The magazine “Medieval History” had an article about making meat pies in.. issue 5 I think (NOTE: Article by same author here: http://cunnan.sca.org.au/upload/1/18/Pyes_de_pares.pdf). It was a very interesting article. The author said that in period pies or coffins were used instead of canning. Essentially, the pie shell was so thick and totally sealed that it kept the food good for -weeks-. That’s very cool. I want to try camping without a cooler.. and keeping a pie good for a couple weeks seems like a good way to do it.
Before March Crown I attempted to follow their pie crust recipe. I ended up with something equivalent to moderately wet sand. It wouldn’t roll out. It wouldn’t mold into a reasonable pie shell. All in all it was a very very big let down.
I’m still very interested in trying it. I decided I’d start out with Mom’s pie crust(the pie crust I’ve made for years and is very very dependable).. and modify that as seems appropriate. So this last weekend I started with Mom’s pie crust.. and a general pie recipe found in “The Good Huswifes Jewell” found here:
To make a pie
First perboyle your flesh and presse it and when it is pressed, season it with pepper and salt whilest it is hot, then larde it make your paste of Rie flower: it must bee verye thick, or else it will not hold, when it is seasoned and larded laye it in your pie, then cast on it before you close it a good deale of Cloves and Mace beaten small, and throwe uppon that a good deale of Butter, and so close it up: you must leave a hole in the top of the lid, & when it hath stoode two houres in the oven, you must fill it as full of Vineger as you can, and then stoppe the hole as close as you can with paste, and then set it into the Oven againe: your Oven must be very whot as the first, and that your pies will keepe a greate while, the longer you keepe them, the better they will bee: when they bee taken out of the Oven and almost colde, you muste make them betweene your handes, and set them with the bottome upwarde, and when you set them into the Oven, bee well ware that one pye toucheth not an other my more than ones hand bredth: Remember also to let them stand in the Oven after the vineger be in two houres and more.
Steps I followed:
Boil water. Cut a flank steak up into 1″ square cubes. Boil for 1 minute. Drain and press. Salt and pepper to taste. Mix with lard (I made lard by making myself a bacon sandwich for lunch)(I’m not sure how much lard I used.. enought to coat all the meat with a little bit juicy left over). Set asside.
Mix up pie crust.
Mix 2 cups flour with 1 teaspoon salt. Cut 2/3 cup butter flavored crisco into dry mix until it resembles cornmeal. Add water 1 tablespoon at a time mixing until most of the wet mix forms a ball.
(I meant to add 3 egg yolks to the mix but I forgot until after I was done. The egg yolks yellow the crust more and makes it much more elastic)
Knead 2-3 times until it forms a solid ball. Divide dough in half. Roll dough out somewhat and then use finger to pinch sides up to form sides of pie. Keep pressing and pinching until the pie is big enough to hold your filling. Transfer coffin to cookie sheet for baking (I used a pizza pan with a lip to catch any drippings. There weren’t any drippings.. and if you do it right there won’t be any drippings.. but it’s better safe…). Put filling in coffin. Roll out the other 1/2 of the dough for the crust of the pie. Cover top of the pie. Pinch off the edges until the top fits the pie. Retain about a handful of dough for later. Pinch the edges of the coffin so it bonds tightly with the top crust(wet it if necessary to get a good seal). Put a hole in the top crust (needs to be big enough to pour into).
Bake at 225F for 2 hours. Pour vinegar in hole to fill pie. Jostle pie and keep filling until it can’t take any more (I used sherry cooking vinegar). Stop up hole with left over dough. Use a lot. It has to seal the pie closed. Cook for 30 mins at 350F. Cook for 30 mins at 225F. Shut off oven and leave pie in oven until it’s cool (approximately 1 more hour). Store pie upside down.
The recipe says this keeps for a while. I was hungry so I cut into it while it was still a bit warm. I found that the filling is very salty. I think this is because I used bacon grease and “cooking vinegar”. Next time I’ll try it with tallow instead and maybe verjuice (cooking vinegar is very high in salt). Although I filled the pie up with a lot of vinegar there really wasn’t very much juice left over when I cut into it. The meat which had started off as very tough and very tasteless when I boiled it is now tasty and falling apart.
I think I’ll try chicken later this week. Not sure where to find tallow though…