It seems everyone & their mother has made an 18th Century Cheshire Pork pie at some point. The origin of this pie's popularity likely comes from it being featured on Colonial Williamsburgs "History is Served" website. Popular among reenactors, would-be historic foodies & the occasional Anglophile, History is Served offers modern redactions of historic recipes from the 18th century. In this way it is useful for folks wanting to try something historic, while still using readily found ingredients, tools & standard measurements.
Although the original isn't particularly difficult, the Williamsburg's Cheshire pork pie is one of the most popular recipes from the site. Don't just take my word for it, check out Revolutionary Pie's version, 19th Century Cookery's take and The Regiment Cooksite's review. Those don't even take into account the folks, like me, who worked from the various historic versions as well, like Bite from the Past & The Historic Cookbook Trials.
I have an unnatural love for making pie in camp, as I'm sure those of you who have been following Slightly Obsessed over the last 7 years may have noticed. My first camp pie experience came on a whim. I simply had nothing special to do in camp that day, the coffeehouse was still in its infancy & there were no school children to educate. Instead I decided that I simply had to make a pie, despite not having a single ingredient or even a formal recipe beyond what I remembered from a very brief reading. The result was amazingly tasty & I'm afraid the success spoiled me for ever baking a pie any other way!
When it came time to make this most recent pie, I can at least say I was a bit more prepared. I have started hosting friends for dinners in the coffeehouse on Friday evenings. It's a nice way to begin the weekend; those of us who have been demonstrating at the school days are ready to sit back & relax after the hectic day & those that are just getting into camp are always happy to have dinner plans already taken care of by someone else while they tend to their own chores. So I knew that Mr. McF--- & his lovely wife would be joining me on this particularly cold & damp October evening. What better than a warm pie & a glass of shrub to warm up the evening with friends?
The Widow's Rogue Version of a Cheshire Pork Pie
- Pork shoulder roast left over from a previous dinner.
- A couple of potatoes from the coffeehouse larder.
- Some apples, because you always have a few rolling around in camp.
- A Splash of white wine & an extensive conversation with the new servant Jane on what constitutes a proper splash.
- A pinch of Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Mace, Salt, Pepper & what ever other spices sound good at the time.
- 1 batch of "The Only Pie Crust I Know By Heart".
|A Cheshire pork pie waiting for baking.|
Get a good solid fire & base of coals going.
Dice & fry the pork in a bit of butter if it needs it. Cook only until it is no longer pink but not so long that it becomes dry. Historic recipes tend to put the pork directly into the pie but we can't completely forget modern food safety.
While the pork is cooking, slice the potatoes & apples. Make sure to feed a few of those apple slices to the 3 year old who is now starving after a day of playing in camp & can't wait for formal dinner time.
Make a double pie crust. I have a standard pie crust memorized & can duplicate it in camp, whenever the whim strikes. Use what ever is your favorite.
Get to assembling your pie, finally!
Lay 1 crust in the bottom of your pie plate. Pile in as much of the pork, apples & potatoes as you can comfortably fit into the plate. This will cook down, but not by much so keep that in mind when filling.
Sprinkle your seasonings over the filling. We used salt, pepper, cinnamon & nutmeg but sage might have been a nice choice.
Add a splash of white wine, just enough to add a little moisture to the filling mix but not so much that it leaves the pie crust soggy. My servant insists this amount is "2-3 tablespoons" but I refuse to be that scientific about my cooking. While you are at it, add the remaining white wine to the very large bottle of shrub waiting for the evenings revelry.
Cover your pie with the second pie crust & decorate according to your personal preference & the quality of the expected dinner guests. I went with a very simple fork pressed edge & a few venting slits on the top, pretty but practical for a meal with the local distiller & his wife.
Set-up your bake kettle with a trivet in the bottom to prevent the pie bottom from coming in direct contact with the hot kettle. Place the prepared pie into the kettle & cover, topping with a few hot coals.
Rotate the kettle & lid in opposite directions in roughly 15 minute increments to ensure even baking. Check the pie after 30-45 minutes, depending on the strength of the fire. Our pie was finished, in fact a little burned on one corner, after only 45 minutes. However, it could take as much as an hour & a half, so be patient.
Remove from the fire, serve & enjoy.