Ah, winter. The time of research, respite, and repair. I’ve spent much of it knee-deep in a few different books researching pies in their various forms, so when Lord Olaf Steinabrjotr approached me to make something for Æthelmearc Region One Twelfth Night, I responded with, “How about a pie?” It would, in theory, be the prize for a heavy combat tournament or a feat of strength competition, so I asked myself what typical manly fighter-types like the most. Beef. Bacon. Beer. And probably more bacon.
She uses and redacts a 16th century English recipe from A Propre New Booke of Cokery, 1545, but I found this recipe to be lacking in the spices that my palate craves for this. So I went searching through my beloved resource, The Cookbook of Sabina Welserin (published 1553 — merely 8 years of difference here), and went searching for her own take on beef pies.
Here are the recipes I used for reference:
A Propre New Booke of Cokery, 1545, per Inn at the Crossroads:
To make Pyes.
Pyes of mutton or beif must be fyne mynced & seasoned with pepper and salte and a lytel saffron to colour it, suet or marrow a good quantitie, a lytell vynegre, pruynes, great reasons, and dates, take the fattest of the broath of powdred beefe.
Das Kochbuch der Sabina Welserin, 1553:
120 If you would make a game pie, which should be warm
Lard the game well and cook it and make a formed [pastry] dish and lay in it preserved limes and cinnamon sticks and currants and lay the game therein and also put beef suet into it and a little Malavosia and let it cook. This pie is better warm than cold.
152 To make a good roast
Take veal or a sirloin of beef, lay it overnight in wine, afterwards stick it on a spit. Put it then in a pot. Put good broth therein, onions, wine, spices, pepper, ginger and cloves and let it cook therein. Do not over salt it.
68 To make a quince pie
Peel the quinces and cut the core cleanly out with a knife, fry them in fat. After that stuff the quinces with currants, sugar, cinnamon and cloves. Afterwards take beef marrow or finely chopped kidney suet or skimmed fat from some other meat and put good Malavosia or Reinfal on it, sugar, cinnamon and cloves, however it seems good to you. The dough for the pie is found in number [sixty one].
Given that marrow bones are difficult to come by for me, I opted to follow the Inn at the Crossroads recipe and swap bacon in for it. However, unlike that recipe, I absolutely reserved the bacon fat — though the flavor profile of this pie is inherently different because of the bacon, the richness is still there because of that reserved fat. I added currants, ginger, cloves, and cinnamon to the English recipe, ultimately turning this pie into something inherently more German for the time. I then tucked it all into a standard short paste crust and made a thickened sauce with the plentiful drippings. The end result was much sweeter than I’d anticipated because of the dates, but ultimately exactly what I’d wanted: a hearty 16th century pie.
Astrid’s Beef and Bacon Pie
For the pie:
2 lbs beef roast
6 slices thick-cut bacon, chopped
Handful dried currants
Handful dates, seeded and chopped
32 oz Beef Broth
1/4 c red wine vinegar, approximately
1 c water, approximately
Flour or cornstarch
For 1 crust:
2 c flour, approx.
1 c butter, cubed
- Cube beef, then sear on all sides in pan. Set aside.
- Chop bacon, fry in pot. Do not strain fat. Add beef, dried fruit, spices, beef broth, vinegar and water.
- Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer until liquid is reduced and beef is tender.
- Set the meat and fruit aside, straining all solids from the liquid. Separate about 1/4 c of the liquid from the rest.
- Add flour or cornstarch to thicken, stirring over low heat until desired consistency is reached.
- Prepare short crust (2 batches if you want the crust and a lid), blind-baking the bottom crust at 350*F for 10-15 min.
- Add meat and fruit and the reserved 1/4 c liquid. Cover with lid; press crusts together and poke a hole in the lid.
- Bake at 350*F until crust begins to brown. Add an egg wash and bake for another 5-10 min.
- Pour warmed gravy into the pie through a funnel into the hole in the middle, then serve.