The menu on St. Patrick’s Day has many traditions. Corned beef and cabbage, shepherd’s pie, Irish soda bread and even green beer all go hand in hand with visions of leprechauns, shamrocks and that elusive pot of gold. Yet one of the oldest staples of Irish cuisine often goes overlooked when it comes to celebrating the culture of Ireland and the patron saint of Ireland.
When it comes to Irish food, potatoes top the list, but the food that saved Ireland wasn’t introduced there until Sir Walter Raleigh first planted them on his Cork estate in 1589. Shepherd’s pie didn’t show up in Ireland until the 18th century, soda bread the 1840s. Corned beef and cabbage was popularized not in Ireland, but by Irish immigrants in the United Stated in the 18th century and green beer is also an American creation, showing up at St. Patrick’s Day parties in New York and Boston in the early 20th century. This year, we’re celebrating the holiday with Irish food of a deeper lineage.
One of the few fruit trees to grow well in the difficult Irish climate, the apple tree has been an important source of food in Ireland for thousands of years. Although only crabapples are native to the island nation, other varieties have been cultivated for centuries. Long used as food and in the production of alcohol in Ireland, desserts like cakes, stewed apples and tarts remain popular in Irish cuisine.
Originally a crustless dessert, apple amber is an Irish dish that is little more than grated apples cooked down into a sweet, silky puree and blanketed in airy meringue. Many modern versions of the dessert, like this one, repackage the basic dish as a pie or tart, but with few ingredients and simple preparation, it remains a great way to celebrate the holiday with a traditional dessert from the Emerald Isle.
Apple Amber Pie
- 9″ pie shell
- 1 1/2 pounds apples, cored, peeled and grated
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 3 tablespoons water
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 3 eggs, separated
- 3/4 cup sugar
Combine grated apples, 1/3 cup sugar, water and salt in a saucepan and cook over medium heat until smooth and silky (10-15 minutes).
Remove apples from heat and stir in lemon juice and egg yolks.
Pour apple blend into pie shell.
Bake pie in a 375 degree oven for 20 minutes.
To make meringue, whisk egg whites and sugar together until stiff peaks form.
Evenly spread meringue over pie, making sure it touches the edge of the crust on all sides.
Return pie to oven and bake another 15 minutes or until meringue is lightly browned.
Serve warm or refrigerate to serve chilled.