The view of the Hudson River Valley shown above was taken from near Hyde Park, New York, looking northwest over the river toward the Catskill Mountains. This is the heartland of the Dutch colonial experience in North America. Today the area is home to great historic estates such as the Roosevelts’ Springwood and the Vanderbilt mansion, both at Hyde Park, and the Astors’ Ferncliff at Rhinebeck. But in the mid 17th century the valley of the Hudson (in those pre-British days known as the North River, or Noordrivier in Dutch) was represented, in terms of Europeans, by only a few handfuls of scattered farmers and by small numbers of soldiers manning some remote and primitive forts. I know of no Dutch colonial equivalent for the New England tradition of Thanksgiving, but the recipe that follows is my own contribution to the dessert course of a Hudson River Valley holiday feast. It’s perfect for the season, when the applesauce has been made and stored away, and when the aromas of spices and baking pastry should cheer even the crispest and hardiest of Hudson River Valley days.
Dutch Cream Cheese and Applesauce Pie
2 eight ounce packages of cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup flour
1 cup gravenstein applesauce
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
salt to taste
Combine all ingredients in large bowl until smooth, pour into unbaked pie shell and bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit until set, about 45 minutes, but be careful not to burn the pastry. Cool completely. Serve with unsweetened whipped cream and a sweet compote made from stewed fruits such as prunes, apricots, etc.