Monday, June 22, 2009

Pork Tart

Meat pies are something that is not done enough in the U.S. That's a shame because meat pies are amazing -- rich and filling. And they are really, really easy to make.

I found a really good recipe for pork filling in a book called Curye on Inglysch. The book is a collection of fourteenth century recipes. The pie dough is from Two Fifteenth Century Cookery Books. However, these cook books provide two big challenges:
  1. These recipes are written in Middle English. If you read the text aloud, sounding it out exactly as it is spelled, you will understand most of it. You do need a Middle English translation dictionary ( is pretty good).

  2. Like most of the recipes, some key information is missing -- most notably quantities. With a little experimentation, most of the recipes can be worked out.
I got lucky on this one; I got it in the first try!

Pork Filling

Original Recipe
Curye on Inglysch, Page 136, Recipe 172
Tartee. Take pork ysode; hewe it and bray it. Do Þerto ayren, raisouns courauns, sugur and powdour of ginger, powdour douce and smale brides Þeramong, & white grece. Take prunes, safroun, & salt; and make a crust in a trap, & do Þe fars Þerin; & bake it wel & serue it forth.
Explanation in Modern Terms
Tarte. Take boiled pork, chop it and grind it. Add egg, currants, sugar, and ginger powder, powder douce and small birds there-among, and lard. Take prunes, saffron, and salt and make a crust in a trap and put the meat and bake well and serve forth.
I used the Medieval English Dictionary found at, and the translations provided in the index of Curye on Inglysch to translate what the following terms meant.
  • Ysode – to seethe, to boil

  • Bray – to grind or to pound. In this context, to grind the meat made sense.

  • Ayren – eggs

  • Brides – birds

  • Trap – a dish to lay the crust in.
Note that no instructions for the dough that this should be served in is given. I looked at several other recipes of the same time period to find one that would be appropriate.

Pork Filling Recreation
2 lbs Pork
3 Eggs, large
½ cup Currants
1 tbsp Sugar
1 tsp Ginger
Powder Douce: (I hand ground these as that is how they were treated in medieval times)
1 stick cinnamon
1/8 nut of nutmeg
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp Salt
1 Cornish Hen
¼ tsp Saffron
1 tbp Bacon fat
Pie Dough (enough for a top and a bottom crust)

Roll pie dough and lay in a dish ~1 inch deep.

Chop the pork into small bits. Debone and chop Cornish hen in small pieces. Mix meats and salt and let sit for 10 minutes. Add egg, currants, spices, and fat and mix.

Put mixture in the pie shell and bake at 350° until done (170° or until the egg has set, approximately 45 minutes to an hour).

Deviations from Original Recipe

I didn’t boil the pork. Often boiling meat leads to a loss of moisture and fat. Since modern pigs are being bred for leanness, I decided not to boil the pork.

Braying in Middle English means to pound or to grind. I decided to chop the pork into small pieces that would provide a firmer texture than a grind might. I thought this would appeal to a more modern sense an appropriate texture of meat.

The recipe only specifies “powder douce” or sweet powder. Some recipes I’ve seen for powder douce (and for powder forte) use upwards of 15 ingredients, including ginger and sugar. Since both are included in the recipe on their own right, I decided to go with a simpler powder douce that would complement the flavor of the pork.

I removed the prunes. I don’t particularly care for their flavor on their own and didn’t think they would complement the meat and spices as well as I would like. In addition, while the medieval palate is for a sweeter, more fruity mix (in part to stretch the number of servings of meat), I prefer less fruit with my meat.

Pie Dough

Original Recipe
Two Fifteenth Century Cookery Books, Page 74, sn. Pety Pernantes
Pety Pernantes. Take fair floure, Sugur, Saffron, and salt, and make paast Þer-of; then make small coffins then cast in eche a coffin iij or iiij raw yolkes of egges hole, and ij gobbets or iij of Mary couche Þerin; Þen take powder of ginger, Sugur, Reysons of Corans, and cast above; Þen cover the coffin with a lyd of Þe same paste; then bake hem in a oven, or elles fry hen in fair grece fresh, And then serve hit forthe.

Explanation in Modern Terms
As this recipe is for an egg and meat pie, it is appropriate for the pork pie filling as well. I am only using the pie dough (or paste) from this recipe:
Take fair flour, sugar, saffron, and salt and make paste there of. Then make small coffins…then cover the coffin with a lid of the same paste, then bake them in an oven or else fry them in fresh grease. And then serve it forth.

Note this recipe does not instruct the cook to use water or any other fluid to make the paste. However, fluid must be added to the dry ingredients to get a paste.
Pie Dough Recreation
20 oz Flour
¼ lb Butter (room temperature)
¼ tsp Salt
¼ tsp Saffron
1 tsp Sugar
1 cup Water (plus/minus 2 tsp, depending on the dryness of the flour and the humidity of the air)

Mix the flour and butter together by rubbing it between the hands until the mixture becomes mealy. Mix the remaining dry ingredients together and add to the flour/butter mixture. Add water, starting with ¾ cup and adding in teaspoon increments until the dough forms a ball that is slightly tacky to the touch (like a baby’s bottom).

Roll out the dough to fit the pan. Fill pie with filling and cover with second crust.
Deviations from the Original Recipe
As I stated above, the recipe does not call for any fluids to be added to the dry ingredients; however, you can not make paste from those ingredients without fluid. Therefore I added water.

In addition, the recipe doesn’t call for any fats. However, later period recipes (Markham, 1986, p. 96; Dawson, 1596, p. 11) call for fat (and sometimes eggs) in pie doughs.

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