In a previous post, I presented three common types of pastry crust used in the 18th century: the standing crust, the puff paste, and the short paste. These are fairly broad categories of crusts, and recipes for numerous variations for each have been published across the spectrum of 18th century cookbooks.
In the video above, Jon uses one variation of the standing crust to make a pork pie. It uses rendered suet for it’s fat ingredient.
The pork pie recipe we used is from Maria Eliza Rundel’s 1807 book, “A New System of Domestic Cookery.”
Rundel’s recipe is for a larger standing pie. She recommends baking it in a slow oven because of the amount and density of the meat filling.
The final addition of a lear or a gelatin gravy (omitted in Rundel’s recipe) is based on the very common 18th century practice of adding gravies, i.e., broths, caudles (thickened broths), or gelatin gravies, to pies after they are baked.
Also contrary to Rundel’s recipe, we made our pies individual-serving size. There are many period cookbooks that suggest such meat pies can be made large or small. We’ve down-sized the recipe below to make two of these smaller versions.
Rundel’s recipe may be an ancestral version of the modern traditional Melton-Mowbray pies that are still very popular in portions of the U.K. today. Regardless of whether the Melton-mowbray pie can be traced specifically to this recipe or not, it is easy to conclude that the famed pies have roots which date back to at least the late 18th century.
Meat Pies were not constrained to standing crusts. Puff pastes or even short crusts can be used as well. Richard Briggs in his 1788 cookbook, “The English Art of Cookery,” when speaking of a wide variety of meat pies, suggests this:
The most fascinating aspect of our experiments with standing crusts was the differences we noticed in the effects that various types of fat had on the crust. Butter, lard, and muscle fat (what is commonly referred to in period books as “drippings”) do not set up solid at room temperature as suet does. Consequently, standing crusts made with these fats or any combination of them can be worked even when cold. Crusts made with suet, however, must be work when the dough is hot. The moment the dough cools down, any attempt to work it will cause it to crack.
By the way, if you’re concerned about using suet and whether it may contribute a meaty flavor to your crust, it is my experience that properly rendered suet imparts the least amount of flavor to a crust than any of the other fats.
So here are the ingredients we used, proportioned for two generously-portioned individual-serving pork pies (two people can easily be filled with one of these pies, however, you may find yourself somewhat unwilling to share). The video at the beginning of this post will explain the directions.
For the Crust:
6T rendered suet
1/2c plus 2T water
1 egg plus 1t Water, beaten, for egg wash
Be sure to watch the video below on how to form a small standing crust. We used a drinking glass for our a mold, however, pie dollies are available on line. If you choose to use rendered suet instead of the lard/butter combination we used in the video, be sure to form your crusts while the dough is hot. If the dough grows too cold to work, microwave the dough for a few seconds or cover the dough and set it near the fire.
For the Filling:
1 Pound Pork Shoulder, trimmed of fat and silver skin, and coarsely chopped
1/2 t Salt
1 t Black Pepper, ground
For the Lear (Gelatin Gravy)
1 Pig’s foot (have it quartered by your butcher)
enough water to cover
2 packets of Unflavored Gelatin
1-1/2 c water
30 years ago I was stationed in England at a RAF base outside of Brandon. I fell in love with pork pies and missed them terribly over the years. I have tried many internet recipies all with failure, yours hits the mark. Now I bake a few each weekend to take to work nad remember many meals spent in small pubs with good freinds.
Hi Chip. You’ve already made my day (and it’s early)!
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As a tinner and an 18thC re enactor, I have used and enjoyed these meals at various events, and have shared your recepes ? with credit, freely. Of course, my fillings differ a bit from yours as I make free use of mushroom ketchup, onion and garlic.
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Apparently your link to the Melton-Mobry pies no longer works. Here’s a new link to what I assume is the same information:
I was going to make a standing pie and I forgot that I needed to boil the butter/lard mix. Instead, I just made regular pie crust, does the boiling of the fats make a difference in how sturdy the crust will be?
Boiling really does make a difference. A regular short-crust type pastry will not have the strength.
I just tried this recipe a few nights ago and it was very good. Now i’m thinking of all the things I can stuff in these pies. Thank you for the recipe.
Let me save you some time.
Pork works well as does beef (leaner cuts), veal, chicken and venison (anything wild, my favorite)
Seasonings make the dish I make liberal use of dried onion and garlic as well as sage, savory, etc
Nutmeg, ginger and a touch of cinnamon and sage are for chicken. Don’t forget mushrooms!
I use a rich broth (usually beef) for the crust as this is my bread ration for the day. This ration is good for 12hrs plus.
I find if I make the crust on the stiff side it holds its shape in cooking. I nuke it for 20/30 sec before forming to make it more pliable.
Fish, in any incarnation, does not work.( I went hungry that day)
Hope this helps