- The Washington Times - Monday, February 23, 2004

Want to go retro? Revisit the days of Lucy, Blondie or Ozzie and Harriet? Don a vintage, custom apron and rustle up a fresh pie. We have rounded up some of the nicest you can order. And we’ve created a few pies to give those aprons a test run.

First, a word on apron history. We may think of aprons as female attire, but for domestic workers in the early 1900s, the apron was a conventional, all-purpose tool used to carry wood and kindling, to gather eggs and vegetables, to wipe the brow in the noonday sun.

The first aprons were anything but girl stuff. Before 1900, they were quintessentially guy wear — for blacksmiths and weapon makers, gardeners, carvers, furniture makers, leather smiths, cobblers, tailors, jewelers, metal forgers, fishmongers and clockmakers. When you see old pictures of these craftsmen, you see guys wearing leather aprons, duck cloth and canvas aprons. You see barbers, stonemasons and members of the Masonic society — all are wearing aprons.

Aprons didn’t start coming into fashion for women until about the beginning of the 20th century in Victorian England, although pioneer matrons in the Americas wore them for logical rather than style reasons, to help keep their clothes clean from all the hands-on tasks they did.

The Victorian matrons were the first to wear aprons that were delicately embroidered and stitched as fashion. As the 1920s roared around, women no longer wanted to be solely associated with the home front, and aprons, once a symbol of domestic pride, were used more as they were first intended: by those serving the upper classes.

Thus, aprons became symbols of class politics and feminism, or lack of it, depending upon the era.

In rural areas, aprons were made of common cotton, white linen or whatever materials were on hand, including feed and flour sacks. The ‘40s saw gingham and cheery cotton aprons replace white ones, and for a brief time, there was a resurgence in apron wearing.

After World War II, with women tucked back safely in the suburbs and the idealized family of the TV show “Ozzie and Harriet” a national value, the pretty apron again became the housewife’s uniform. Blondie, of comic strip fame, is one famous example of the home-centered apron wearer, but overall, the ‘50s were a great time for aprons. Creativity ruled, and once again, it was a garment that saluted and celebrated the housewife. To borrow Martha Stewart’s phrase, it was “a good thing” — until the ‘60s.

Styles reverted to the half-apron and began, like T-shirts, sporting slogans and messages. However, the truth is that had they burned easily, aprons may have met the same fate as many a good undergarment in the early feminist era. In fact, aprons have been put on and taken off, depending on the social and political climate, throughout the years.

These days, the only people who wear aprons seem to be chefs and those who, regardless of age, have the values of another time and generation. However, there are a few, such as me, who simply love aprons.

I don’t sew, but I found in an online search that there are folks who make particularly interesting creations. Here are some of the treasures. Most have basic patterns and cloth selections but are open to customizing.

Chef Revival, www.chefrevival.com. If you prefer a chef’s classic style, Chef Revival makes outstanding white aprons. Slip one on and not only will you look special, but you’ll also feel as though you wandered back into a friend’s kitchen from days gone by. Put up the coffee, get out a Jadite green mug, and slice up some pie.

Lisette’s Country Fabric Creations, www.lisettescountryfabriccreations.com. Lisette makes charming and authentic aprons that will remind you of the books and TV show “Little House on the Prairie.” Old-fashioned and quaint but totally wearable and serviceable, these aprons are for those who prefer a homespun look in a modern-made garment.

Lorraine at Stitch Thru Time, www.stitchthrutime.com. Lorraine makes roomy, old-fashioned smock-style aprons. They have no ties but are designed to be scooted into and out of fast. Lorraine will embroider your name, as well. The site also offers patterns for those who want to sew aprons themselves.

Kitchenwear Aprons, www.kitchenwears.com. Great, roomy Ethel and Lucy aprons, Kitchenware Aprons are basic but solid and fun. Custom embroidery is available.

In my apron search, I also found a number of interesting books on aprons. Try “Aprons: Icons of the American Home” by Joyce Cheney (Running Press). Or “The Apron: Its Traditions, History and Secret Significances” by Frank Higgins (Holmes). Or “Ma Dear’s Aprons” by Patricia C. McKissack (Aladdin) and “How to Make Aprons” by Roxa Wright. Some of these are out of print and best found at the library.

As I have said, I love aprons, and nothing reminds me more of them and their heyday than homemade, old-fashioned pie. Each of the pies that follow is delectable. Don’t mind the sticky fingers that result. You just may have an apron to wipe them on.

A recipe for pie dough follows the pie recipes.

Spice and apple crumb pie

Dough for a 9-inch bottom pie crust


1½ cups flour

3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed

¼ cup white sugar

½ teaspoon cinnamon

⅛ teaspoon cloves

⅛ teaspoon nutmeg


1 teaspoon vanilla

1 tablespoon lemon juice

3/4 cup unsalted butter, cut in chunks


7 to 9 large apples, peeled, cored and pared

1 cup white sugar

¼ teaspoon cinnamon

2 tablespoons lemon juice


2 tablespoons flour

Line the bottom of a 9-inch pie plate with prepared pastry dough. Set aside.

For the crumb topping, combine flour, brown sugar, white sugar, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, a pinch of salt, vanilla and lemon juice in a food processor. Add the butter chunks; process to make a mealy mixture. Set aside.

For filling, toss apples with sugar, cinnamon, lemon juice, a pinch of cloves and 2 tablespoons flour. Mound apples into shell. Top with the crumb topping, patting slightly to make it adhere.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper to catch any spills from the pie. Place pie on baking sheet and bake it in preheated 425-degree oven for 15 minutes, then reduce temperature to 350 degrees and bake for another 25 to 35 minutes, until juices are bubbling and it smells more like pie than fresh apples. Cool and serve. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Orange-scented raisin pie

This is one of the classic pies of all time.

Dough for 1 (9-inch) double-crust pie

2 cups yellow raisins

⅓ cup brown raisins

3/4 cup light brown sugar

3 tablespoons cornstarch

⅓ cup orange juice

Zest of one medium orange, minced

3 tablespoons lemon juice

1 egg, lightly beaten


Line the bottom of an 8- or 9-inch pie plate with prepared pastry dough.

Plump both yellow and brown raisins by soaking in hot water for 30 minutes.

While raisins are soaking, combine sugar, cornstarch, 1½ cups water, orange juice and zest, and lemon juice in a medium saucepan over low heat.

Increase heat to medium-high, and stir until mixture begins to thicken. Stir in raisins; allow mixture to gently bubble. (If mixture cooks too quickly, reduce heat or remove from heat. Do not allow bottom of pan to scorch.) Spoon raisin filling onto a plate, and refrigerate to cool quickly for 15 to 20 minutes in the refrigerator. (This also helps it thicken.) Ladle into prepared pie shell. Install top crust. Decorate with pastry shapes cut from leftover rolled dough, if desired.

Brush with beaten egg, and sprinkle with sugar. Cut some steam vents with a paring knife. Bake in 400-degree oven until golden brown, about 40 to 45 minutes. Let pie stand 15 minutes before serving. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Blueberry pie

The combination of fresh and frozen berries makes this pie interesting, but you may use all fresh berries if you prefer.

Dough for a 9-inch double-crust pie

2 cups fresh blueberries

2½ cups frozen blueberries

3/4 cup sugar

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon flour

2 tablespoons cornstarch

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, in small bits



Line the bottom of a 9-inch pie plate with pastry dough. Set aside.

In a large bowl, toss together fresh and frozen blueberries, sugar, lemon juice, flour, cornstarch, and unsalted butter. Spoon into prepared pie shell. Dab rim of shell with water. This will help attach top crust to bottom. Roll out top crust, and arrange it over filling. Crimp sides. Brush top and edges with milk, and then sprinkle with a little sugar. Make vents in top.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper to catch any spills from the pie. Place pie on baking sheet on lowest rack of preheated 400-degree oven for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 375 degrees and continue baking 20 to 30 more minutes or until golden brown. Cool and serve. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Country fair master pie pastry

This recipe yields a large batch of easy-to-work pie dough. Lemon juice tenderizes the dough, and an egg adds color and flavor and assists with browning.

You may use vegetable shortening exclusively, but, for more flavor, use the amount of butter suggested. This is a good pastry for almost any filling. It is best made by hand, but instructions are included for a food processor.

4 cups unbleached flour

1 cup very cold vegetable shortening

1 cup very cold unsalted butter, cut in chunks

1 egg

2½ teaspoons sugar

1½ teaspoons salt

1 tablespoon lemon juice

½ cup ice water

To make by hand, place flour in a large mixing bowl. Cut in shortening and butter until mixture is a crumbly, uneven mixture of small and large lumps of flour-covered fat. Stir together egg, sugar, salt and lemon juice. Make a well in center of the flour mixture, stir in egg mixture, and drizzle in most of the ice water. Using a fork or your fingers, toss mixture together to moisten flour. Stir to make a soft mass, and pat it into a dough. Add remaining (or additional) ice water as required to make sure dough sticks together.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead briefly into a smooth dough. Divide dough in half and place in heavy-duty resealable plastic bags, labeling each portion, and refrigerate at least 1 hour, if using immediately, or up to three days. Or the dough can be frozen for up to three months. (To defrost, leave in refrigerator overnight, leave on counter for two hours or microwave on high for 45 to 90 seconds. Remember to check to make sure dough is defrosting but not getting too soft.)

To make by food processor (this recipe requires a large-capacity food processor), place flour, sugar and salt in processor bowl.

Add shortening and butter chunks; pulse until fat is coarsely dispersed into flour. Remove cover, and sprinkle on most of water and all of egg, sugar and lemon juice. Pulse to make a rough mass of dough. Add remaining (or additional) ice water as required to make sure dough sticks together.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead briefly into a smooth dough. Divide dough in half and place in heavy-duty resealable plastic bags, labeling each portion, and refrigerate at least 1 hour, if using immediately, or up to three days. Or the dough can be frozen for up to three months.

This makes enough dough for 2 9-inch double pie crusts plus 1 8- or 9-inch single crust.

Marcy Goldman runs the Web site www.betterbaking.com.

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