Monday, February 22, 2010

As American As Soda Cracker Pie, and Science in the Kitchen.

I love hands on learning, really love it. And, it if happens to come in the form of a dessert...

...hmm, let's just say I was pretty happy when a discussion of American symbols led us from apple pie (as American as Mom, baseball, and apple pie), to WWII (as in, "Why are you going to war?" - "For Mom and apple pie!"), to the Johny Appleseed, the pioneers, the civil war, and the depression (how do you make apple pie, when apples are scarce?), which of course, led us to mock apple pie.

The funny thing was, I already had mock apple pie, or soda cracker pie, on my list of science project to-dos. It is a science project, thanks to one very special ingredient - potassium hydrogen tartrate (KC4H5O6), or in other words, cream of tarter. It helps to keep the crackers firm, and boosts up the acidity of the lemon juice, which when combined with cinnamon, and nutmeg, convinces the brain, at least the brain familiar with apply desserts, that apples must be present. That's the theory, anyway - we had to try it out for ourselves.

I made up a pie crust, and the children added 18 saltines, broken in half.

Then, we mixed together 1 1/4 cup of water, 1 1/2 cup of sugar, 2 tablespoons of lemon juice (if the pioneers, and depression era folks didn't have apples, did they have lemon juice?), 1 tablespoon of cream of tarter, 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, and 1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg.

And, we poured it over the crackers.

It didn't look very appetizing - not at all like apple pie.

But, we proceeded anyway, covering the pie with a few more strips of crust, and baking it at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for just over 1/2 hour.

It certainly smelled like apple pie. By the time it was done baking it even looked like apple pie.

As for the taste - we had enough pie crust left over to make a few muffin sized pies, with real apples, for comparison...and...

...the mock pie held up pretty well. The texture, and flavor were surprisingly close. I thought it was a touch too salty, but with ice cream, I don't think a person would notice.

If you'd like to know more about the science, and history of soda cracker pies, then click here for an excellent Squidoo post. It even contains an ode, of sorts, to cream of tarter, and some slightly different directions for the Taste of Home recipe, we used above.

It's great to be a homeschooler.


Debbie said...

To answer your question about the lemon juice. No, not all pioneers had lemon juice but a substitute for this was vinegar. Basically it is the acidity they are looking for and not the flavor. hmmmm!

Natalie PlanetSmarty said...

Wow - interesting! You definitely have most non-orthodox science projects. Thanks for sharing this recipe too. Not that I am going to try it anytime soon, but maybe one day I have more time on my hands, and then I am definitely interested in tasting it.

Ticia said...

Hmmm, I vaguely recall hearing about that. Have you ever read the book "how to Make an Apple Pie and See the World?" It'd go great with this, and so would "Apple Farmer Annie."
And you're welcome for getting the song stuck in your head. If it helps it's stuck in my head again too.

An Almost Unschooling Mom said...

Debbie - of course, they used vinegar! I should have remembered that from our green pumpkin pie.

Ticia - thanks for book titles - the see the world one is now on hold at my library :)

Butterfly said...

People do amazing, clever things when necessity calls for innovation and improvisation!! Thanks for sharing this. You explained it very cleverly too. Are you learning as you go, or do you have a background in science?

An Almost Unschooling Mom said...

I'm learning as I go :)

Butterfly said...

You ought to be awarded an honorary science degree!!

Martha said...

I've got a chemical apple pie that I make. but mine uses ritz crackers, sugar, cream of tartar, cinnamon and alitte butter in a pie crust.

I've fooled lots of people with it.