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At the crossroads of sweet and savory... Part II - Micole Khemarrica
khromat
khromat
At the crossroads of sweet and savory... Part II
The Renaissance journal from which my 1604 mincemeat came from had a recipe just below it for Mutton Pie. As Hillary Spurling described it, the two recipes are two sides of the same coin and show how on the one hand the sweets like modern mincemeat sprang and the other the ancestor to modern meat pasties.

As I had strived to make my batches of mincemeat small enough to be useable, I ended up having a large chunk of boneless lamb leg to deal with. Not being large enough to simply roast, I decided to try the Mutton Pie recipe.

Now, I've made standing meat pies from this book before -- my "Rabbit Pye" was a multi-award winner at the Renaissance Cooking competition, and earned me several proposals of tent space and a couple offers of marriage from Pennsic (I was not there to receive it, I sent a pye along with a friend to share) -- and understood some of the oddities of using a Renaissance recipe that's been redacted to modern British measurements. In a case of irony, the British Pint and the American Pint became different sizes 200 years after the Renaissance... so I had to *re-redact* the recipe to get proper volumes (the American pint is 16 ounces, the British pint is 20 ounces... thankfully, the size of an ounce isn't different between the two systems). To make matters more interesting, the lamb meat I had did not fit into an even multiple or fraction of the recipe... so while I scaled the recipe to match the amount of meat, some of the other ingredients were amusingly fractional -- 3.66 hardboiled eggs, for example.

My one big mistake was not making fresh pastry dough for this pie: I took out a couple of disks of dough I made earlier in the week. This may not seem a large deal, as the total dough was the same as I needed for the recipe, but I had forgotten what I had done for dough in making the rabbit pies; Instead of dividing the dough into two even disks, I had cut it so one disk was 2/3 and the other 1/3. This is to properly line a cheesecake mold rather than a pie pan so after baking it could freely stand. This bit of info is important: pie dough cannot just be flattened then balled up again to be rolled out -- too much handling will build up the gluten strands and make the pie dough shrink in the baking along with being tough instead of flaky. I sliced off a section of the second disk to try and repair the bottom crust, but it became obvious after baking that I had overworked that section.

The mutton pie of the Renaissance, being similar to the mincemeat pie, used beef suet and spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger. Moving away from the rest of that medieval tradition, the Renaissance version added fresh marjoram, thyme, and parsley to the mix. Unlike modern British meat pies, there's no gravy, onions and mushrooms... the medieval pies were very dry, the Renaissance one being improved with a little added stock. Between the stock and the lamb juices coming out during the long baking, the repaired section of lower crust failed. When I pulled out the pie, it was leaking. Auugh.

In spite of the poor presentation of a standing meat pie with only 1/2 its bottom crust intact, the pie itself tasted great and the whole family enjoyed it (even the finicky skunk). So, the experiment was a success and I will be making this recipe again sometime -- with appropriate notes to correct my bad memory. :)

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