Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Time Travel Cooking: 1796 Minced Pie of Beef

As a food historian I’ve often contemplated cooking up historical recipes but haven’t ever done much to fulfill that desire. So one of my intentions for this summer is to try a new (really old?) recipe at least once a week.

I decided to start off with a recipe from what is regarded as America’s first cookbook. I’ve used Amelia Simmon’s American Cookery (1796) as a historical source before, but I’ve never actually worked with any of the recipes. I’ve also never made a meat pie before, so it seemed like the perfect one to start with.


Here’s the original recipe:

Four pounds of beef? Six pounds of apples? Are you kidding me, early America?

Obviously I converted the recipe. I also omitted the two pounds of sugar. And suet (beef fat)? Nope--subbed that out with bacon. I also added onions, just because it seemed like a reasonable thing to do.

Here’s the ingredient list I ended up with:

1 lb. ground beef
2 apples, chopped
¼ lb. bacon
1 cup red wine
½ cup raisins
½ yellow onion, chopped
cinnamon to taste
salt to taste

I would have kept in the mace and nutmeg but unfortunately didn’t have those spices on hand.

First I set the oven to 350º while I prepared the dough and filling.

I cut the bacon into small pieces and cooked it up on the stovetop with the onions. Next I added the ground beef. After the beef was mostly browned, I tossed in the apples, raisins, cinnamon, salt, and wine.


I didn’t cook it on the stovetop for too long since it would keep cooking in the oven. Once I finished the filling I added it to the piecrust WHICH I MADE MYSELF. 

For the piecrust, I used this simple recipe from Crazy for Crust. Now, I generally avoid baking but it didn’t seem right to purchase a pre-made crust when using a 1796 recipe. I did, however, use a food processor to make the dough. We all have our limits.

It was actually incredibly easy to make the dough—just flour, butter, and water. And there’s something very satisfying about working with dough. It also tasted so much better than any store-bought crust I’ve used. It seems I may slowly be converted to the baking realm.

After glazing the top crust with an egg wash of yolk and water, I popped it in the oven and let it cook for about 45 minutes until it was a beautiful golden brown.

This pie. Guys. Seriously. It’s so amazing and satisfying. It’s not entirely “historical” since I altered the recipe. But hey, I like to play fast and loose with the past, especially if it means getting to eat something as delicious as this updated version of a 1796 meat pie. 

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Love and Hunger

"It seems that our three basic needs, for food and security and love, are so mixed and mingled and entwined that we cannot straightly think of one without the other. So it happens that when I write of hunger, I am really writing about love and the hunger for it...and then the warmth and richness and fine reality of hunger satisfied...and it is all one."

--M. F. K. Fisher, The Art of Eating

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Savage Barbecue

"...from the era of conquest onward, barbecue arose less from native cooking practices than from a European gaze that wanted to associate those practices with preexisting ideas of savagery and innocence... barbacoa or barbicu or barbikew or barbeque, however it has been spelled, not only referred to the smoked foods of American Indians, it also enacted Europeans' deep desire to see those foods as barbarous--as the result of a primitive kind of cookery, savage and base, akin to that which their own distant ancestors long ago performed."

--Andrew Warnes, Savage Barbecue: Race, Culture, and the Invention of America's First Food