This post is about pie.
One might wonder how pie fits into the medieval hunt? Or if this is just a thinly veiled attempt to sneak in some foodblogging.
Well, pie this sort of pie, allegedly, has very much to do with the medieval hunt. I will have to say allegedly as my first hand sources are shady, unprecise and uncertain. We do venture into these not to well researched topics at time.. but we try to make it clear how and why we think it is interesting.
Pie was a common food in the 14:th century.
It was a way to preserve a dish, as well as a way to serve it in a selfcontaning bowl. Streetvendors sold pie as a snack for busy townsfolk. They came in big sizes, or smaller, cupsized, but they where all made as ‘standing crust pies’. The bread of the pie was not really meant to be eaten, even if you very well can, but its main purpose is to hold the stuffing. If the pie was made as a way to preserve, fat was poured the stuffing over and made to harden.
Numble pie, a hunters pie.
Sometimes referred to as ‘Humble pie’, this was a pie made of the ‘numbles’. Numbles where the innards of the animal and was considered the right of the hunter (in the same way the head was considered the right of the Limerdog).
There is scarce mentioning about this in medieval sources though. In the 1920 edition of “master of game”, the 15th Century huntbook, they say this in the appendix.
NUMBLES. M. E. nombles, noumbles ; O. F. nombles.
The parts of a deer between the thighs, that is to say,
the liver and kidneys and entrails. Part, and sometimes
the whole of the numbles were considered the right of
the huntsman ; sometimes the huntsman only got the
kidneys, and the rest was put aside with the tit-bits re-
served for the King or chief personage (Turb., pp. 128-
129). Numbles by loss of the initial letter became
umbles (Harrison, vol. i. p. 309), and was sometimes
written numbles, whence came ” humble pie,” now only
associated with the word humble. Humble pie was a pie
made of the umbles or numbles of the deer, and formerly
at hunting feasts was set before the huntsman and his
So…. in hunterreecreation reenacting at least, this pie is common. Therefore I wanted to make one for St. Eustace day.
The pies of the middle ages where of the kind we call ‘standing crust’. This is a bit different from the modern ones we do that requires a Shell to hold it.It was the first time i tried my hand at these standing crust thingies As a guide I used Jas Townsends great tutorial. So.. if you want you can just skip to that and have a look here….
…but if you decide to hear my ramblings on it I will continue.
How I did it
The crust of these pies are not really meant to be eaten. They just hold the stuff. This means they are not made to be tasty.
The key to standing crust pies are to melt the fat and the water together.
There are several options to fat in the middle ages. Suet, Lard, Butter and perhaps oil in some areas (i have no idea if oil works in these pies though…). Suet might be a suitable option considering it is a hunters pie. Lard might be a good choice as it becomes harder and is common in middleages.
I had both lard and butter at home. At first i was tempted to go with the lard.. as this kinda feels ‘old’. But Sweden was a major producer of butter during medieval times. Even exporting it. Copper iron and butter was the base of the economy, there is even a saying: Not for all the butter in Småland, Meaning not to any price, no matter how high.
With this in mind I thought that butter might be the logic choice…
So, into a pot goes butter and water.
As this pie was supposed to be ‘humble’ i did not want to use pure wheat flour. Especially up here wheat was hard to grow and was considered a bit of luxury quite far up in history. I opted in on a mix, mixing rye flour as this was a common crop here then. It also gave a more rough texture to the dough.
The flour and fatwater was mixed with one egg and an extra yoke (the White was needed later…). No salt or other was used. Remember, this is not supposed to be a tasty dough…
After being worked the dough was cut into three parts. these are the lid, the side and the bottom. The dough is quite pliable, resembling play-do in texture. when rolled and shaped.. it stays that way. This makes it very well suited for making decorations.
The side was made to the size that I judged convenient, in a thickness that seemed self supporting. It was then glued to the bottom using the eggwhite saved from earlier.
Some fitting decorations of the Eustace hart was cut and glued to the lid (using the eggwhite once again)
Now the whole contraption was to be put into the Owen to bake. I used Jas trick of pouring rice inside. Even if this is nor a medieval method I didn’t Think it would add or subtract much in correctness really. The dry rice is poured in to support the sides while baking so they don’t collapse. after the pie is baked it is poured out again. The lid was baked on the side of the crust until I thought that it looked abit like it would be ready.
When all parts where made, it was time to give the filling some thought.
I had already decided to keep it simple. I had a liver from a hart. I did not want to use what would then have been expensive Spices. So no salt or pepper. I did think thyme would be appropriate though, as this was commonly grown here. I also added an onion. I like onions.
So.. liver from deer, thyme, and some unions. Thats it. I also added an egg later on as I needed something to hold it together..or so I thought.
I actually didn’t think it would be very tasty. I was fully prepared that this was probably going to be eaten by the dogs at the actual picknick since none would stomach my unspiced liver pie.
The filling was fried up as i didnt quite know if it would get hot enough inside the pirecrust. I was thinking that if liverpie didnt sound tasty, half raw liver pie sounded even less tasty.
After the filling was in, the lid was glued on with eggwhite and into the owen it went again. For… a while, until it looked good enough.
I also decided to try and make a smaller pie of the leftover dough. To make this I just moulded the crust over a glass. After this I removed the glass and made a filling of red onion, white wine and cheese. This lil feller was then put in alongside the big gamepie. This size seems to have been common especially with the street vendors. its also a good size to have along for a snack when out in the forest. the standing crust makes it easy to pack.
The pies did not fall apart, fall over, or fall in on them self, as I half feared that they would. instead they hold up just splendidly and came out looking swell. I was not sure about the taste though (I was on the small pie as I had eaten some of its filling and it was awesome!). The smaller pie had expanded slightly and had a small gap between lid and wall, but this was mostly because it was stuffed to tight and that the cheese had bubbled up and out.
Eating the pie
Then came the big day. The pie was hauled out and set on a blanket for the gathering of the hunters. The lid was popped with a wooden spoon and a greenish mass showed up. I ladled on a helping onto my bowl and saw the dog looking at me very hopefully. Both her and I thought that her time to feast had come.
But it actually tasted quite good. The taste of liver was not that strong and the thyme really lifted the dish. The Dog got to eat the bottom of the crust eventually… but by then she had stolen so much other food she barely could muster any disappointment about not getting the whole.
It wasn’t very hard to do, and it also did not take long. It turned out tastier then suspected and I am sure I will do it again. Small pies might well be made for snacks on our outings, but maybe not with liver.
I recommend making this pie for your picknicks. Its easy to make, and easy to transport.