Saturday, April 1, 2017
SNEAK PEAK: Raised Pies for Riversdale House Museum's Dining Room Display, Spring 2017
A Sneak Peak
Here is a sneak peak look at what I am working on for the Spring 2017 dining room table display at the c. 1801 Riversdale House Museum in Riverdale Park, Maryland.
Though the entire design is not yet complete (stay tuned for that soon), I have been working very hard to feature raised pies once again in the display of faux foods used to depict a dinner worthy of George and Rosalie Calvert, the Master and Mistress of Riversdale.
The pies are called raised or standing pies and therefore the pastry dough used to make these pies must be strong enough to stand alone after they are baked or even also during the baking process. One way to make a raised pie without using a pie tin is to use a pie dolly (form) to help form the shape of the pie. Very thick pastry is a must for this type of pie. Another way to make standing pies is to use large pie tins designed specifically for making the pies. These tins can be plain or have very elaborate designs etched into them. After the pie is baked, the tin is removed and the pie is presented in a free-standing manner.
In a typical meat/game pie, a hole is made in the top center of the pastry to allow steam to vent during the cooking process and to allow a thick gelatin-rich stock or aspic to be poured into the center of the pie after baking is complete to encase and seal the meats once cooled. This was done to keep the meats preserved for several days. After the pie cooled, it was ready for service, and, yes, it was meant to be served cold or at room temperature!
Usually, these pies were filled with cooked and boned fowl, hare and other wild game, domestic meats such as beef, ham, bacon, and forcemeat (like a meatloaf or meatball mixture), and other exotic things, such as truffles, goose liver pate, etc. The fillings were often layered one on top of the other. For example, boned turkey meat would line the bottom of the pie crust, then boned goose meat would be layered on top of that, then additional assorted fowl meat , partridge meat, pigeon meat, or game could be included. The mirror image would sit above the top of the pie dish, making each layer of meat a round casing for the one inside it. The inside would look a bit like a meat bomb!
Decorating These Pies
The sides and/or top of these pies are traditionally ornamented in very beautiful and fashionable ways. The decorations can be made with pastry cut-outs or moulded designs "according to the fancy" of the chef or dinner host/hostess. Many early 19th century British and American recipes give instructions simply "to ornament it" or to "garnish according to fancy." Some recipes are more specific and suggest ornamenting with leaves or flowers. I even found recipes that give the decorator carte blanche in their designs when they instruct to decorate using "vine leaves or any other form," or "figures of any moulds required."
I was fortunate to find some antique decorative moulds designed for culinary use that all date from 1780-1820, the time-period that coincides with the interpretation at Riversdale when George and Rosalie Calvert were living there. These moulds contain an assortment of neo-classical motifs that were quite fashionable at the time, including swags, acanthus leaves, and floral roundels among others. I have used some of these designs in ornamenting the raised pies for the display.
Here are some examples of these period culinary moulds:
"Raised Maccaroni Pie"
I recently made a very interesting discovery in an early 19th century cookbook regarding raised pies. While most raised pies contain meat, I found a recipe from 1806 for a raised pie filled with macaroni in A Complete System of Cookery for Every Day of the Year by John Simpson, Present Cook to the Most Noble the Marquis of Buckingham, (London):
The recipe calls for the pie to be filled with bran before it is baked. After baking, the bran is removed and replaced with cooked macaroni and parmesan cheese. This is a truly unique approach to the idea of a raised pie and therefore is the inspiration for the contents of the central raised pie in the faux food display for the spring 2017 Riversdale House Museum dining room coming up in April.
Note: There are numerous instances of apple pie being served in the spring; therefore, the smaller ones flanking the macaroni-filled pie are to be imagined as apple pies.