(CNN) — March 14 is Pi Day in honor of the first three digits of the mathematical constant π (3.1415…). But it’s also a flimsy, yet delicious, excuse to celebrate a sustainable culinary concept: the many edible varieties of pie around the world.
Classic American apple and cherry varieties might be the first dishes that come to mind when the word “pie” is mentioned. But these are just a slice of the sweet and savory pies available to baking lovers from Florida to the Philippines.
According to the broad definition of a pie as filled and baked pastry, history has provided a wide range of pies. Egyptian hieroglyphs show pastries filled with honey, nuts and fruit, while the ancient Greeks and Romans supped on free-form pies filled with both sweets and meats.
From there, the world of pies only grew. Try some of these international pies when you travel or make your own at home.
In ancient Rome, the first meat pies used the dough simply as a container to preserve the tenderness of the meat, not to eat with the filling. It took a few centuries (and recipe improvements) for the idea of eating the meat crust and filling to catch on.
The British and their colonies seem to have perfected the art of meat pie. Steak and beer pie is a pub favorite and has its roots in medieval pies, which used local meats, game and vegetables in a pastry crust.
meat pie is a hearty French-Canadian meat pie traditionally filled with ground pork and served during the Christmas season. A salmon version meat pie is common for those who grew up along the coast.
In Australia and in New Zealand, meat pies split the difference between a traditional pie and a hand pie: round, double-crust pies sized to be single-serving meals. Beef and gravy is the most common filling for these pies, which are often topped with ketchup or tomato sauce.
Speaking of meat pies, their ingenuity spans the globe. Cornish pasties were popularized as food for miners, but are now so popular that they are protected by geographical origin.
Jamaican beef patties and Nigerian meat pies are similar, but the Jamaican flatbread is differentiated by its turmeric-infused golden crust and spicy filling.
And empanadasoriginating in Galicia, Spain, are consumed throughout Latin America and the Philippines, among others.
Other savory pies
As one of the birthplaces of the pie, Greek cuisine has its share of sweet and savory pies to choose. The spanakopita is one of the best known, with a spinach and feta filling in a flaky phyllo pastry, but there is also its cousin the hortopita, made with wild green vegetables; tiropita, a savory cheese pie; and maridopita, a fish pie.
Layers of puff pastry phyllo also form the crust for albanian burek or byrek, savory pies that can be filled with everything from ground meat to spinach and cheese. The tomato and onion version of this pie is often known as albanian pizzalayering of caramelized onions and candied tomatoes.
Sweet and savory pies
While meat pies were the norm for much of the pie’s early history, the spices used in many of these pastries bridged the gap between savory and sweet.
Pastilla, a Moroccan pie which also bears the name of bisteeya or bstilla, is a spicy pie that combines poultry, almonds and eggs. Although pigeon or squab has been the traditional fowl of choice, easier modern versions are replacing chicken in the pie.
If you know the puffy texture of corn spoon bread or corn pudding, sweet corn cream pie is a step further in the direction of desserts. Adding fresh corn kernels to a sweet custard or chess pie is a common theme for bakers and gardeners making the most of late summer produce.
Forget four and twenty blackbirds – if it grows on a tree, it can probably be baked into a pie. Fruit pies are one of the best ways to enjoy seasonal produce.
Some of the well-known fruit pies in North America today originate from settlers who brought seeds from Europe or added ingredients native to North America to their baking traditions.
Rhubarb became a popular pie filling in New England in the 1820s and spread south and west with the population. Concord Raisin Pie uses the juicy, dark-skinned grapes native to North America (yes, those in every kid’s favorite jelly pot).
Persimmon pies can be found in family recipe files throughout the eastern United States, taking advantage of another native fruit that can be grown as far west as Iowa and as far north as Connecticut. With a texture similar to pumpkin pie, it’s no wonder this is a perfect pie for the fall harvest season.
Apple pie is hallowed as the quintessential American pie – as Jack Kerouac wrote in “On the Road”: “I ate another apple pie and ice cream; that’s pretty much all I I’ve eaten across the country.”
But apple pie has its roots in Europe, with many of the apple varieties we know today being imported to the North American continent.
Vlaai are Dutch fruit pies made with yeast brioche style dough instead of the usual buttery pastry crust. Although they can be filled with fruit, such as apricots, plums and cherries, a Hollandais callvlaai bridges the traditions of Old and New World desserts.
Other sweet pies
If baked fruit fillings aren’t your favorite, let creamy filling pies fulfill your dessert fantasies.
Coconut Cream Pie Fans Should Look For Filipinos buko piea specialty of Lagoon Province. This double-crust pie is filled with strips of buko, or young coconut, suspended in a creamy coconut custard.
The British Banoffee pie is quite modern by pie standards. Created by the chef and owner of The Hungry Monk restaurant in East Sussex, England in the 1970s, it’s now a no-bake classic. The name is a portmanteau of its main ingredients: bananas and caramel sauce. While the original recipe (spelt banoffi) calls for a pastry crust, many iterations use a biscuit or graham cracker crust instead.
The tangy key lime pie is a staple when visiting Key West, Florida, where it is frequently served frozen in a crispy chocolate shell.
Higher up the east coast, Atlantic Beach Pie from North Carolina is a saltier version of fresh citrus pie. Crushed Saltine Crackers form the base of the crust, and a tangy lemon-lime filling gives citrus lovers the best of both worlds.