The apple pie as we know it originated in Europe, with several variations throughout the continent. The most widely known variations are the English, Dutch and Swedish apple pies. While all three have made their way into the American food culture, the English version is the one familiar to most Americans.
English apple pie recipes that include a requirement for “good spices” date all the way back to Chaucer’s time. In most of the oldest recipes, the spices are not named; however, it was likely that each cook simply chose spices according to their personal preference.
The spices used in apple pie reached Europe via trade with the Far East via Middle Eastern and North African traders. At this point in history, nutmeg was more expensive than gold.
The oldest American recipe for apple pie calls for two spices that are still included in some apple pie spice blends: cinnamon and mace, though many people in the modern era would probably use nutmeg instead of mace.
Flavor profile of apple pie spice
Like most spice blends, the flavor of apple pie spice is variable since the maker can choose the components according to their preference. In all cases, the goal is to provide warmth and sweetness that complements the tartness of apples. Cardamom is included in some blends for increased complexity and depth.
Health benefits of apple pie spice
Each of the spices in apple pie spice is packed with a variety of nutrients, making the blend a potent source of healthy compounds. The nutrients in apple pie spice include:
- Vitamins: Cinnamon is a key ingredient in apple pie spice and is a good source of vitamin A as well as niacin. Cloves are also a good source of vitamin A. This vitamin is important for the maintenance of eye health while niacin helps the body’s digestive and nervous systems to function properly. Niacin is also important for converting carbohydrates, proteins and fats to energy.
- Minerals: Cinnamon and allspice are among the mineral-rich components of apple pie spice. The spices in apple pie spice are rich sources of minerals like iron, potassium, and calcium. Iron is important for the transport of oxygen in the blood while potassium is used to keep your heart functioning correctly and for muscle contraction. You need calcium for healthy bones.
- Flavonoids: Many spices are good sources of flavonoid antioxidants, with cinnamon being one of the best sources. It provides carotenes and lutein. The flavonoids in ginger include quercetin and kaempferol while nutmeg provides cryptoxanthin along with beta-carotene.
Apple pie spice’s nutrients can help to prevent and treat a range of illnesses such as:
- Diabetes: Both cinnamon and cloves have the potential to lower blood sugar. In addition, the cinnamon in a meal helps to decrease insulin resistance.
- Digestive ailments: Cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice are all beneficial to your digestion. Cinnamon influences the gastrointestinal hormones that control satiety and the rate of gastric emptying, while nutmeg has been used as a treatment for nausea and indigestion. Allspice is also used to treat flatulence and indigestion.
- Colds: Ginger is widely implemented in Ayurvedic medicine for treating the common cold. It is often combined with honey or citrus juice when used for this purpose.
Common uses of apple pie spice
Along with apple pies, apple pie spice can be used to give various foods the distinctive apple pie flavor. These foods include desserts like cookies and apple cakes along with breakfast foods like oatmeal and muffins. It is versatile enough to be used in other contexts as well. You can use it to flavor both sweet potatoes and popcorn.