. But in the late 19th and early 20th century, pie dropped in popularity when it was condemned as an “unhealthy” food. Pie-making returned with conveniences like ready-made pie crusts and the invention of refrigeration. Now, chilled pie recipes like Black Bottom and Coconut Cream were delicious options too. 


In modern-day America, our pie options are seemingly endless. But in many ways, we’re still re-discovering the roots of pie making. History has shown us that it all comes down to homemade crust and fresh, locally sourced fillings. 

Sweet Pies: Vermont’s Modern-Day Staple 

Here at Cold Hollow, homemade pies are our pride and joy. Our bakery team makes thousands of pies from scratch every year. We even hand-crimp every crust! 


We’re rooted in New England's deep love of sweet pies like apple, pumpkin, and berry. Harvests of fresh fruit and gourds in the summer and fall months make for perfect pie-making! Here are some of our specialties:

  • Homemade Apple Pie is our favorite here at the Mill (we make about 5,000 every year!). We build our pies using the prized tart-sweet McIntosh apple and a combination of warm spices. Macs have been a Vermont staple for generations (they make up 50% of our state’s fall apple crop!). So we always have plenty of local fruit to use for pie. Our team hand-peels every apple before stuffing them in a flaky double crust. 
  • Apple Pie with Cheddar Cheese is also a unique Vermont staple. Sharp cheese and tart, sweet sugared apples are a match made in heaven. (Cheddar and McIntosh apples also happen to be two of our state’s most iconic ingredients!) This Vermonter-style pie tops the flaky crust with a thick slice of warm cheddar. It’s a must-try.
  • Pumpkin Pie is a New England classic for a reason. It’s warm, earthy, and subtly sweet with a touch of spice that makes everyone think of Thanksgiving. For the best from-scratch pumpkin pie, try making a homemade pumpkin purée with a sugar pie pumpkin. You’ll taste the difference!
  • Last but not least, Berry Pie celebrates all kinds of juicy fruits – from blueberries to raspberries to strawberries. Our Triple Berry Pie uses all three! Unlike our apple pies, which have a thick enclosed pastry crust, our berry pies are made with latticed crust. Old Vermonters taught us to use a latticed top because berries are full of moisture. The holes help steam to escape as the pie bakes – no soggy crust here.

Whether you’re enjoying a slice of pie for the holidays or just because, there’s so much rich history to reflect on with every bite. If you try our Vermont-made pies, leave us a review – we love sharing our pie traditions with you!


Still Hungry? Check out some of our other articles!

Footer image

© 2024 Cold Hollow Cider Mill, Powered by Shopify

    • American Express
    • Apple Pay
    • Diners Club
    • Discover
    • Meta Pay
    • Google Pay
    • Mastercard
    • Shop Pay
    • Visa

    Login

    Forgot your password?

    Don't have an account yet?
    Create account